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My unexpected teacher: Interesting Article. Do read it

June 1, 2009

Today, I was reading the March 09 issue of Reader’s Digest and came across this article by Muhammad Fairuz Bin Abdullah.
( is where the original article is; but you can’t view it completely there unless you login.)

Muhammad Fairuz Bin Abdullah, a 25-year-old Malaysian, is now pursuing his clinical studies at Indonesia’s Gadjah Mada University Faculty of Medicine. He will complete his medical degree in September.

This is a personal experience of him, when he was collecting data for his thesis on “Assessment of the oral contraceptive pill as a risk factor for ischemic strokes”. I’m not going to say much on this because the article speaks for itself. All I’ll say is this: it’s a must read for all future wannabe doctors: speaks aeons about what a doctor really is.

During my first seven semesters as a medical student at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, I spent most of my time studying and in classrooms. I rarely spoke with real patients in a hospital setting. Then last year I started visiting the neurology ward at Dr. Sardjito Hospital.

I was gathering data for my thesis, an assessment of the oral contraceptive pill as a risk factor for ischemic strokes. This type of stroke is the most common and it occurs as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. At the hospital I would review the medical records of newly admitted stroke patients, and then interview them to find out if they were taking the pill. It was a slow process.

One cold, rainy evening last October, I was in the neurology ward desperately ”hunting” for the final three patients I needed to complete my study. The records showed that there was a 43-year-old stroke patient, whom I will call Ms A, in the ward.

Holding a patient questionnaire, I walked toward her room. I didn’t see any doctors or nurses; the ward was quiet. Ms A’s dimly lit room had eight beds. I could see dark clouds and heavy raindrops through the window. The familiar “hospital odour hung in the chilly air.

Ms A was lying on bed 4B, clearly weak as she was still recovering from her recent stroke. There were no relatives or friends with her. Even the bed beside her was empty. I sat down on a chair next to her bed, and in a low voice I introduced myself and asked how she was doing. She softly replied that she was getting better but the left side of her body was still weak. When I told her that I wanted to gather some additional information from her, she agreed.

The questionnaire consisted of three simple yes-or-no questions. After I finished, I prepared to leave so I could go through more medical records. Before I could stand up, Ms A spoke up in a feeble voice “I haven’t seen you here before, doc. Are you new?”

“Not really, Ma’am. It’s just that I don’t come here every day”, I replied. She started making conversation, asking where I was from and why I was working so late in the evening. I was surprised someone in her condition would want to talk.

“Doc, do you think I can get back my normal life?” Ms A asked at one point. Deep in my heart, I thought “God, I wish I was your doctor so I could answer properly”. I replied that while I didn’t know much about her case, I could tell her what I had learned about the recovery of stroke patients, depending on the severity of the stroke, quite a number respond well to rehabilitation. I was reluctant to go into too much detail since I was only a medical student.

Ms A started talking about herself. She told me that she had three children in primary school, who were staying with a neighbour. “My husband died a year ago and I’m the sole breadwinner of the family. We are not rich and my pay as a cleaner is exactly enough for me and my kids”.

I didn’t know what to say. Looking into her eyes, I desperately tried to remember the lessons from a communication skills class I had taken a few years earlier, but my mind was blank. I cursed myself for not paying more attention.

Without realizing it, I had begun holding Ms A’s hand. Since I didn’t know what to say, I just sat down quietly while she talked. That’s when it occurred to me that she was not expecting any reply from me. She just wanted me to listen.

The conversation went on like this for about 20 minutes. She shared her difficulties and sufferings, talked about her husband, who was killed in a car accident, and her struggles to earn money. She also expressed her feat about what would become of her children if something bad happened to her. All I did was nod my head as a way of showing sympathy.

Finally Ms A stopped talking. “I’m very sorry for keeping you here to listen to my problems, but I feel relieved now. I had no one to pour out my problem to.”

A single tear fell from the corner of her eye. I stroked her hair and continued to hold her hand. Finally, I knew what to say. “It’s OK, Ma’am. It’s part of my job.”

“Thank you, doc, thank you so much.”

She let go of my hand. I stood up, tucked her in with a blanket, waved goodbye and left her alone in her bed. A few days later, when I returned to the ward, I discovered that Ms A had been discharged as her condition had improved, though she would still need rehabilitation.

Ms A taught me one of the most important lessons a doctor can learn. Sometimes patients do not need expensive medicine or state-or-the-art technology. They just need someone with the patience and willingness to lend an ear and spare a little of their time. For me, that is one of the best things a doctor can do for a patient.


From → Miscellaneous

  1. Arvind, thanks for sharing this article. However I should tell you that you should be more careful in the future before you copy and paste an entire story from another site. These are protected by copyright and it is just not worth it to get into trouble. You could have just posted the link or some excerpts with your opinions [which are is protected by the fair use policy], but having the entire content is … risky.

    • Neo permalink

      Well the entire is not available unless you login into the site.

      Will i run into any trouble now because of this??

  2. Oh no …. not unless this post becomes enormously popular and you start making money out of it 🙂 … There’s little to worry about them scouring the net for copies of each and every one their articles. But I meant it for future reference. Having small excerpts from any copyrighted material is covered by fair use laws. Even then, you should acknowledge the source. So I was just trying to say that you should be more careful in the future. And keep with your good work! I am gonna check out artemis fowl thanks to your other post!

    • Neo permalink

      Sure thing. Have fun reading Artemis Fowl. And do leave a comment on how you felt reading it too ok.

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