Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reflections and ramblings on an awe-some day.

Anand B. M1, yesterday at Grady.
"Now a good friend of mine
sat with me and he cried
He told me a story
and I know he ain't lyin'

Said he went for a job
and Mr. Man said
Without an education
you might as well be dead."

~ James Brown


Yesterday, March 13, 2012.

The day started so early. Even though it was only 5:30-ish when I woke up--which is the time I often wake up--still it felt so. . .early. Oppressively early, even. The time had changed but still I had not. So when that alarm went off, there was no pep anywhere to be found in my step. Nor was there even the tiniest hint of slide in my glide.

Anyways. I wasn't in a bad mood or anything. Just tired, really. And there is a difference. On this particular day, I had an early meeting on the Emory campus. This meant that I would need to go to Grady and round even earlier. Mix that with being up waaaay too late working on a presentation and feeling like you had one hour robbed from you and it all adds up to some major exhaustion.

But this day wasn't so unusual. I have days like this where things get all crammed together and crazy. I told my friend (and fellow Grady doctor) Wendy that I thrive in this kind of crazy. So as I was sitting up the night before gritting my teeth and bitching/whining about deadlines she quickly reminded me of that little fact about myself. I guess it's kind of like how some things grow best in certain climates. Or better yet how some bacteria get mightier given the right medium. And I know Wendy gets that analogy about me, partly because she's my friend but even more because she is an Infectious Disease Grady doctor.

So yeah, I thrive under pressure like Group A strep thrives on skin and mucous membranes. Um yeah. Kind of like that.

So I go and I round at the crickety-crack with the twinterns and Elicia, the fourth year med student. And it was good. Very good. They are like a well-oiled machine and they know how and when to stamp out disease. So, yeah, we rounded like gangbusters and connected with our patients and laughed and learned and all the good stuff that you do when you get to work in a place like Grady Hospital.

Next, I hightailed it over to my meeting. That presentation that I was gritting my teeth over was also one that Wendy was a part of, too. I was the one making the slide set the night before because I had the not-so-bright idea to use this fancy, shmancy presenter tool called Prezi that I'd recently heard about. (Actually from Wendy, now that I think about it.) Anyways. Being the master-procraster that I am (yes, Mom, I meant to say "procraster" not "procrastinator" because that doesn't rhyme with "master") that meant burning the candle at both ends.

But. We gave our presentation and Wendy was amazing and I was just alright but all of it was acceptable and well-received. And that was good.

Back to Grady after that and this was when I first started to feel that 5:30 that felt like 4:30 jumping on me. The sandman was trying as hard as he could to send me a dream as I sat in my office eating a sandwich. Finally, I just gave in and took a quick power nap at my desk. Sure did.

Next up, medical student teaching. I decided to ask my first year small group if they wanted to join me at Grady for rounds. They were down for it, so after my power nap I joined them, along with my all star 4th year student, for some fun on the wards. The plan was simple. We will go and see patients. You will talk to them and hear their stories. Together, with their permission of course, we will perform elements of the physical examination. If and only if the patient is agreeable/not tired/there/awake/not in pain.

And you know what? There are some really wonderful people out there. Wonderful people who, even though they are hospitalized, are down with having a little piece in the pie of training up a young physician in the way that he or she should go.

The best of those was this delightful Grady elder who, hands down, is my F.P. this week. He told his story carefully and was happy to do it three separate times.

"Anything for you, doc," he said. And he meant it which I appreciated.

So I came in there three separate times and each time he was graceful and kind and giving and wise. Those students watched and listened and learned from him and soaked up all that he had to give. And he had so much to give. Yes, he did.

"Any advice for these young people?" I asked him.

He smiled and folded his arms behind his head on the pillow. He looked skyward and then said, "You know? I see it in they eyes. They want to do well. They want to get it right. Jest don't let that go. No matter how far along you get, don't let that go."

And they nodded and listened and you could just tell that they took it to heart. Me, I felt like crying. So I told him just that. "Sir, you're about to mess up my drug store mascara!"

And he laughed as did the students while I patted my Maybelline before it turned into scary raccoon lady eyes.

Then he added one more piece of advice for the students:

"Remember what James Brown said. Don't be no dropout."

And the students stared and looked puzzled so he clarified.

"Get yo' education. Without your education, you might as well be dead."

That room fell silent after he said that. For a lot of reasons. One because those students had never heard that song but more because that F.P. of mine was telling them to go and do something that he never could.

You see, just two minutes before, he had explained to them, while telling his story, that he never went to school. Well, take that back. He did "the first" and "a little bit of the third." But otherwise he didn't go to school and nobody had an issue with that back then. He was being raised by his grandparents and was expected to work in the fields and help out. No time for anything else. Period. Done. End of story.

So school wasn't an option for him, but today, he took those students to school, do you hear me? You better believe he did. No, he "don't read no more than jest knowin' my name on a pill bottle" but that doesn't mean that man wasn't qualified to be a teacher.

And best of all--those students recognized that.

We were all in awe because he was just that--awe-some, for real. Not in the "like totally" way but in the real, true sense of the word.  His laughter, his advice, his patience, his everything. He had so much to teach us.

I mean. . . this functionally illiterate man with real, true medical problems who had (literally) hoed some hard rows in his long life still had a song in his heart. A beautiful song on his lips that he shared just like birds chirping high up in the trees for any and all to hear. And if that doesn't teach somebody something, I don't know what else will.

Today I am reflecting on the exceptional and unselfish collection of teachers that I encounter in Grady Hospital every single day. I am feeling thankful for their words and their stories and their patience. I am blinking away tears as I imagine all that so many of them are up against but still--STILL--they take the time to teach us all every single day.

And of course, there are days that they just aren't up for it. And that's cool because I'm not up for everything every day either. But the thing is. . .most days they are up for it. They are. Not in that way like a person who doesn't have a choice. No, not that. Grady Hospital just happens to be filled with its share of gracious human beings who somehow realize that all of it is bigger than they are. . . because it is. All of it.

Sigh. I'm rambling. I know.

You know? It's just that my day yesterday was good. It was rich and powerful and so full of grace. All of it. And yes, I said it once hell maybe even twice --- I'm so, so grateful. Just so grateful to be a part of something so much bigger than me. So thankful that I was there to hear those words with those students in that moment in that room.

And now I'm full-on crying--scary raccoon lady eyes and all--because I really, really feel that way. I truly do.  About all of it and everything and those students and that sweet, sweet man and my friend Wendy and just all of it.

Because this? This is Grady. And man. . . . .I'm just glad to be here.

Happy Wednesday. Oh, and don't be a drop out.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . .courtesy of my F.P.


  1. It's a good thing I don't have any mascara on 'cause you got me crying.
    You know, my father-in-law had MAYBE an eighth grade education. And that man- oh my god. He was so smart. He was SO good. He taught his kids and his grandkids lessons they could never have learned any where else. You would have loved him, Ms. Doctorsister. You would have recognized the sort of man he was. He didn't really live long enough to be an elder, but somehow, he was anyway. He had the grace, that knowledge, that kindness, that experience, that life of hoeing long rows (and yes, he hoed his rows, and did every other sort of work there was to be done that he could get).
    I loved him so.
    I love your elders. I can see them, hear them, even feel their soft skin.
    Thanks, as always, for making sure their lessons get out as far as possible. Even to me.

  2. Oooooo, a Grady elder who quotes James Brown! Doesn't get any better than that. Wish the song had a video of James Brown dancing. He could've taught Michael Jackson a thing or two! Couldn't nobody (and yes, I meant to say nobody) slide across a floor like James Brown. Good memories, there!

  3. Lovely words..Great song..
    I have worked in a middle school for the past three days. I'm working with special Ed students in the sixth or seventh grades. One 13 year Hispanic student who happens to be large for his age. His came to the states when he was 2 years old and his parents saw no need for him to learn English.
    The teacher ask me the question, "What do you do with a kid like this?
    I didn't have a good answer because the student sees no need to learn English either. He says he's gonna be a gardner like his dad. I was very sad at the prospect of this student not being able to read even the most basic things. I wonder what ole James Brown would say?

    Just rambling...


  4. Not gonna ramble.

    Just gonna hug your heart over the internets.

  5. You are living and documenting history. Your experience with the grady elders is something many young people today will only read about or might not even hear about.My grandmother never finished school, she dropped out to help take care of her family and as an adult got her GED. We were proud and like many people of her generation she never stopped telling us young ones to stay in school and go far. We are so blessed in so many ways to be living in this period in time. Great post!!


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