Stephanie Hinton is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at Queen's University
It’s August 17th. My grandmother died today. She never made it to palliative care. Instead, she was kept in the corner of a hospital room surrounded by empty walls and a window looking out over a parking lot. She was confined to her bed, barely conscious, and at the mercy of those with little experience in end-of-life care because she had not quite been deemed “palliative.” I sat by her bedside for 12 hours a day, 3 days in a row, leaving only to sleep. I watched her grimace in pain and counted down the hours to the next dose of pain medication. It would finally come — four hours late and barely offering the relief she was looking for. We waited for a doctor to come check on her and answer our questions. We were told they didn’t know where the doctor was or when the doctor was coming, or — my personal favourite — “Doctor’s don’t need to keep you informed of every care decision.”
She had been refused IV hydration and kept NPO, and her vitals were never checked. When they were finally checked, she was saturating dangerously below 90%. On August 17th at 8:00 am, we received a call telling us she would be moved to palliative care. At 8:15 am, we got a call telling us she had died. She was alone. We had been given empty promises the night before that she “might pull through,” and we were unable to stay the night. We were given the “privilege” of seeing her 45 minutes after she had passed, the “privilege” of calling family members to ask them if they would like to come and say their final goodbyes. We had the “privilege” of sitting by her bedside and waiting for family to arrive long after she had transitioned between life and death, doctors and nurses nowhere in sight to offer the support we desperately needed. We sat with a dreadful feeling, wondering how we could have better advocated for her and knowing she was not given the dignified death she deserved. This feeling would linger and creep up months after her death. ...continue reading
Arnav Agarwal is an Internal Medicine Resident (R1) at the University of Toronto. Check back the last Thursday of each month for a new featured piece as part of his series (Doc Talks: Reflections to Reality)!
"First of all," he said, "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." — Harper Lee,To Kill a Mockingbird
This piece reflects a daughter’s internal struggle as she comes to terms with her mother’s suffering through delirium and terminal illness. Touching on the sensitive balance between seeking care and doing no harm, this piece provides an intimate perspective on the challenges many family members encounter in letting go of their loved ones during trying times of declining health, as well as on the difficulties involved in recognizing that ‘more’ is not always better — that, sometimes, less is more. ...continue reading
Alexia De Simone is a medical student in the Class of 2021 at McGill University
In our first year of medicine at McGill University, each student is paired with a member of the community who has had an experience navigating the healthcare system. Upon meeting Mr. H, a 62-year-old man from Montreal, I expected to quickly understand the chronic pathology leading to his kidney transplant while discussing his co-morbidities and medications based on my first-year courses. However, after visiting Mr. H, I learned that medicine goes beyond a patient’s diagnosis, and that illness impacts many people in one’s life — including mine.
As part of our course, we were responsible for meeting our patient four times throughout the year. Initially, it was very challenging to elicit Mr. H’s perspective on how his illness had altered his life. ...continue reading
Yara Abou-Hamde is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at Western University
Dear Mom and Dad,
When you arrived in Canada eleven years ago with four young children, you knew you had given up everything familiar to give us a chance at a more secure life. What you did not know then was that your only daughter would go on to pursue a career in medicine, adding stretches of foreign terrain.
Now, I have made it to clinical clerkship. It has been a dream. You know how much joy I get from learning on the job and being able to provide care to patients. It has been both exciting and relieving to know for certain that I have chosen the right career path for myself. ...continue reading
Michael Taylor is an MD/MBA student in the Class of 2020 at the University of Alberta
The whistle of far windy notes, painting the halls as if afloat.
Seat firm and wide, I lean to hear: each breath — one, two — becomes less clear.
Your room is grim, ravaged by age; matte-paint preserved… thrives in this cage.
My empty stare — toward the cracks, while blankets rise with lacking gasps.
I listen to the stories made — within these walls — they fill this space.
The beeps, each tear, the fallen cries; I slowly numb, no thoughts survive.
Our past, which you do not recall… I wish, some glimpse, you knew at all.
I try to grasp what brought you here, to understand your distant fears… ...continue reading
Kevin Dueck is a Family Medicine Resident (R1) at McMaster University who graduated from medical school at Western University in 2016
To be content
Grace Zhang is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at Queen's University
[For my Grandmother]
we don’t talk much these days
(which is mostly my fault, I know)
but if we were on the phone
I’d tell you how
when we sat in lecture learning about ...continue reading
University of Toronto
Class of 2016
On the first day of my Social Paediatrics elective, I accompanied a nurse on a visit to a family shelter. I entered the single room and noticed a healthy newborn girl, sleeping peacefully in an old crib. The room consisted of a bed, a table, two chairs, a fridge, and a microwave. There was no stove, no kitchen sink. Clothes, toiletries, dishes and bottles were strewn everywhere. The floor was dirty and there was graffiti on the wall. One of the parents was present, but the other was out looking for work. It was my first time in a shelter, and I was stunned that a family with a newborn was living in such conditions.