I have just concluded my first Pediatrics rotation and I am very glad that it is over. It lasted for eight weeks, and was filled with numerous highs and lows.
I resumed the rotation with a huge sense of foreboding. The glimpse of sick children I had gotten during my Surgery rotation had terrified me enough; and now I was about to spend weeks seeing children managed for all kinds of illness. I had also heard scary stories from friends, about how the doctors were super strict, never-smiling and always on the edge.
My first week was in the Neonatalogy unit, where premature babies were managed. I saw babies the length of a bottle of coke, and I was not sure how I felt about that. We weren’t allowed to touch them so there wasn’t much work to do.
By the end of the third week, I was asking my friends, “Please is the pediatrics you people were shouting about? This place is absolutely chilled”. I was learning a lot of stuff that we should have been taught in previous rotations and my heart was constantly joyful. So you mean even I could identify a pan-systolic murmur? See God.
I must admit that it was also quite stressful, as everything had be done thoroughly. Apart from the exhausting clinical work, we had to prepare PowerPoint presentations and write projects.
I rotated through different units and met all kinds of beautiful and strong children. The highlight for me was seeing children who came in critically ill, barely able to breathe, get well enough to play around the ward.
I would spend moments just looking at them, and their parents too, watching the look of relief and joy on their faces as they watched their children playing. I see now that for a hard guy, I get in my feelings a lot, and I definitely need to do something about that.
By the end of the fifth week, I knew my village people were actively working, because I had really come to like pediatrics, such that I had begun to imagine what life as a pediatric resident doctor would be. I started severe prayers that the cup would pass over me and my true passion for Public Health was reawakened, because that was where the millions were.
But it appeared that my enemies did not rest, as I paid more attention than ever. I was studying after class, choosing to read about seizures rather than watch the latest episode of How to Get Away with Murder. How disappointing. I really hoped it was merely a phase that would end when I finished the rotation, as this serious-student thing was not it. At all.
However, I did not leave pediatrics unscathed.
In the last week, I went to check on a patient and to tell her mom that I had found 2 people to donate blood for her child. I looked into her room and saw that it was empty. A great feeling of unease overwhelmed me, and I suspected that the worst had happened.
I saw one of her doctors and asked where she was, but I already knew the answer. ‘Oh…we lost her during the night’, he said. I would go on to cry in my room later that day. Was it how she had been through so much and was starting to get better? Or how the mother would light up every time she saw me, calling me ‘Small doctor?’ Or the secret smiles we exchanged during ever serious and solemn consultant ward rounds?
Also, a patient took my book away when she was discharged: my copy of How To Spell Naija in 100 Stories by Chuma Nwokolo. I am not really happy about that. That thing was a limited edition. My grandmother used to say ‘kindness has a limit’ and I should have listened.
The answer to my prayers of deliverance came on the day of the End of Posting Test. I like to call it pediatrics’ coup de grace. I was feeling pretty confident because I had paid attention on the ward and read our lecture slides. Or so I thought.
Imagine my shock when I couldn’t answer the first five questions. In usual student fashion, I flipped to the last page and started answering the questions from the end. To say the least, I was weak by the end of the test.
I felt like a jilted lover. I give my heart to you and this is how you treat me? Never again. At some point during the test, I must have looked like lunatic, because I was smiling. Public health never seemed so sure.
Through it all, I am grateful for the experience and it is one that will definitely stay with me for a while. Would I do it all over again?