I was walking home after getting take-out from my favourite restaurant close to the corner of St. Catherine and St. Mathieu when I saw a public transit bus stop right in the middle of the intersection with no signs of moving. I thought maybe the bus had somehow ran out of gas right in the middle of the intersection, but that seemed unlikely. I then saw all the people gathered around to watch, and I feared maybe the bus had hit someone. I dislike it when people stick around to watch accidents, but I thought maybe I could help, and I also wanted to ensure my personal safety, and let’s face it I was also curious, so I tried to survey the scene quickly to see what was going on.
I finally saw a young lady of Asian descent lying in fetal position on the side of the road with someone supporting and holding her head in place. It turns out the bus driver stopped the bus in the middle of the intersection to ensure that the lady had some room to breathe without fear of being run over. I watched from across the road and I literally froze. I felt so ashamed as I stood there, motionless, wanting to go across the road and help, but I had no idea what to do. I had no idea what I could do. I racked my brain before I fell in shock at the realization that up to this point, we haven’t learned very many practical skills. I didn’t know what I could do for the patient lying on the side of the road, when it really mattered.
I watched, as time seemed to stand still, at the woman on the other side of the road, to make sure that she was well taken care of. Someone was holding her head and someone else had just put on purple latex gloves and looked prepared to get involved and help the young woman. I figured that the patient either had a seizure or a car accident, and when I saw that she was able to move her right hand and her right leg (she was lying on her left side), I felt a bit of relief. When I heard the ambulance siren traveling towards us, I finally felt that the situation was in control, and I left the scene.
I literally froze across the road because I wanted to help. I didn’t walk across the street because I didn’t know how to help. In a way, it perfectly captured where I am in my medical career: filled with the sense of duty, obligation, and desire to help, but not knowing enough to do so. To be fair, I later asked one of my medical mentors, and she told me that there really wasn’t much I could do for the patient in that particular situation without any tools, but still, I felt a bit in limbo and it was not a good feeling.
My first year of medical school is about to end in two weeks, and I really can’t believe it. It has been one of the best years of my life, and I have my med school colleagues, theatre friends, and significant others to thank for that. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a lot of time to enjoy Montreal and all that it has to offer extracurricularly, but the accident that I saw reminded me that I am here, ultimately, first and foremost, to become a doctor. We’ve had one year of lectures, and we have another 4 months to go in the fall, but after that, we will be in the hospital every day, and it will be time to step up.
The accident that I saw reminded me that I never want to feel so helpless ever again.
The only way to do that is to make sure that when January comes, I will put all of me and my focus into learning those skills that will make me a great medical doctor for my patients.
I simply can’t wait.