I walk into campus with purpose dressed in my burgundy colored scrubs with my name engraved on my fitted white coat. In front of me lie sprays of flowers, palm trees, and the sound of rushing water from the fountain. It is around nighttime and the sun blends in with the rich orange sky behind the tall campus buildings. My feet pass over the ground where the school logo is engraved, To Make Man Whole. Here at Loma Linda University, that’s what we’re all about.
The smell of medicine hits me in the face as I step through the automatic doors of the children’s hospital. I hear footsteps and people talking in “doctorese”, seeing the brave faces on nurses wheeling in patients. I walk past them to the room with my 10 year old girl battling leukemia pretending to be asleep.
“Anna,” I say, getting nothing in response. “I know you’re awake,” I say calmly. Immediately, she groans and nervously changes positions, slamming her head on her white pillow.
“I can’t sleep,” she mutters.
“I know,” I say gently. Her heart is hurting, her body aching, but her eyes are precious. The room is dark because the lights are off, but that doesn’t take away her own. I sit beside her bed and place my hand on her hot forehead.
“How are you feeling?”
“Fine,” she replies bluntly. I try to study her face, but she refuses to make eye contact with me.
“Are you sure?” I ask carefully.
“I’m really tired,” she replies irritated. There is no taste of drowsiness in her voice. I begin to worry about what is really tiring her.
“I tell you what,” I say, pulling out a soft stuffed walrus from my purse, “this is Bob, and he loves you to pieces. If anything is bothering you, he wants to know.” She looks up and studies Bob, poking his gray nose with her finger.
“I’ve been stuck in here forever and I’m not sure if I can handle it anymore,” she says softening her voice while squeezing Bob’s head. “I want to be normal and healthy, and all of this to go away. The lumbar punctures and biopsies and endless tests— I can’t do it anymore.” Her voice changes again, this time with a taste of anger, agitation, and bitterness. She collapses in my arms as her tears spill for she has been strong for too long. And my heart aches as I hold her, wishing I could press a button that would end the acrimonious treatments entirely.
“Anna,” I say gently, “Tell me about your dreams, where you want to be when this is finally over.” At first her face looks puzzled, but then the ideas hit her. I listen solicitously as she blabbers on and on about the handsome man she’d marry, the giant house she’d live in, how she’d find the cure for cancer and become rich, and be completely healthy with long, curly hair. Her dreams are like stars in the night, lighting up her turmoil and lifting away the dark sky. Her dreams are substantive. The scent of fresh air enters the room, and I hear the wind from the open window. Crash. She looks at me as though all her fears have shattered.
“I’ll even own my own hospital, and each patient will get an unlimited supply of stuffed walruses,” she says, her voice ringing with felicity. “What do you think?”
“I love it,” I say laughing.
“But do you think it’s possible?” she meets my gaze with wide, warm eyes.
“Yes. If you can do this, you can do anything,” I say confidently.
After tucking her in and saying goodnight, I walk out fearlessly and gaze up at the bright, glowing stars. I am amazed because my endless nights of meltdowns and panic attacks were worth making one kid smile. I’m astonished I stayed assiduous when I was urged to let my guard down. But now I am here, treating and bringing hope to people. I used to think I wasn’t capable of anything, but I proved myself wrong today. I could potentially be the kindest doctor in the world. That’s who I’ve always wanted to be. I’ve wanted each past experience to grow me into someone loving and skilled enough to meet a patient’s physical and emotional needs.
And that’s where I am.