Essay: Healer in Training
Interview: Katie Kreider, 3rd-year medical student
IU School of Medicine South Bend
Katie Kreider is a third-year medical student at IU’s South Bend campus. In this radio essay she shares her experiences with local practitioners, physicians who give her hope about the state of health care in our country.
My name is Katie Kreider and I’m a third year medical student at Indiana University School of Medicine in South Bend. I want to share just a few snapshots of my life as a healer in training.
In June, I began my 3rd year clinical rotations working with a local general surgeon. He is a busy man who works hard and many long days but I was struck that he always had time for a smile, or a joke or a story with anyone. One day in his clinic, we had an appointment with a man in his 70s who was in need of a hernia repair. A fairly routine visit from the perspective of the office, but early on in the conversation the man began to talk about his wife: how they met, how they held hands where ever they went for the almost 6 decades they were married and how much he missed her now that she was gone. My mentor physician sat and listened for 20 minutes to this lovely man who clearly wanted to talk. I was amazed—both by the amount of time he spent in what could have been a brief, routine, pre-operative visit, and the rapt attention that he gave to the narrative. As we left the room, I was wiping my eyes and I said, “It was really nice how you listened to him like that.” He replied around a lump in his throat, “How could I not?”
Later in the summer when I was in my obstetrics and gynecology rotation, I spent an afternoon with a doctor caring for many women. One was a developmentally disabled adult in her 60s, we’ll call her Gina. I was impressed with both the caregiver who brought Gina to the office and the doctor in how they interacted with Gina: respectfully, kindly and gently. Gina chatted to us about how she was looking forward to going to camp the next week. “What’s your favorite part of camp,” I asked. “Making bracelets”, she replied. After the annual physical was over, the doc shook Gina’s hand and said, “if you feel like making me some jewelry, I’d love to receive some.” Gina’s face lit up brighter than neon and her smile stretched from ear to ear, “What color?” She asked. “Green,” the doctor replied.
I have lived in this community since 1992, and I have read the newspaper and heard about the trials and tribulations that are present in our local health care system. I have groaned with many over the prospect of trying to hammer out some kind of national health care reform to keep costs from spiraling out of control. Nevertheless, in the face of the bad news and the bad press, I continue to experience the awe and wonder of watching healing happen. I have met incredible physicians, nurses, therapists, surgery techs, unit secretaries, hospital food service workers and maintenance people who truly love the patients they serve and regularly display respect and kindness to people of all shapes and sizes, colors, faiths and orientations.
Speaking of color, my third story involves all the colors of the rainbow, specifically the song, “Rainbow Connection” written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher and sung by Kermit the Frog in the muppet movie. Last month, I was working with an anesthesiologist at a local surgery center and was surprised when he asked a 5-year-old in the preoperative visit if he liked Kermit the Frog. When the boy nodded, the doctor said, “Maybe Kermit will visit you in the operating room.”
Several minutes later this blond haired, blue eyed boy in a hospital gown and a blue bouffant hospital cap walked tentatively into the operating room and timidly hopped up on the operating table. The nurse, the anesthesiologist and I gathered around the boy, explaining in soothing voices while we put on his blood pressure cuff and heart monitor stickers. Then the doctor said, “If you lie down and breathe into this mask, Kermit will sing.” The youngster lay back looked up at him with wide blue eyes took a deep breath and the doctor began to sing in a quiet baritone, “Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?” He sang until the little one’s eyes fluttered closed and his breathing became deep and even. What a way to drift off to sleep, with the hope that something good awaits and the sweet song of a caring doctor in your ears.
Based on my experiences at the local level, I am hopeful that even in our national health care quandary: “Some day we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.”