Since our school and curriculum is new and a few of my fellow students and I are not doing as well as we would like, the faculty decided to have meetings with us individually to discuss our progress, our concerns, and anything else.The precepts for my small-group learning sessions are the dean of our school and our amazing biochemistry professor.So, I got to meet with the dean one-on-one in her nice office.
One of the things she discussed with me was how I was very quiet and don't participate much in discussions.I told her that I had actually talked about this with a friend the night before.She noted how I don't speak much and when I do, I tend to speak quietly or with my hand in front of my mouth.I explained to her the irrational fear I have of running out of breath.
The accident caused my ribs to break and puncture my lungs and also somehow caused my airway and esophagus to drastically constrict.For a while, I could not eat solid foods, drink liquids of normal viscosity, or speak more than a few hushed words without having to pause to catch my breath.So, this changed me from a guy who talked so much that I would trip over my words to a guy who spoke less and just listened more.I did not want to seem weak or damaged, so I just wouldn't say anything at times.
When I speak, the things I say are insightful, the dean said, but I say them with reserve.I often mumble, too.Before, I would mumble because I couldn’t talk as fast as I could think.Now, I mumble because my mind thinks too many things and I’m hesitant with the words I choose to say.People also don’t seem to hear me when I speak to a group, perhaps because of my reduced lung capacity, so I keep quiet.
The dean said that this introspection was very interesting and it was good that I was able to figure that out on my own.She then asked me, “How is your confidence?”
I smiled and responded, “Well, I thought I was doing great and that I had no problem in that respect.Then I came here and was shown otherwise.”
As I wrote about in my post Compensate, people have doubted my capabilities since my accident.I choose to push past that and do whatever I want to do.Recently, though, this has been taking a toll on me.It seems like everyone here is so much more intelligent and so much more sociable than me.So, I take my place as a wallflower.
What will it take to let out the usual self?The only thing I can think of is gaining comfort.Comfort not only with my peers so I can speak up more, but with myself in the accelerated environment.I have been to one extreme—the brain injury unit of Shepherd Center, where a few of my fellow patients had to wear helmets so they wouldn’t hurt themselves or the sutures on their head—and now I must go to the other.
Oh, life on the brain injury floor was a trip.I remember not knowing the extent of my injuries and telling my doctor there, “I better be out of here soon.I’m starting med school in two and a half months!”I remember him and my nurses smirking when I said that and I wasn’t sure why.After two weeks, I was moved to the spinal cord injury unit because of the amazing progress I had made and underwent extensive speech/mental therapy and neuropsychological exams.I remember before I left, my neuropsychologist showed me my test scores and showed how much I had improved.Since I had improved so drastically, considering the extent of my injuries, I would definitely be even more ready for medical school when I started a year later than planned, he said.I’m not sure why I wrote all this in this last paragraph.I guess it’s to remind myself that I shouldn’t be so hesitant with things.
I am currently a third-year resident physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I was in an automobile accident with my family on May 23, 2009 that caused, among other things, a traumatic brain injury, a C5 brachial plexus injury and a T3 complete spinal cord injury. That's not going to hold me back in accomplishing my dreams.