Monday, August 31, 2015

Where love is.

There is something profoundly simple yet so touching I have noticed since embarking on my path to become a physician. I am regularly reminded and think about this subject. I have not posted anything in a long, long time. This is a topic about which I have wanted to write many times these past few years but never knew how to encompass something so big, so instead I'll just keep this short.

In the movie Love Actually, the narrator in the beginning states that love is everywhere. To illustrate that point, he shows scenes from an airport. Family members, lovers, significant others and best friends are shown embracing each other after being away from each other or before leaving each other for some time. It is implied that the easiest and most visual representation of the love people have for each other is seen in airports.

I disagree.

We physicians have to maintain a certain emotional distance at times. If we do not, this profession may break us.

In the superficial world of social media, advertisements and our ego, love is smiling. Love is happiness. It’s flawless jewelry, perfect outfits, beautiful Instagram photos, inside jokes, amazing meals, wonderful scents. It’s about showing your best. Love is hiding your flaws and being the best version of you that you can be.

As a former patient, then a medical student, and now as a physician, I continue to see how misleading and fleeting this is.

Love is the woman in her 60’s who sits with her husband in the ICU every day. She reads the magazines and the Bible a thousand times. Though she gets frustrated sometimes when someone new does things differently, she greets every member of the hospital staff with a smile and thanks them when they leave. Her husband has not vocalized anything in a few weeks, but that doesn’t bother her. She has been with him for decades. She cannot imagine being anywhere else or living life without his presence. The beeping heart monitor and the gargling sounds he makes before she suctions him are the few remaining connections she still has with him.

Love is being able to leave whenever you want, but never doing so.

Love is the mother whose son has just been in a devastating accident and doesn’t know how to live anymore. She wakes up at 5 AM, works a full day, and then drives to see her son every day despite living 45 minutes away and being scared to drive on the interstate. His life will never be the same and he needs to know that things will be okay.

Love is supporting someone, even if neither of you know what’s next.
(PS: thank you, Ummy)

Love is the husband in his 40’s whose wife has recently had a stroke. He is with her every day, sleeping on an uncomfortable couch in her hospital room. He accompanies her daily in therapy. He learns how to catheterize her to drain her bladder. Though he was never good at changing their own kids’ diapers or potty training them when they were young, he now learns how to help his wife to the bathroom and clean up her messes.

Love is smelling like vomit, urine and feces, but being perfectly okay with that.

A favorite band of mine, Death Cab for Cutie, has a song called “What Sarah Said” with the following lyrics:

And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to father time As I stared at my shoes in the ICU that reeked of piss and 409 And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself that I'd already taken too much today As each descending peak on the LCD took you a little farther away from me Away from me Amongst the vending machines and year-old magazines in a place where we only say goodbye It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds But I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose than to have never lain beside at all And I looked around at all the eyes on the ground as the TV entertained itself 'Cause there's no comfort in the waiting room Just nervous pacers bracing for bad news And then the nurse comes round and everyone will lift their heads But I'm thinking of what Sarah said that "Love is watching someone die" So who's going to watch you die?

I contend that love is best seen in hospitals. Though the medical profession is known to be one of science, facts and physiological processes, it is also one of pure love. I see it and feel it every day. It keeps me grounded and keeps my heart soft.


4 comments:

  1. My name is Omar Kamal. I live in Lawrenceville, Ga. I heard about you in 2009. I am so happy you are living your dream. Have you ever heard of Hijama Therapy? I would like to discuss it with you if you are interested in knowing about it.

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  2. Dear doctor Aslam, I´ve come across your lovely blog yesterday after watching your speech on TEDx (I really enjoyed it, thank you for your openess and honesty!). I am wondering whether there is any way how I could contact you via email as I am a former medical student who would like to ask you something but don´t want to discuss it here. Thank you and have a lovely weekend :o) Millie (Betterbridges@seznam.cz)

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  3. This is a beautiful post. Love is more than a feeling. The opposite of love is not hate but that if done to your children is unlawful and illegal: negligence.

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  4. Before I got to the end of your post, What Sarah Said came to mind, too, so I was really happy to see you finish out your post with it. And I agree.

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