In the span of a week, I witnessed with my own eyes as an aorta and a pulmonary artery switched places in the heart of a 5-day-old girl with transposition of the great arteries (with the help of a few surgeons, each of whom had hands bigger than the heart they were operating on). I learned how to read an echocardiogram (not well, but better than many residents) thanks to Dr. Stella, a talented cardiology fellow from Tanzania. I watched Fred, a 4-year-old from Zambia, get a wire inserted through his femoral artery all the way up to his heart. And I laughed with Kenzy’s loving father at photos of his family, who were waiting for him in Gaza while he stayed with his very sick baby girl in an Israeli hospital for what was to be the 45th day.
Being a student intern is like being a fly on the wall; you’re completely useless, but you get to peek into all the coolest parts of your future profession. You don’t have discharge reports to file or admissions to take care of, so instead, you get to chat with patients and families who are singular and interesting, regardless of if they've come 50 kilometers or 5,000. You get to gape at rare surgeries with your head directly above an open heart, and you’re able to learn first hand from a team of diverse, brilliant people.
The human body is one of the most fascinating things in the world, and the amount of knowledge there is to learn about it, just waiting to be soaked up, would easily take up more space than all the world's oceans.
Even with the blessing of a cat's nine lives, one person could never hope to know it all. It hit me this week how incredibly specific medicine can get. For example, you can go from cardiology to pediatric cardiology to pediatric cardiac catheterization to pediatric cardiac electrophysiological catheterization. Physicians can spend decades dedicating themselves to the study of something so radically niche, and still not know everything there is to know about it. Thinking about the vastness of it is like trying to grasp the enormity of the universe; it just can’t be done.
But that’s all the fun. It doesn’t get boring because there's always a new patient distinct from the last; even if she's born with the same congenital heart defect, she's from a different country, has a unique symptom, and hates tomatoes but loves football. There’s always some novel, strange creature to discover within the depths if you're inclined to dive in and find it.