Disclaimer: this is a story about my time spent with neurologists, and only a little bit about neurology as a field.
One of the reasons I asked to be transferred to the current hospital I’m working in is I wanted to do a rotation in neurology. I wanted to see whether I truly love this field.
I had interest in neurology since I was a student. I thought I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. Towards the end of housemanship, with plans of building a family, I thought of becoming a lecturer in anatomy with special interest in neuroanatomy.
However, after discussion with a few important people in my life and career, I chose the clinical path to become a physician with some thoughts of being a neurologist later. Some thoughts. I didn’t know for sure yet.
So after two years being in this place, I was posted for four months (like other rotations), into neurology department. Like the other colleagues, I was nervous but eager to learn new things.
You see, neurology is not a favourite subject for many doctors, even among physicians. The structure of the nervous system is complex, the functions even more so. There are so much that human beings still do not know about the human brain.
Hence there are so many neurological diseases of which the cause has yet to be found, and worse, the cure is limited and the hopes of recovery poor.
What is damaged would often remain damaged, although some may improve with training and perseverence. Some diseases like epilepsy could only be controlled, and for some others like multiple sclerosis, we could only hope that relapses don’t happen.
With that realization, many would think that neurology is a depressing field to be in. You speak to the patient and examine him, by then you already have an idea of the diagnosis. You confirm it with many investigations, some take many months to complete. When you finally clinched the diagnosis, you look at the patient and the family, wondering how they are going to cope with that illness, the uncertainty of whether or not there will be recovery, and if he has no hope for cure, there’s no way of telling how long he has left.
Unlike cancers, I personally found neurological diseases a lot more difficult to prognosticate.
After four months in the posting, I had mixed feelings towards the field itself. But it was sister Yasmin Mogahed who made me realise how amazing neurologists are.
Ilmfest Putrajaya was held right at the end of my neurology posting, when I was already having some withdrawal symptoms by thinking that I was not going to work with those people again. So sister Yasmin was talking about her friend who had four disabled children, when it hits me that some of the most amazing people in this world are those who fight for the people who could not speak for themselves.
Then I had a flashback of my four months there.
They would speak kindly to the patients, even when all they get back was just a blank stare.
They would try to examine every single part that they need to, because they wanted to make sure they don’t miss anything, and to make sure no new problems arise. Even when, or more so when, the patient is bedbound and fully dependant.
They would try to relieve every single physicial symptoms a patient have, even when the disease is incurable.
They are the happiest when a patients show the slightest improvement, even when it’s from a blank stare to an eye contact. Even when it’s a flicker of movement from no movement.
As seniors, they listen to every single word you say, every single question you ask, and answer you, even at 3am.
As seniors, they are such good judge of character, that they appreciate the hardworking ones.
They remain dignified no matter what kind of behaviour others show to them.
They are such compassionate people, they work as hard on weekends as they do on weekdays.
Their eyes are so keen and pair that with good hearts, they could see your pain and would try to help as much as they could.
They are such gentle people, I have never heard them shout. Perhaps only some firm voice when needed but nothing more that.
Combine compassion and perseverance, they have the patience to wait for patients to recover their function, of course after multiple physiotherapy sessions.
They would be the happiest people when the patients recover from not being able to swallow, to move, to speak, and a few tortuous months down the line, the patients would be talking and eating like they did before.
As seniors, they would make sure we get something out of our stay there.
“Maria, are you okay?” would be the question whenever I was in clinic, every time I was finishing with a consultation. Lengthy teaching would come after each patient, which I have so much gratitude for.
I know my fellow colleagues had that too.
* * *
I went into neurology posting to learn about neurological diseases.
I got a lot more.
Thank you so much for showing me patience, perseverance, dignity, gratitude, and compassion.
Thank you for your listening ears, and concerned eyes.
And of course, thank you for all the knowledge poured on to us. We all did learn a lot from you.