Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Kung Fu, and why I'm glad I'm gonna be a doctor

Today I fell in love with every one of my patients. I love days like this, where somebody’s telling me about their arthritis and I’m sitting across from them or looking at their knee and all I’m thinking is, “You’re so amazing! Wow! Look how amazing you are!”

Today I got to meet a 60-year-old man who’s been living with colon cancer for the last twelve years and still gardens and fixes his neighbors’ cars in his driveway; he started writing songs and poetry after he got cancer, and he and his brother spend Sundays taking turns playing this old tinny Casio keyboard in the living room they share. “Everybody I go to chemo with, they died,” my patient told me. “Not me. It’s not gonna get me. It’s just the pain that’s hard. Everything else, I can live with it.”

Wow, right? How can you not love this man? And he had that kind of face where even his eyes, all by themselves, looked like they were smiling, his eyelashes like twinkly little mustaches.

I also talked to a lady we’ve been seeing regularly for diabetes and high blood pressure who told me as soon as she gets the feeling back in her legs she’s going to go walk around the whole neighborhood and ask everybody for a few dollars so we can stay open!

And another lady who lost a brother after he had a stroke a year ago. She and her sister decided they were going to “get healthy,” so they started eliminating high-cholesterol foods from their diets and eating more vegetables. Then her sister got the idea that they needed to incorporate exercise in their lives, so she bought not one but two exercise bikes, which she set up in front of the TV in the living room, and every night these two middle-aged sisters set up their meals of baked chicken and steamed green beans on the little reading racks on the exercise bikes, riding away for hours watching ESPN and gossiping while kids and grandbabies run and do homework and play catch all around.

After clinic I went to my very first Kung Fu lesson ever. I’ve been secretly wanting to learn martial arts for a few years and yesterday, it ended up, was the day. It was awesome. I ran into a few people I knew and jumped up and kicked stuff and hit stuff for a few hours. I thought I’d be most excited about things like Discipline and Mental Clarity, which you’re supposed to get from martial arts, and those things are great and everything, but really the hitting and kicking was pretty awesome. Who knew? I can’t wait to go back.

When it was over I drove home down Dauphine Street with the windows open, listening to Percy Sledge sing “Any Day Now,” which is actually a really sad song. And the jasmine’s so thick in the Bywater these days that I felt like it was spilling over in the car, and people were barbequing on their stoops, so the jasmine smell was mixed with smoke. And the moon hanging thinly in the velvety black sky like a fingernail, and the word “Help” painted in block letters on the asphalt, fading, like it was finally starting to be nothing more than part of the landscape, like it had been there a good while.


Blogger Brendan said...

I've just come upon your blog, and your writing seems so deeply connected with your love of New Orleans. Reading about your patients and your little experiences in the area is heartening and really helps me understand what the place means to you. Do keep up your good work in both your real and virtual lives.

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