Passage from The House of God

I’ve almost finished reading “The House of God” by Samuel Shem. Finally. I started last summer, as a preparation for my rotations. Obviously didn’t finish, although I did read various other books. The pace is slow now, reading about twenty pages a weekend. The general feeling in the book often correlate with those of my own. Yesterday I came upon a certain passage that’s about exactly how I often feel…

… all of us had gone around like zombies, stunned, numb, too scared to cry. […] We knew that it could have been any of us. Lethal, this becoming and being a doctor! Denying hope and fear, ritualized defenses pulled up around ears like turtlenecks, these doctors, to survive, had become machines […] ‘This internship – this whole training – it destroys people.’ ‘Yes, it’s a disease. The kind of stress you’re under, unless you can find some safety, some caring, you’ve only got a few choices: kill yourself, go crazy, kill someone else. […] you’re a survivor. You’ll make it now […]’

Although I don’t feel myself getting closed off of other people, and the compassion is still there, I myself and others around me do feel that these months can destroy you. Not for forever, but for now it does. It completely and utterly breaks you. We live for those small moments that are fun, that are cool to have seen, for experiences that only the few of us will experience. I dream things. My life and head are full of medicine, and not the wonderful medicine that the outside world sees. I dream of broken scalps on the floor, of blood gushing out of people, of the greyish skins of near-death. It’s all around me. Sickness, horror. We have each other, we sit and drink beer and laugh, about what I really don’t know. Some of my mates really go crazy sometimes, our world is so crazy it’s not real anymore. It seems like that. Some are brought back to primal behavior at times. They are just past halfway, almost done luckily. I’m not that far, neither in my rotations nor in going crazy like that. I hope I won’t! I’ll survive, I know that, but I wonder how I will be at the end. Finish “The House of God”, and see how that guy makes it…

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One comment

  1. I feel like I need to read The House of God again. I read it when I was in Med 3 doing internal medicine and it made sense then, but now, as an intern, I think even moreso. Although I still feel compassion too, there is something about being engrossed in the world of medicine that changes things a bit and can make you feel detached.
    Great post!

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