Since the beginning of the 21st century, palliative care has emerged as a prominent aspect of medicine. Palliative care focuses mostly on improving the quality of life in severely ill patients, but it also involves comfort-based care for terminally ill patients. Despite increased awareness of palliative care among health care providers, decisions made in respect to end-of-life treatment are often difficult because they can be subjective.
“Did you see any COVID-19 patients today?” my wife nervously asked as I entered our home. I was clad in an N-95 mask for the first time. “Not yet” I replied.
My mask and her concerns were well-warranted; we were about to be first-time parents, and she was in her last trimester. Our relatives and friends would routinely ask, “When is your gift from God coming?” and we always cautiously replied, “Anytime now, just pray—you know how times are….”
The COVID-19 patient did not speak English, so we communicated using a translator phone. He taught me a few words and sentences so that I could ask simple questions to other patients who shared his native language. “I can’t breathe” were the last words that I could understand before he was intubated. I wondered if he ever imagined that his last words would be spoken to someone who did not speak his language. Did he imagine that he would be taken care of in his final days by someone born thousands of miles away?
Living the “American Dream” was a phrase I heard a lot while growing up because many of my relatives were settled in the USA. During medical school, I had made up my mind to pursue psychiatry as a preferred specialty. After making a thorough comparison of psychiatry training in Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and the USA, I decided to aim for training in the United States.
“Surgery in the USA, huh? Do you know what are you doing with your life?” That was a quote from one of my friends.
Surgery is the most precious thing that happened to me. It was my dream to be a surgeon, but things got complicated when training in the USA came into play. I, like most of my friends during my medical school, thought surgery residency in the USA was an impossible task to accomplish, given the visa, high test scores, and research required to be competitive with US medical graduates. I dreamt of being a surgeon, day and night since childhood. So to me it was like a vision that only I was able to see, the passion only I was able to feel, the road only I had to walk, so that when I eventually make it come true it will become a hope for the people around me.