It is a common refrain that “things get better.” I now strongly believe that is true, but I didn’t always. I went through many ups and downs on my journey in medicine, such as dealing with homesickness, weathering professional and personal hardships, and trying to make good impressions and forge meaningful connections as an introvert. I navigated all of this before I understood that of course things will always, eventually get better—because when you are at your lowest, there is only one way to go: up.
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….”
I am Sandipan Shringi, MD, a final-year resident in Internal Medicine at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts. I am originally from a small town in India. My path towards medical practice began when I was 16 years old. As you will learn, my journey as a physician began dangerously and has taken unexpected paths.
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?