Sping Break Observership at OHSU

April 16, 2013

I had an amazing experience at OHSU. Far more extraordinary than I could have expected. I was given so many opportunities to participate in patient care and I lapped up each one like a camel quenching his thirst. I was thirsty for knowledge and experience which must have been apparent to the clinicians I was there to observe because there was no drought of knowledge to be shared by someone eager to learn.

I spent the week inside the operating room with children undergoing ear procedures, including a cochlear implant being placed. I spent some time in the audiology clinic where I observed hearing tests being administered and a cochlear implant (different patient) being programmed. The remainder of the time was spent in the clinic where patients were preparing for surgery, following up after surgery, having a procedure performed or visiting to diagnose a non-surgical issue using medical therapeutics. That’s one of the great things about otolaryngology and head and neck surgery. Unlike most surgical specialties, an ENT can diagnose and treat non-surgical conditions.

I had many special moments where I was able to interact with patients and their families. My ability to sign ASL even came in handy with one family. If I were to pick the highlight of my entire week long experience, it would be a no brainer. There was one moment that overshadowed every other up to that point. There was a child with a developmental delay of some kind who needed a rather invasive procedure performed, one I’ve had done on myself many times. Well, naturally she wasn’t going to have any of that nonsense. She fought everyone in the room; the attending, the resident, her mother and the visiting student trying to hide in the corner. Her mother held her down as the attending began his medically necessary invasion. She began to sob in defeat as tears rolled down her cheeks. Honestly, I was about ready to join her. It hurts to see a beautiful, innocent, little child like that. It reminded me too much of my own childhood because that was once me. I guess that’s still me, but I’m older now and my mother doesn’t have to hold me down anymore. Anyway, she had surrendered by now, but was still struggling a bit. I don’t know what lead me to do what I did next, but I moved in and took her hand in mine. She fought me at first, of course. It didn’t matter than I was just a college student, I had an ID badge with the OHSU logo on it. I was a member of the enemy’s army. I held on firmly, but gently and ran my thumb over the back of her hand. The struggle ended. She relaxed in my touch. Completely at ease in my hold. I became an ally to her army. I was on her side after all.

I’ll never forget all the feelings that raced through me at that moment. I, the puny college student who knew nothing and could do nothing, knew enough and could do enough to ease a little child’s suffering and assist the attending physician in performing his procedure. I was suddenly more powerful and more able than I had ever been before.

Maybe I could make a difference after all. Maybe.

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