Story time: Fits and starts

If I miss the exit, can I double back?

For those who don’t know, medicine isn’t my first love. That honour will always go to Literature, writing and the editorial arts. Medicine is pretty much just to pay the bills, but that’s not to say I don’t love it (sometimes -_-). I say this as a prelude to a story that took place one night several years ago, and sort of had its sequel a few days ago.

I’d just gone to buy dinner downtown when I happened across a crowd spilling off the sidewalk into the street. Now it is the nature of Jamaicans to move towards a crowd of people, no matter how hostile or downright threatening they appear. So usually when I see a crowd my MO is to move in the opposite direction as fast as possible. But that night I went closer, and it turned out that there was a lady having a seizure, almost in the middle of the road. She lay there on the ground while people were debating what to do with her

“Put one piece a board in her mouth.” “Use her shoes.” etc. etc. But at the end of the day everybody just stood around watching her. (Now, I know that’s pretty much what you’re supposed to do, not move them or interfere with them in anyway until the seizure has passed – unless they’re having trouble breathing and whatnot – but I didn’t know that then).

I wasn’t able to see the outcome, but what I remember most vividly was a burning desire to help her. Not write an article about the underestimation of epilepsy in Jamaican society, not try to educate the mass media about basic first aid. But to be the person who knew exactly what to do in that situation i.e. a doctor. Or something. And for me, that was a defining moment. That ‘would you rather…’ instant of blinding truth when you realize just what you want for yourself, no frills attached.

And then a couple of days ago I almost walked on top of a girl lying on the street, having just had a seizure. She was twelve years old. No one, save one young lady, was paying her attention. People were literally stepping over her on the sidewalk. She was twelve years old. This time I stopped to help. Not as a medical student, just as a human being with some semblance of concern for this girl (I can’t call her little – she was bigger than me) who was clearly in need of help.

It was a check-up, if you will. A little cosmic tap on the shoulder to inquire ‘do you still want this?’.

And strangely enough – despite the tedium, the challenges and the frustrations; despite the unhappiness that sometimes swathes me like a second skin – strangely enough, I do.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost


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