The Miracle Of Life

“In terms of rape victims who get pregnant from their aggressors, would it be okay for an abortion?”

“What if the baby has a life-threatening condition, should one still continue with the pregnancy and go through the trauma of giving birth, when knowing that the baby has no chance of survival?”

“What if the baby has a serious condition requiring lifelong medical care, leading to the child having a poor quality of life? Should one still continue the pregnancy?”

As a Catholic doctor as well as a woman, I have had difficulties with these questions. I have long pondered, if a patient asked me for an abortion because of these reasons, what would I say? Or perhaps even, what would I do if I was put into that situation?

A few months ago, I was doing my anaesthesia rotation. The next patient to come in for surgery read “abortion,” and it was for a baby just about in the Swedish legal limits for a woman to have full autonomy in having an abortion – 18 weeks. As a medical student, it was my job to receive the patient from the waiting room. After introducing myself to the patient only a few years older than me, we started walking together to the operation room. On the way to the operation room she said: “I can’t wait for this to be over, and for this thing to be out of me.”

I was filled with sadness, for both the mother and the baby. I was sad for the mother for failing to see God’s gift for her, and sad for the baby who was robbed of God’s greatest gift for them, their life. After escorting the patient to the operation room, followed by a quiet prayer to myself for both the mother and the baby, I excused myself from the surgery. At that moment, the teachings and answers provided by the Church regarding my questions on abortion all made sense.

*

Right now, I am in the Philippines for my Obstetrics/Gynaecology clinical rotation. Right before leaving, my boyfriend Jonas and I decided to do the First Saturdays Devotion together, as requested by Our Lady of Fatima. On the day I was leaving for the Philippines, we went to mass together on the first Saturday of December, followed by praying the Rosary and afterwards meditating on the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary for 15 minutes – which are all parts of the things to do during the First Saturdays Devotion. I chose to meditate on the Nativity.

As I began my meditation, I pictured Mary. Already from the moment the Angel Gabriel announced her miraculous conception of Jesus, she decided to accept and trust God’s plan for her. As crazy as it may sound that she became pregnant despite being a virgin. Even St Joseph her spouse was fully supportive, after being spoken to by an angel of God in a dream. Mary and Joseph both trusted God’s plan for them and embraced this blessing fully until the very end. Even when Mary was about to give birth. Even though Mary and Joseph were not welcomed in any home in Bethlehem, they had no fear. In the end, Mary gave birth to the Saviour of the world, in a manger.

Then I pictured Mary with thorns in her heart. Unlike Mary, many women today fear pregnancy, and see it as a “disease” needing prevention and treatment. Unlike Mary, many women today do not love their children, in the same way she did. I could feel Mary’s pain for all the children both born and unborn, who are unloved by their parents especially their mothers. These children are so unloved, that some mothers even decide to kill them before they are born into the beautiful world God created for us. I realized what Mary was telling me. No matter the circumstance, every child conceived is a miracle and is God’s most precious gift to the world, life. And just like her, I will love every child God will bless my husband and I unconditionally.

*

I have always said Obstetrics (the medical specialty concerning pregnancy and childbirth) is the happiest specialty. The patients are usually healthy mothers excitedly waiting for the birth of their children. Doing my obstetrics rotation here in the Philippines has been an absolute joy, as it makes me happy being surrounded by expecting mothers, as well as happy mothers with newly born babies. Last week, during the feast day of the Immaculate Conception, I was given the opportunity to deliver my very first baby.

When the baby had just been successfully delivered, I was standing there in silence and awe, looking at the baby in my hands. It felt as if time had stopped, until I heard the doctor say, “You can pass the baby to the midwife now.” I passed the baby to the midwife, who then passed the baby to the mother. After the delivery, I changed out of my scrubs and rushed to mass.

I cannot explain the emotions that ran through me as I was holding that baby. As I held that baby, the miracle of life, I could just feel the immense happiness and love for this child. Just like every one of us, this child was born because of God’s love for us. What a blessing it was to be used as an instrument to deliver life, God’s most precious gift, into our beautiful world.

*

Every child is a miracle of life and a gift from God, out of His love for us. Just like the child Jesus, God loves us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to save us from our sins, so that we can join Him again in Heaven. This Christmas, let us thank God for this blessing of salvation, and celebrate our Saviour’s birth. Let us also pray for all the children born and unborn, and their parents. Let us pray for all parents especially mothers, to always love their children unconditionally, in the same way Mary and God love us.

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten son: that whoever believes in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God sent not his Son into the world to judge the world: but that the world may be saved by him.

I’m tired. (KUA/student-lead ward finally over)

I’m tired. For the past two weeks of this student-lead ward placement, I’ve been met with prejudice, discrimination and disrespect. Even some trying to undermine my role as in this case, the doctor. It turns out, it doesn’t matter how many times I present myself as the doctor. Just because of my appearance, it will never sink in for some. During the day, I told myself to hold on for just a few more hours but… I broke down.
 
The world is unfair I told myself. No matter what I’ll do, some people will just never take me seriously. Why did I even choose this profession in the first place? After crying on the phone to my friend, I returned to the ward.
 
At the end of the day, as it was our last shift at the placement, I said goodbye to our patients. They then told me that they were sorry to see me leave, and thanked me for all that we’ve done.
 
“With you guys around, I will always feel safe even if I’m home alone. We always hear nonsense on the news, when they should really be publishing about the work you all do. I wanted you to know that and, thank you very much for everything.”
 
I remembered why I wanted to be a doctor again. ❤️

World Health Day 2017: my story

I know this might come as a shock to some of you, but I have long thought that it’s about time for me to speak openly about it. Especially today, on the launch of WHO’s 2017 World Health Day campaign. Two years ago, I was suffering from depression. #letstalk 
I was doing well academically: published as an undergrad and was even invited to present my research internationally across the world. I was proud of what I had achieved, but others around me did not share my happiness. I was bullied in my medical school. I sought help from my medical school but I was told that it was my fault. They referred me to doctors and psychologists/psychiatrists for my depression, who all disagreed with my medical school. However, my medical school didn’t listen. I was forced on medication and psychotherapy. I then started to believe that maybe there was something wrong with me, that it was my fault I was being bullied.

I left my medical school that following summer and moved back home to Sweden from the UK. I was ashamed of the weak and lost person I perceived myself to have become. I chose to isolate myself and battle with my thoughts alone, as I didn’t want my depression to be noticed. Until one day, my sister sent me contact information to a therapist, and I secretly started to go.

After half a year of therapy later, I came back to my now new medical school, continuing where I left off in the UK. I learnt that everything that happened wasn’t my fault, and I was no longer ashamed. Now, I can talk about it more openly and I’m back to the same old happy and always smiling Sam that I’ve always been. 

So to all those battling depression, you are not alone. Acknowledge it, open up, and talk. I’ll listen if no one else will. If needed, professional help is always available. No matter what, never believe that it’s your fault and never be ashamed. We’re all human so in the end, we’re allowed to act as one every now and then! 😊

5 lessons I learnt from failure

For my entire life, I have never failed an exam. Study or no study, somehow, I’ve been lucky with exams. I have always taken pride in my ability to have a perfect pass record and my high marks. Failure, has never been an option neither a possibility for me. Then I came to Linköping and I failed my first exam ever. Twice.

I was devastated. For a long time, I questioned my abilities. How have I managed so far when I can’t even pass an exam, even after redoing it? I was discouraged, and all of a sudden, my belief in my natural superpower of doing well in exams was gone. Countless tears were shed and I was crushed inside. Then I thought, perhaps I made the worst mistake of my life by transferring to medical school in Sweden. I doubted myself and my decision.

I felt like a failure. I felt unworthy of staying in medical school in Linköping if I couldn’t even pass this exam after another try. Nevertheless, I persevered. I listened to my friends who told me that it’s okay to fail, and it’s understandable. You’ve never studied in Swedish and this is your first time taking an exam in Linköping and in Swedish they said. I held on to that thought for the entire of last semester, with the fear of being put on academic probation in the back of my head. I retook the exam once again in January, and I passed. Third time’s a charm.

Failing, was definitely a tough experience to go through, but I believe that it is a valuable experience to have. After all, we learn from our mistakes right? Failure is the best teacher.

 

5 LESSONS FAILURE TAUGHT ME

1. Failure doesn’t define you, but rather what you do about it afterwards

I had this idea that by failing, I will always be marked as a failure. Something that will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life. I was wrong. After failing, no one seems to remember that I failed, but only remember the fact that I passed. Looking at successful people in the world, like Bill Gates and Michael Jordan. Are they remembered for dropping out of college or not making it to their basketball team? Nope, they are only remembered for what they had achieved afterwards.

smooth save gymnastics girl on bar

2. Failure is simply an opportunity for growth

After finding out that I had failed, I repeated to myself of how I knew nothing. I beat myself about it, telling myself how stupid I was that nothing had gone in my head during my entire time studying. When I got to see my score, I found out that I was only 3 points away from passing. The second time, 4 points away (wrong way I know).

Failing doesn’t mean that one isn’t capable of succeeding, but rather one isn’t there just yet. 3 points away to be precise in my case. In this case, one is given the opportunity to continue developing using the lessons learnt from one’s failure, so that one in the end one can reach one’s goal in the best way possible.

you can dust it off and try again aliyah gif

3. If your friends and family believe in you, so should you

When I had failed, my friends and family kept telling me nonchalantly, oh don’t worry you’ll make it next time. I kept saying I would do my best, but I already had failed twice so my statistics looked grim. How come my friends and family trusted my abilities so much but I didn’t? Once passing, I was over the moon, and then they told me that they told me so.

If I had believed in what my friends and family said, I would’ve saved myself all the mental anguish and anxieties from the fear of failing yet again. There really is a strength in faith, especially faith in oneself. If they didn’t believe in me, who knows if I would’ve passed if I didn’t even believe that I would. The first step in doing something is believing one can accomplish it right?

child saying you have got to believe in yourself gif giphy

4. Not reaching one’s own expectations doesn’t make one a failure

I expected myself to have gone through medical school without failing a single exam, and on the time I expected myself to finish. I was supposed to be a graduated doctor by 23, with a perfect academic record. I’m graduating at 24, in Sweden, with a few failed exams here and there. Does that make me a worse doctor? Does that make me a failure? Nope, in the end I will still become a doctor, which is my goal in the first place. With a lot more experience than I had expected to graduate with.

arrested development i don't know what I expected

5. Failing is not the end of the world

You failed, so what. Life goes on. In the words of my favourite prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

In other words, better luck next time!

i'm rooting for you patrick star spongebob gif

The concept of health insurance in the US

I’m now back in Sweden after an amazing three weeks in Guam and currently am suffering from a severe Guam hangover. From sunny tropical weather to darkness and snow on my face for the next couple of months, yes there is a difference. Ah well, at least winter is kinda pretty and Christmas is just around the corner.

During my time working as “Dr. Sam” at the clinics and hospitals in Guam, I got to experience what is really alien to most of us here in Europe, which is the novelty of health insurance.

It’s true. All treatments are based on the insurance of the individual.

Let me explain it a bit more. Before going to a doctor, to be sure that the insurance will cover it, you need to apply for what you will be going to the doctor for. Because of this, some people are forced to wait, which sometimes leads to the worsening of their condition. Sometimes, it gets too late. This is mainly the case of patients who cannot pay for it first, or those who don’t want to risk the ability of not getting reimbursed by their insurance.

Secondly, there are different types of insurances. Depending on the type of insurance you have, doctors will treat you differently. Most health insurances are costly and privately owned, but some patients get free health insurance from the government as they are earning below a certain amount. Because of this, some greedy doctors (I’ve heard) do not prioritise these patients, as they barely will get money from them from their health insurance. In contrast to the patients with expensive health insurances, they will profit a lot from them.

To those who do not receive free health insurance and cannot afford the privately owned one, they’re in trouble. Going to a doctor then becomes very expensive, and a trip to the emergency room alone would cost several thousands of dollars. I wish I was exaggerating. Even the medicines are expensive.

For example, during my time in the US I managed to get an external otitis, aka swimmer’s ear. For this I needed anti-bacterial ear drops for. I got a prescription from my uncle, went to a pharmacy, and got my ear drops for $57.60. This is about 550kr. In comparison, I had a surgery in my arm in Stockholm in May, and that cost 350kr. Crazy isn’t it. I guess in this way, in one way or another, it is good to be home.

img_7796

Hafa adai from orthopedics in Guam, USA!

“Tito (uncle), that man has a limp on his left foot, what do you think is the possible cause?”

And so starts our lecture over lunch at the Hilton hotel, about different causes of asymmetrical limb lengths, ending with the classification of the different types of scoliosis and how to treat it.

Right now, I’m in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a tropical island called Guam, which is a territory of the United States. (I know you were wondering where Guam is). I’m here for a three-week external orthopaedic placement with my granduncle-in-law, who is the local orthopedic surgeon in the region. I’m currently staying with him and my grandaunt (my grandmother’s youngest sister) at their house and am following my granduncle whenever he goes to work. It’s basically a mixture of vacation with work which I like to call, workcation. There is no better kind.

Since I was younger, I’ve grown up knowing of the many great things my granduncle has achieved throughout his career. I cannot even begin to describe how honoured and fortunate I feel to now be a part of it as his pupil. The generations of doctors in my medical family are now meeting. From breakfast lectures and handouts to clinic and surgeries, and finally ending the day with yet another dinner lecture. Everyday here in Guam has been countless learning opportunities in orthopaedics, and no time has gone to waste. Even the short car drives.

So you may be asking, how am I liking it so far? Well, I’m loving every bit of it, and somehow studying actually became fun now. I’m getting more and more tanned, bigger (no student diet here no) but definitely learning. I often reflect on how I ended up to be so fortunate with such amazing opportunities in life, but all I can do is be grateful.

This week I will be with Dr. Landström (yes, he is Swedish – what are the chances!) the local hand surgeon of the island, to have a greater diversity of cases within orthopaedics. Hand surgery cases that is. Tomorrow, I’ll be seeing my first hand surgery with him, and I better be on top with my anatomy. Like my granduncle, he is a very well-respected and experienced doctor too, who even has worked in Afghanistan. So to be on his good side, I better get back to studying, my break is over.

Hafa adai (the local greeting here which is pronounced half-a-day) from Guam! I promise to be back to write more about medicine and life here on the island. Until next time! 🙂

5 uniquely British medical practices

I’ll be blunt and admit that I don’t really have a lot of exciting things to tell from the hospital after my placements. I think my placement in medical emergency is a tough one to beat. However recently, I’ve been remembering all these medical practices that was everyday for me in the UK, which now actually seems completely alien to me. I’m converting. There’s a lot that comes to mind, but for starters, here’s a list of five uniquely British medical practices.

1. Clinical wear is basically formal wear

For doctors, clinical wear entails shirt/trousers (NOT JEANS) for men and shirt/blouse/skirt/trousers (again NOT JEANS) for women. Nice flat dress shoes for both genders. Yes, this practice is extremely questionable hygiene-wise, as you come to work with the same clothes you will be wearing the whole day at the hospital, but there is some reasoning behind this.

The medical practice in the UK wanted to take a step away from the hierarchical system by abolishing the white coat and scrubs for doctors. There shouldn’t be anything to distinguish a doctor from a patient appearance-wise, as in the end they’re both people. This is so that there will be no “us and them” mentality between the doctors and the patients, and hopefully, doctors become more approachable during patient contact. It’s a nice thought I guess, and perhaps the prevalence of “white coat syndrome” has diminished over the years. However hygiene-wise once again, questionable.

homer gif giphy saying why so formal lenny you're my go to guy

2. Only black or white shoes are allowed to be worn in the hospital

The professional clinical look in British standards is to be somewhat uniform. Black or white shoes are to be worn as they are more professional. No bright colourful sneakers were allowed. However, I was always jealous of my sister and the bright colourful sneakers she wore around the hospitals in Sweden. So I never listened and decided to rebel and wear my bright orange sneakers. Did I get looks? Yes. Did I get scolded? Sometimes. But boy did I get compliments from patients – “I like your bright orange sneakers, you’re hard to miss in this hospital!” At least I was remembered for my fashion sense.

3. Some doctors wear bow ties or tucked-in ties

As an attempt to improve hospital hygiene, it was implemented that anything hanging around one’s neck is not allowed to be worn in the hospital. Including neck ties. This angered many doctors, as they viewed it to be a crucial part of their professional clinical wear. Therefore they came up with a compromise. Some switched to wearing bow ties, whereas others decided to keep wearing neck ties but started tucking the end of their neck ties inside their shirt. Works I guess.

bow tie from sing movie

4. British hospitals only use black pens

If you look around a British hospital, you will only find black pens and no other colour. I recall being scolded when in the hospital once for taking notes with a blue pen. They told me – how would colour blind people be able to read what I’m writing? I assured them that the notes were only for me to see, and afterwards I had to promise to never use my blue pen again. Since that day, I only brought black pens to the hospital. Yes, it is a rule in British hospitals that you are only allowed to use black pens so that everyone can read what you write, including those who are colour blind.

blue colour blind pen screaming gif giphy

5. You address surgeons as Mr/Mrs/Ms and DEFINITELY not Dr.

“Dr. McCloy… Oh sorry, I mean Mr. McCloy!”

I bet it’s probably only in the UK where some doctors would take offense if you call them Dr. Why you might wonder, which is a pretty good question. As told perfectly in this article, during the origins of surgery around the 18th century, surgeons back then did not possess any formal qualifications let alone a medical degree to be able to hold the title Dr. They were sometimes compared to butchers, and doctors were definitely more superior. However as times have changed, the status of surgeons have risen and thus have become so proud to distinguish themselves from doctors. Today in British hospitals, being called Mr or Mrs/Ms is a badge of honour and could only mean one thing – and that is that you’re a surgeon.
they call me mr tibbs gif giphy

Hello from the Emergency Department

Hi all!

Sorry for the hiatus, but I’m back now after a hectic past few weeks! I completely underestimated the stress of belonging to two classes and being a researcher at the same time. I’ve spent these past two theory weeks basically running back and forth between lectures and classes (internal medicine with semester 8 and orthopaedics with semester 9) and trying to progress with our research. Finally those hectic weeks are over and therefore – hello from the Emergency Department in Jönköping!

I’m on my next final day at the emergency department, and I must say, today has been the least busy day of the week. I define least busy by:

  • having lunch for longer than 15min at around noontime
  • not having to run as fast as I can together with my doctors across the hospital
  • not having to respond to a single cardiac arrest alarm
  • not having to respond to a single stroke alarm
  • only going to the emergency room of the emergency department once

On my first day at the emergency department, there were at least three emergency alarms we had to respond to (meaning a load of running) on top of the regular influx of patients, that we didn’t manage to eat lunch until 5pm. During my second day at the hospital, we were anticipating yet more alarms to go off around the hospital that my doctor was prepared with his scooter outside our room. I of course had to run alongside with him.

Today was a surprisingly calm day, so calm that I didn’t need to run. It was only then when I realised. As I stood in front of our only high-priority (code red) emergency patient of the day, I realised I wasn’t scared anymore. I was looking at an acutely ill and quickly deteriorating patient without being the slightest bit concerned. This has been everyday for us all at the emergency department. It was then I realised, I’ve really been blunted after these past few days. Or perhaps, my trust in the capabilities of medicine and the healthcare workers around to quickly save a life has increased. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

So, what have I learnt after a few days in the Emergency Department? Saving lives is a very reasonable job description for doctors.

Final day in the medical emergency department tomorrow here we go! 😀

let the doctor do his work maam gif giphy south park emergency room doctors

Life lessons from a patient who survived 

(Disclaimer: I received verbal consent from my patient to share about my experience with him.)

Last week, I wrote about a patient of mine who almost died… twice. And I was there with him. I have been visiting him regularly and I am happy to announce that he is now stable. After a month of not seeing his wife, he is now at home with her. 🙂

The weekend before his final operation, I visited him the Friday before I went off to Stockholm. I told him I was going home to sing. He told me that he wishes he could hear me sing sometime. He told me he enjoyed jazz, and so I decided to learn “Fly me to the moon” by Frank Sinatra to perform it the same evening. I showed him the video the coming Monday and was happy to see him smile, laugh and slightly calmer before his upcoming operation. However as he was still nervous, I decided to follow and observe his operation, so I could be there with him as he lay there during his awake surgery. He was grateful.

 

Right before he went home, I visited him for one final time. As usual, laughter and words of wisdom were exchanged. Before saying goodbye, he asked for my name on a piece of paper so he would remember me. I wrote my name down and handed it to him as I told him his full name. I will never forget you either I said.

So to remember him not as a patient but as a person, here are a few wise words from him that I know I will bring along with me throughout the rest of my life. Things I learnt that is not because he was a patient, but because he’s a person caring for another. Note, most advice were aimed at my lovelife…

1.

Gör något som du brinner för. Om du inte brinner för det, sluta. Annars kommer du inte göra bra ifrån dig.

“Do something you’re passionate about. If you’re not passionate about something, stop. Otherwise, you won’t excel.”

2.

När du träffar någon ska det gå långsamt, så att du hinner se både fördelarna och nackdelarna av en person och kan göra ett bra beslut

“When you meet someone, take it slowly so you have time to see both the pros and cons of the person to make a good decision”

3.

När du är i ett förhållande är det DU som ska bestämma, så att allt går som du vill att det ska gå och du blir glad

“When you are in a relationship, it is YOU who should decide, so that everything will be how you want it to be and you will be happy”

4.

Gör alltid tid åt din familj, i slutändan är det de som alltid kommer finnas där för en

“Always make time for your family, because in the end they will be the ones who will always be there for you”

5. And last but not least my absolute favourite… (I hope you guys understand I’m always laughing each time he gives me advice on my lovelife)

Om han inte kommer eller gör någonting för din skull så är han inget att ha

“If he doesn’t attend or do anything for you then he’s no one for you to have”

Oh dear patient of mine, I hope you are enjoying your time drinking red wine with your wife at home. I will never forget you!

In the end though, what did I really learn? Medicine goes a long way, but empathy goes even further.

 

What do you tell someone who’s about to die?

(Disclaimer: I received verbal consent from my patient to share about my experience with him.)

This week I’ve been at the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, and nothing has challenged me more physically, mentally and emotionally during a placement.

At the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, many patients come in after suffering heart attacks. They are in critical need of care, where many patients are vulnerable and are fighting to stay alive… and the healthcare team fighting to keep them alive.

The week began quite calmly, which gave me lots of reading time, but since yesterday and especially today, I’ve been running.

Running. Trying to learn and help out during critical situations, but mainly trying to keep out of the way. Running to wherever the alarm rings. Another patient is dying. Every second counts.

Yesterday, in the midst of a flurry of doctors and nurses trying to save another patient from a cardiac arrest, everyone leaves the room to discuss. At this point, several life-saving electric shocks had been given, and I was there to witness them all. Even seeing the patient in pain.

I tried fighting my tears as I realise, I don’t like seeing patients in pain. And I really wish I don’t ever have to. But there I was.

I was left alone in the room with the patient and I take their hand to comfort them. The patient then looks at me straight in the eyes and tells me:

Jag kommer nu.” – “I’m coming now.”

Coming. Coming to a place beyond us. Coming to death. Coming to what I like to believe, life after death. Coming to Heaven.

I was silent, again fighting my tears. I look straight back not knowing what to say. What do you tell someone who knows they’re about to die, and you know it too? What do you tell someone who’s about to die?

*

This question wracked my brain until the next day. Could I have said anything to improve the situation? What if that really was the last chance I got to talk to them? What if I was the last person they spoke to, and I couldn’t even say a word?

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. After a rough night and morning of more emergency interventions, the patient is alive and recovering. I finished my day early and decided to pass by the patient’s room to talk to them. It didn’t really feel right for me to leave for the weekend, not knowing whether they will be okay or not when I return. I waited for their room to be free, came in, and in the end I stayed for over an hour chatting. At the end of it they took my hand and told me:

“You have an important duty to pass on your genes to the next generation and I hope you have many children… but be careful with your choice!”

I promised I will, and in return I made them promise they will be around when I come back after the weekend.

As a medical student, I usually joke that another day at the hospital is another life saved, but now I realised this is not a joke at all. As healthcare workers, we are given the unique opportunity to make great changes in people’s lives, and sometimes even save a life. However at times, we are also there as they take their last breath. Being prepared for both scenarios would make the best impact on people’s lives and today, I realised I still have a lot left to learn.

heart ECG tracing recording