Today was my last day in lung transplants. I’m definitely going to miss this rotation. I have been so blessed to get to work with such an amazing team and to meet so many incredible patients during this past month.
The things I have been able to see and the experiences I’ve had during this rotation are almost too much to put into words. I’ve been able to see patients before and after their transplants. I’ve witnessed devoted families visit their loved one every day during their recovery. I’ve held the hands of patients who have no one to visit them and have to go through a difficult road to recovery alone. I’ve seen a patient go to the chapel every day to pray for her lung donor. I’ve seen families wait anxiously in a hospital room with their loved one near death, praying for a set of lungs to become available, and go through the difficult emotions of knowing what that means for another family somewhere.
I had no idea what to expect when I started this rotation, and now that it’s over I can see how much I’ve learned in just a few weeks – not just about medicine or what it means to be a good physician, but about how much I take for granted. I’ve managed patients my own age. One patient is waiting for new lungs and all she wants to do is adopt a baby. Another patient is even younger than I am and has cystic fibrosis. He seems depressed and doesn’t want to take his medications, which is essentially committing suicide with his condition.
I had a patient explain to me what having his lung disease feels like. He said, “It feels like you’re drowning all the time. You can never get enough air.” Lots of our patients have to work with a psychiatrist after transplant – for various issues – but many of them continue to have fear about getting enough oxygen, even though their new lungs work fine.
I have been so inspired by some of my patients this month. Lung transplant isn’t a walk in the park. It takes a ton of commitment, and there can be a lot of set backs. One of my patients has been back to the hospital after transplant for a number of complications, but every day he has a smile on his face. His wife said to me, “He just loves life! He has so many things he wants to do.”
The hardest part about ending this rotation is that I know a number of patients who are still waiting for their new lungs. I will worry about them. I will pray for them. I hope they make it.
I breathe in and out thousands of times a day, and I take every single one of those breaths for granted. My challenge for you is this. Take a nice big deep breath, and say a quick prayer of thanks for all that you have in life. Oh, and be an organ donor!