21 April 2013


Three of us were walking in the mall when we noticed a woman lying in a heap on the floor of a shop, pressed up against the window. A concerned employee stood over her. I told my companions that I ought to help, and rushed inside.

"I'm a medical student," I said, to the employee's apparent relief. She told me that the woman had been seizing and pointed out that her face was bloody. She added that paramedics were en route. I thanked the employee and asked her if she could kindly get some gloves. Then I knelt down next to the victim, who was still writhing but no longer seizing. She appeared to be breathing but unconscious. I said aloud, "I'm [Reflex Hammer], and I'm a medical student. You're all right. You're in a shopping mall. I'm going to check your pulse now."

Just when I first detected her pulse, the paramedics arrived. I quickly exited the shop so that the professionals could do their job. I rejoined my group and we continued walking.

Not even 24 hours later, I was on a flight where there came an anxious request overhead for "any medical personnel: doctors, nurses, EMTs, anybody" to please hit their call button. I was the only passenger to oblige. A flight attendant rushed over and asked me to come to front of the plane. I was in the window seat, and the passenger in the aisle seat was asleep. The flight attendant woke him and hurried him out of his seat so I could get through. I grabbed a pen and paper from my bag and headed down the aisle. Although anonymous before, I realized that nearly every person on the plane was now looking at me expectantly.

At the front of the plane was a woman lying on the ground in a panic, a discarded oxygen mask lying on her stomach and a man crouched over her helping her. A different flight attendant sneered, "What are you?" 

"A third-year medical student," I replied. She sized me up head-to-toe, and then icily told me to return to my seat and that they'd find me if they needed me. As I walked back, I noticed that even more people than before were staring at me, their eyes searching me for some clue as to what had transpired. I put on my best poker face, hiding how upset I was at being immediately sent away after my help had been so urgently requested.

I am almost exactly halfway towards being a physician. It is an odd, in-between state. Although I usually believe I'm able to help, people don't know whether to trust me to take care of them.