Accept Surprises

From Doctor in Training to Patient in Training

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"Come on, Aieee, I want to play trains," my nephew said, pulling on my t-shirt.

I couldn't get up. I hadn't eaten more than a few pieces of toast in five days. After blood draws, chest x-rays, an ultrasound and nine different doctors, no one could explain my low white blood cell count, swollen hands and lethargy. I slept most of the day and sweated through fevers at night.

After my first semester in medical school at Georgetown University, the trip home to see my family in California was supposed to be a relaxing break, but I didn't even have the energy to sit up on the couch.

"You must have a bad case of the flu," one nurse said.

"You might have HIV," a doctor mused, adding, "You know you are at risk since you spend so much time in the hospital."

Every doctor I saw sent me home with antibiotics and Tylenol for fevers. My parents wouldn't let me go back to school, but were unsure about what to do with me. Over the next week, my breathing became worse. I couldn't make it up the stairs at home. I started coughing up blood. My parents brought me to the emergency room. I remember leaning against my father on the cold plastic seats in the waiting room, watching doctors examine charts and CT scans. I counted how many chapters I was behind in my physical diagnosis textbook. One week to the final. I couldn't remember how to do the test for pancreatitis. I recited a list of cranial nerves and fell asleep.

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Katie Ching (2001 Krista Colleague) Katie served with the Jesuit Volunteers in Portland, Maine, working with mentally ill adults before completing a Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Georgetown University. Her research emphasis was on Tcell communication in the hopes of better understanding the regulation of the immune system. Now in medical school at Georgetown, she combines rigorous study with her own struggles with an immune-system disease. She lives in Washington, D.C with her husband Devin Sullivan and is the proud aunt of three-year-old Max.


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