One part of getting ready to leave Chicago is wrapping up my residency here. Part of that is saying goodbye to my Chicago patients. This has been bittersweet, since many of them I’ve been seeing for the last three years and we’ve gotten attached to (or at least used to) each other. Recently I saw a family I’ve been seeing for awhile: a mother, a baby of hers I delivered, and her very precocious preschooler. During their visit I explained that I would be leaving the clinic soon, and that it would probably be the last time I’d see them. The mother said, “Oh, then you’d better hold the baby one last time. Here!” The baby and I looked at each other; she grinned, so I grinned and picked her up. The baby played with my badge and the preschooler kept trying to get my attention as I talked to their mother.
M: Hi! How are you?
P: I want to be a doctor! (Trying to sneakily pull my stethoscope off my neck.)
M: That’s great! You’ll be a wonderful doctor!
P: I know. Doctor-doctor-doctor-doctor-doctor-doctor-
P: Why are you going to Furr-i-ca (Africa)?
M: Because there are even more sick people in Africa that need a doctor.
P: Ok. When I’m a doctor, I’ll maybe come too! (She then nearly strangles the baby trying to listen to her heart with my stethoscope).
I’ve had so many patients that have their own special soft spot in my heart since becoming a doctor, and conversations like this remind me why. I’ve gotten to see children grow, babies be born, adults learn how to navigate the medical system and cope with their health problems. It’s been exhausting, hilarious, tragic, fulfilling. I’ve loved getting to be in a small part of their lives. I hope this preschooler grows up to be a doctor. I hope she doesn’t strangle her sister doing it. I’m sad to leave them, and I’ll miss getting to see her grow up as her family doctor. But I’m excited to go be some other preschooler’s doctor in Kenya. And I love that this preschooler now knows that if she wants to grow up to go be a doctor in Africa, she can, too.