What you’ll need: steady hands, bedside manner

Songlist: Surgeon by St. Vincent, Dr. Robert by the Beatles

Further reading: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Gray’s Anatomy by Gray

Last night I had a dream I was failing my med school quiz.

This is a little strange because (a) I’m not in med school and never plan to be (b) I’m not stressed about any other tests in my life and (c) to answer the questions I had to color the number of squares that corresponded with the right answer in a bar graph on a piece of felt.

Let’s go back to (a). I have no interest in being a doctor now, but I did when I was a kid (have you noticed a theme to this blog?) My paternal grandfather is an immunologist and used to teach at Albany Medical School. My maternal grandmother was a nurse. My maternal grandfather was a surgeon with a private practice in New York who operated on the likes of Sean Connery, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jackie O. It’s not surprising, then, that medicine seemed almost destined for me.

My maternal grandfather had a knee replacement surgery when I was about five, and came to visit us at Christmas right afterward. He brought the tape of his surgery with him. I have a vivid memory of the two of us sitting around the TV watching the footage of his surgery, him explaining the different parts of his knee that were being revealed. I remember being fascinated. I also remember my brother standing just out of view of the television and only sneaking a peek when we told him the surgeons’ heads were obscuring my grandfather’s open knee.

I don’t remember when I became squeamish. Perhaps it was when I had a long illness that the doctors couldn’t diagnose, and thus had to get my blood drawn week after week so they could run more tests. Perhaps it was when my best childhood friend split her own knee open and the blood was right in front of me. Whatever the cause, I became irreversibly hemophobic (not to be confused with homophobic).

I think my grandparents would have been proud of me for following in their shoes. On the other hand, I have many friends in med school right now, and I must admit I don’t envy their Facebook statuses about cadavers and sleepless rotations. And I certainly don’t envy those weird quizzes they have to take–coloring in bar graphs on felt? No thank you.

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