On Being Imperfect

The other day on my trip to New York, I was on the airplane playing games on my iPad (some may call it gaming, I call it identifying with my patient population). When time for beverage service came, I took out my Invisalign to enjoy my tea, and wrapped them in a napkin. 10 minutes later my drink was done and the flight attendant came to collect the trash. I however was still distracted by Bejeweled on my iPad, and therefore put the napkin in the cup and placed both in the trash.

5 minutes later I remembered… time to put my Invisalign back in. I found a napkin next to me and unwrapped it... Unfortunately, it did not contain my aligners but rather the nasal output (boogers) of the 90-year old lady next to me.
A photo from my NY vacation

This unexpected run-in with snot to start my vacation reminded me of a lesson that I learn almost every day in my life: I am imperfect. Being imperfect and being involved in the practice of medicine are very difficult things to reconcile.

No healthcare professional goes through school and training to do the wrong thing. The entire reason that one enters the healthcare profession is the desire to cure that which afflicts. Personally I strive to do my utmost best with every patient because in medicine you learn quickly that you can never let your guard down. 

Regrettably, I am imperfect, and so is every other doctor and nurse. That is the nature of being human. As much as I want to be Batman, I will surely remain Ahmad Bailony. Although… One day while wearing my Batman belt at work, a young 4 year old noticed it and said "hey, that's for Batman." I replied "I know, I am Batman!" The 4 year then said "I know you ARE Batman." That day I actually did feel perfect.
Once again artwork by Saleh Heneidi

Levity aside, imperfection and unexpected outcomes are a weight that no one teaches you how to carry in medicine. No matter what advances we make in medicine, and no matter the efforts that I or anyone else give, sometimes in medicine, as in life, things don't get better. And, sometimes sadly the people who don't get better are innocent children. Seeing the concern in a mother’s eye about her child is not an easy thing to take home with you after a long day’s work. Some days, I spend all my time trying to ease worry in others, and some days worry grows internally.

I constantly ask myself "did I do the right thing?" "Did that patient get better?" Slowly, I am learning that I can never be perfect, but I can always become better. Sometimes I stick my hand in someone else's snot 30,000 ft in the air, but other times I am blessed enough to cure a sick child; and that is human. May we all learn from what it is to be simply human.


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