• Ben Lampe

Did I hear you right? (1/3)

What an ordeal to get here. I had arrived at my annual Reservist physical exam in a suburb north of Philly. There had been a few bus changes, a missed stop or two, an expensive Uber ride to get there on time, all the things that remind me how reliant I am on others due to the basic fact of not having a personal vehicle.

I checked in at the desk and sat down, preparing myself for the inevitable volume of vaccinations and x-rays that I did not need but would receive anyway because “We don’t have them in the records.” I contemplated which arm I would sacrifice to receive the benefits of being immunized from hepatitis and polio for the fifth time.

It had been a long 7 weeks, at the end of the spring of 2018. Studying for the first national board exam was both a rewarding time to consolidate all the facts about human physiology, disease pathology, and pharmacology I had learned my first two years in medical school, and also a demanding time that didn’t leave time for much else. It doesn’t matter how busy you get – life moves on and life happens. During this time my Pop-pop had been hospitalized and passed within a week. My childhood dog took ill and was euthanized that night. There are no time-outs, replay challenges, or do-overs. Tomorrow is coming at the same time it always does, and though it has felt like time has stood still a handful of moments, it never really has.

I had taken time just this morning to digest the recent months with God, and in journaling about the bible passage I read, wrote, “I confess my heart believes it is up to me to find my own way in serving You in medicine….Lord, how may I trust You fully in the direction of my training?” I didn’t get any answers that morning about how to trust God with my career direction, so I moved on with my day. Speaking of moving on, I was ready to move on from the last 7 weeks. I realized how tired I had become the last couple months. Not in my body, but in my spirit. I was spent. Sure, I was looking ahead to third-year, the time which medical students enter the hospital and clinic and begin to learn how to care for patients. I even had a week of vacation that I was going to go camping with some friends in the Smokey Mountains. Get eaten by bugs, eat campfire food, get sunburned, rinse and repeat. The sort of stuff that makes you glad you have a civilized house to sleep in. And tonight I was going to the Phillies game! There was plenty to look forward to – and hopefully some to take my mind off the recent past.

I was called back. Finally! The waiting is over. No one cherishes waiting. It’s the space where control ends and reliance begins. Totally at the whims of the medical system. I made a mental note to validate the tyranny of wait-times for future patients I cared for.

Before the doctor would sign off on my physical, I had to complete a litany of metrics: body-composition, eyesight, hearing range, scoliosis, hernias, and so on. Besides being checked for hernias, the hearing test is one of the most infuriating things to do, because half the time I have an internal dialogue about if I heard or imagined a beep.

After completing all the metrics, I was finally ready to be seen. More waiting. The physician entered, started filling out my form, flipping through my results, until he stopped and looked over a page. “Hmm,” he said. I looked over at him expectantly. Noticing my eyes, he looked back down at the paper. “It seems like you have moderate low-frequency hearing loss in your left ear.”

The Upside-Down Kingdom