The frost came early that winter. A wool outfit had to be worn with the quilted outerwear, and the mouth had to be covered with a scarf in order to prevent the cold air rip the lungs. I was about to start my weekend emergency duty all the way from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. There were indications of broken feet, hands and souls entering the emergency.
Although I was a young doctor, my workdays and inexperience had greyed out from glamour to everyday work as I had jumped into jobs as soon as the amount of studies allowed it. I had experienced the ear infections, lumbagos and sprains of the Finnish Maiden. I was curious and thirsty for knowledge, just like when I applied for the medical studies. The Finnish medical school was the seat of learning of my dreams and passion. My first workplace in Lapland taught me that being Lappish or crazy sometimes doesn’t differ that much. I also learned that there is something common between all Finns, although I didn’t always understand dialect words and the local humour.
This time my lake view trip ended on the flank of the Finnish Maiden. I parked my car outside the hospital and lifted two bags filled with delights from the back seat. You had to indulge yourself with something in order to cope. It felt important to be both big and small at the same time. Carry the shopping bags to the emergency bunkhouse, put on the doctor’s gown and feel the shoulders widen with the burden of responsibility. At the same time become smaller because of the amount of information and demand. The enemy was an error, which in case of a doctor can mean killing somebody. It, being an accident, does not reduce the guilt or burden it puts on you. The responsibility and the patients’ futile complaining tired me already, but the fear of new situations and incompetence lurked in my stomach.
There had been an accident. A child had been hit by a car. He was being brought in. I walked into the polyclinic like being in a dream. My mind was blank and it felt like my thoughts flew without the brain being able to catch them. How can I help if I fall into pieces? Out of the sky came a feeling of hurry passing by altogether.
Oh, you small bird, how you delineated into my mind, heart and life for all time to come. You were so perfect, but life had escaped from you. We couldn’t help you. So unfair and wrong. In my whole career I haven’t had anything so frustrating than when I couldn’t save you and bring you back to life, little boy. I think about you often. I wonder what you’d be doing, look like, think about. Would you play ice hockey, run or just be? How would you live, if you still existed? You would be the same age my first-born is, would you also go to secondary school or maybe vocational school? Would you follow your father’s footpath and become a truck driver?
I turned my car homewards and cried the whole four hour drive to Helsinki. You have to keep going. You have to go your own way, no matter how shallow it may be. There is still work to do, emergency duties, carrying shopping bags and waking up from the sofa bed of the emergency bunkhouse. You have to get up, put your coat on and dig knowledge from your head. You have to understand that you have to come to the emergency and wake up the doctor, because you couldn’t sleep. Check the ears of the little patient on the side in order to calm down the new parents. You have to sew the wound in order to keep the surface neat and whole. You have to console the patient with stomach flu who started throwing up an hour ago. “Doctor, is this serious? Am I going to die?”
You have to cope with the one who complains in vain, the whiner and the one whose profession seems to be to complain about everything. Everything is good when there is still a voice, speech and words. The doctor is a sympathizer, who listens and gives support. The doctor is a human, and being a doctor is a part of the human. Being a doctor is something you grow into through experiences and education. The relevant thing about being a doctor is to be humane, see beyond the suffering and help find paths and roads in order to promote life.