Learn on Me
by Adib Rushdan
Little Aden, a 10 month old male of Grenadian heritage and African/Latino descent presents with the following: slight wheezing, cough, and labored breathing visible via accessory muscle usage suggestive of respiratory distress. Aden's 19-year old mother is sitting next to him, caressing his back as he lay on her chest in a very pleasant and welcoming manner while we, the medical students along with the teaching physician, take turns listening to Aden's lungs. The notion that this little bundle of joy was helping to enrich our medical education without ever knowing his contribution crossed my mind. His smile spreads from ear-to-ear despite the medical surroundings and all the students with stethoscopes waiting to listen to his perfect "crackles" (rales) and high-pitched wheezing.
"At what point is enough enough, though?" I remember thinking. Will the mother soon declare that we have all had enough turns and that her child is exactly that – her child – not a medical teaching tool? This amazing idea of patients (in this case, a mother and child) granting us unlimited access for the sake of learning; is it something we, as students, doctors, professors, etc. expect, or is it something we are truly grateful for? Aden and his mother will probably never know how much they helped me and my fellow students by granting us the opportunity to experience what "wheezing" means as it relates to medical auscultation.
The benefit to the medical institution is obvious with regard to having patients like Aden available to us to learn from. How many students who train in Grenada will remember the patients they learned from? Speaking for myself, I will remember Aden and his large brown eyes, the way he looked at me and my classmates, volunteering through his mother's willingness to aid in our learning process. In reality, few patients know they will be in a teaching situation. I'm sure Aden's mother did not make a conscious decision to take her son to Grenada General Hospital so he could be evaluated and assessed by dozens of medical students.
Will I ever be in that position? If I am, would I be willing to volunteer myself or my loved one for a similar experience? This is a question I'm not sure I can answer because in such moments, we and/or our loved ones are often in a vulnerable state. However, in Aden's case, he was our teacher and for that, I am grateful.
Supplemental Note: Mr. Rushdan is passionate about health education and ensuring patients' rights. This selection was based upon a reflection from learning experiences completed at SGU while attending clinical encounters at Grenada General Hospital. Adib has taken up writing as a way to express his thoughts and feelings about different experiences throughout his medical school career.