We often think we control the future, but just as some rain can cancel your plans for the beach and have you bake cookies at your grandma’s house, life is often unpredictable. In fact, I never thought I would be applying to medical school, because growing up I always wanted to be an engineer. My grandpa used to walk me to school and point out the fascinating cranes which towered over us along the way. I looked up and wondered how these steady machines lifted heavy metal beams on nothing but a steel cable to build marvelous structures. The walk with my grandpa is one of my most cherished childhood memories, but life’s unpredictability is bittersweet. One night, my grandpa fell terribly sick. He was curled up in bed, covered in sheets with moist towels on his forehead. Shivering, sweating, and insisting he was “just fine”, he was rushed to the hospital with a raging fever. At first, I felt helpless. Thankfully, his doctors had a plan and were prepared to work all night. Through their calm and expertise, my despair was replaced by courage and hope. In just two days, my grandpa was back to normal, but my future goals were never the same. I was inspired by medicine. Like the cranes which towered over me on my way to school, I looked up to the doctors whose balance, perseverance and skill lifted my grandpa back to his feet.
At the time, I was enrolled in a summer reading club at the Newcastle Public Library. After learning from the doctors that my grandpa had cardiovascular disease, I was drawn to a book titled “Your Heart: An Owner's Guide.” Absorbed by every chapter, I took the book home and sat in my room for hours. To honor my grandpa, I felt a duty to read everything from basic anatomy to potentially lifesaving information about heart diseases, the diagnoses and treatments. The book allowed me to step back and get to know my grandpa medically. It helped me understand how heart disease defined many aspects of his life, like how he struggled to climb the stairs and took so many medications. Notably, I realized that we learn to adapt to the challenges caused by disease. To share my new knowledge, I drew diagrams, wrote notes, and recited what I learned to my family. When the time came to return the book to the library, I saw the vast number of medical books on the shelf. I could not help but read more to understand what it took to keep my grandpa safe.
Of course, reading is one thing, but doing is another. I wanted to develop the same skills that I had witnessed save my grandpa. At thirteen, I found that the best way to develop those skills was to train as a lifeguard. Like the doctors who rescued my grandpa, lifeguards were dedicated to protecting lives and had a plan of action which they prepared to execute calmly and precisely. However, to earn my lifeguarding certification, I had to complete the infamous Brick Test. On my first try, I struggled to carry the 10kg brick across the pool, but I was patient and persistent until I earned my certification to practice and later taught lifeguarding. The Brick Test taught me to see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. The brick was more than a physical weight; it became a symbol of any challenge which, at first, seems too heavy to bear. Fortunately, we do not have to take on all challenges alone. As a lifeguard, I relied on my team to respond to tough emergencies, such as spinal injuries, where one mistake can result in permanent paralysis. Protecting the lives of swimmers was deeply rewarding, but my passion extended beyond the pool.
Entering university, I wanted to expand on my lifesaving skills. This motivated me to pursue translational research at Newcastle Hospital. On my first clinical day, I saw Jenny, a premature baby girl who suffered from the devastating intestinal disease, necrotizing enterocolitis. Once more, I felt like I was back at the public library, driven to know what it took to keep Jenny safe; only this time, I could add new knowledge to the book. As a student researcher, I learned to think critically and creatively to help develop Remote Ischemic Conditioning, a minimally invasive and potentially lifesaving treatment for necrotizing enterocolitis. Moreover, I learned to listen actively and approach patients with empathy and collaboration when making decisions for the design of our on-going clinical trial. This experience taught me the importance of heeding individual concerns and sharing the decision-making process while aiming to improve outcomes for patients like Jenny. Each day at Newcastle Hospital, my passion for medicine grows.
My aspiration to become a doctor stems from a deeper instinct to protect human life. However, I understand that this cannot always be done. Sadly, a few days after getting better, my grandpa suffered a fatal stroke. With each visit to the hospital, I saw his life dwindle. Although his doctors could not save him, they eased his pain by being caring and supportive in difficult times; this is the spirit of medicine that I wish to emulate. I want to be like those steady cranes, whose steel cable you can depend on to carry the heaviest weight. Despite my grandfather not being here today, I know that he would be proud of what I am set out to do. In the end, I may not control the future, but I am determined to influence it.
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