Imagine going out for lunch one day, hopping into your car to drive home, only to wake up a few hours later with the most excruciating pain you have ever experienced to date. A doctor is removing pieces of glass out of the side of your head. There is a loud ringing in the back of your brain. You are extremely confused. A nurse is explaining to you that you were in a severe car accident and that you are in the intensive care unit. An intense sense of fear washed over me as I began to think of the potential implications this experience would have on my life.
I’ve always known that dentistry was my calling and I hoped to follow in my father's footsteps, but this life-altering moment made my life-long dream seem completely impossible. When I was young, I regularly accompanied my father to work. I know several of his patients and I deeply enjoyed seeing them being taken care of in many ways. My dream has always been to be able to provide the same high level of health care to as many patients as possible. This dream appeared impossible when I found out from my doctor that my life may never be the same again. I had to re-learn how to walk and talk, my short-term memory was severely compromised, and I had debilitating migraines daily. I remember how I felt when I went to take my first step after the car accident and fell to the floor. It was devastating.
I must admit, initially, I lost sight of my dream of being a dentist. I thought, “How can I possibly make it through all of the schooling ahead of me when I can’t even remember what I ate for lunch today?”. However, I focused on remembering what my parents always taught me; “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Each day I focused on one task that I could improve on and after several years I was back to the condition I was in before the accident. The most monumental lesson I learned from this experience has been to never give up or lose sight of what is important to you. Anything is possible when you set your mind to something and work every day towards that goal. After years of rehabilitation, I finally reached the point where I could return to my undergraduate degree. My ability to learn new information was returning to me quite well. Since then, my brain and memory have fully recovered, which has astounded my doctors.
Throughout my recovery experience, I have seen firsthand, a wide variety of the various disciplines in the health care industry and I still am most interested in the dental field. I find it fascinating how oral health can affect the overall health of the body; not just the ability to eat and digest foods properly, but how certain bacteria in the mouth have been linked to many other systemic diseases. The oral-systemic connection is something I am excited to learn more about. During my recovery, I spent years as a patient to many different health care professionals in many different fields. These experiences have allowed me to view healthcare from a patient perspective, and provided me with insight as to how patients like to be treated. The best health professionals are friendly and compassionate, with a great ability to communicate at a level that the patient can fully understand. These characteristics create a deeper sense of trust between the health professional and the patient; where the patient’s confidence in the diagnosis and treatment grows with their connection to their carer.
Since I have returned to my undergraduate degree I have volunteered at a non-profit dental clinic. I was once again in the office aiding and observing the oral health care of many individuals. I felt at home. This reaffirmed my life dream of becoming a dentist and has inspired me to keep pushing towards it. At any time, life can throw you in directions you didn't expect. It is always extremely valuable to look at one’s experiences and learn all that you can from them. I have learned the value of earning trust; accomplished by compassion, communication and a high level of care. I am devoted to accomplishing my life purpose of serving others. This is who I am and who I will be as a dentist.