This Is Not What I Signed Up For

Sometime over the last couple of weeks, this became a sort of mantra among my friends and I. We were overwhelmed with work and emotion and couldn’t understand why nobody had ever cared to warn us that Medicine would not just be an extension of High School. We were angry about The Lie that was first year, imbuing us with a false confidence that we gots this when in fact, No, we do not.

We saw injustice in every additional pile of work, we cried foul for every yet-unrevised chapter. We were students on a mission, substituting uplifting words of encouragement for witty yet bitter rants about how The System was built to fail us and how we had not signed up for such hardship.

We chastised our matric selves for being naïve enough to believe that all we would need to do was attend university to attain a white coat and stethoscope. In fact, we chastised our matric selves for any level of ambition that we’d dared to have.

In our minds, we had not been warned and were thus righteously indignant.

But life has a way of putting things in perspective.

The doctor was barely out of med school. In fact, he’d just finished his com serve and internship years and had begun his journey as a real doctor. He’d worked hard, he’d sacrificed much. He’d freaking stayed in South Africa and gone to one of our worst functioning provinces and chosen to work in the PUBLIC SECTOR. If he were ever in this for the money, that motivation was no longer prominent.

He just wanted to help.

And then he gets killed. By a patient.

I’m not quite sure why this resonates so much with me. Maybe it’s because everybody has been talking about it, especially the people who knew him. He was a student leader, but most importantly a student. He was once just like me, walking these same halls, taking this same path, carrying the same load and pressure. He heard the same dry jokes from lecturers, sat in the same examinations, carried the same weight of expectation from his family.

There is an African moral: Umntu ngumntu ngabantu. A person is a person because of other people. None of us live in isolation, we influence and are influenced, we touch and are touched.

This has touched me on so many levels that I’m not sure how many more debriefing chats with my friends I’ll need.

Because this is what I’m walking into. Female doctors and nurses are raped weekly, male doctors and are stabbed and murdered. This country already isn’t safe for the average citizen, and now health professionals have to help people with one eye on emigration.

Yet they want us to stay. They need for us to stay.

This is not what any of us signed up for.



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6 responses to “This Is Not What I Signed Up For

  1. juicy

    This is just so incredibly sad.

    • I still can’t believe it. I try my best to not think too much about it, though, because the state of the (public) healthcare system is already enough to make me cry.

  2. I’m so, so sorry. It breaks my heart to read this. I’m in the Dominican Republic right now, and I’ve had other med. students (who live here) say things like, “You left the US to come HERE?” I don’t think people always “get” that doctors honestly just want to help those who are less fortunate and do something good in the world. I wish that more people acknowledged this and stopped trying to hurt them (especially in Africa!) 😦

    • Exactly! I know a lot of my classmates are eyeing the end of their ComServe with the hope of going to the US or UK or Australia. And why not? The pay’s better and, although every country has it’s problems, it’s not like they’ll be working against the crime statistics that this continent boasts, so it’s not like I blame them. They want to help, but they also want to live. It’s a catch-22. (Don’t know why I wrote such a long and irrelevant reply, but in the interest of perpetuating the randomness, I’m loving your posts on DR!)

  3. Medstudents have different reasons for going into medschool. Some say it’s the prestige and others say riches. But a lot of us, I know, are in here because we just want to serve. We cannot possibly understand why bad things happen to good people, especially people who just want to help. Maybe when bad things happen, remember all the reasons why you did sign up for this. Maybe it’ll distract you from thinking about all the things that make you want to yell, “I did not sign up for this!” 🙂

    • That’s so true! Tried some of that positivity today and it did distract me a little. I guess it’s just that weird sensation of sitting in a lecture hall and thinking, “He was here. Wow. How long before I’m next?” I’m obsessive like that, but it’s definitely neither helpful nor healthy.

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