UPDATE: Exciting news!!!

If you have read my first blog post, you would know that I am a strong advocate of volunteering and everything that it stands for.

So I am excited to say that a huge opportunity has just come to me as a result of my work as a volunteer.

If you haven’t read my last blog post, I was part of a team of 12 volunteers last summer. I spent the majority of the summer holidays in my local hospital playing board games with patients, helping out with the lunch service, fundraising for new equipment and even running a campaign to raise awareness on depression. To my astonishment, our hard work has been recognised and we have been nominated as the ‘Volunteer Team of the Year’ by Helpforce. Helpforce is an organisation that promotes volunteering within the NHS and tries to encourage people to take up volunteering. As I am equally passionate about volunteering, it is surreal to have been recognised by a big organisation that shares the same ideals as me.

The point of this post is to highlight to everyone the opportunities that can present themselves to you through trying new things. When I first applied to become a volunteer, I was apprehensive and definitely would’ve never expected this outcome. Now, I have just filmed a video for Helpforce about what it means to be a volunteer and I am attending an awards ceremony next week!

Stay tuned for a post about the awards ceremony!!!!!

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: A review

When breath becomes air is an autobiographical book by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon-neuroscientist who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at the height of his career. This tragically ironic book takes you through the thoughts that Paul had about what makes life meaningful when one is faced with inevitable death.  It is one of my favourite books of all time, and really helped me to decide on medicine  as my future career path. Like Paul, I was torn between english literature and science, but as highlighted by this book, I decided that only medicine could satisfy my perpetual curiosity regarding the human mind.

Paul’s writing is sophisticated and beautiful. In this book, he takes the reader through his healthy, working life- where he seems almost guaranteed to succeed in his field. This contrasts with the second half of the book, when life is no longer full of stability and promise. Without knowing how much time he had left, how was he supposed to prioritise whether to keep contributing to neuroscience, or to complete more ‘mundane’ goals, such as having a child? Through reading this chapter in particular, I felt as if I got to know Paul and his thoughts in an intimate and incredibly humbling manner. Indeed, the human mind is what makes us unique, and Paul got that across in the points he made in the book, as well as through allowing the reader to stumble through his difficult journey alongside him. 

The incredibly sad nature of this book is that it is a real story. And therefore, Paul passed away before ever completing it. The epilogue, written by his wife Lucy was incredibly raw and disheartening- describing the tender last moments between Paul and his family.

This book instilled a deep appreciation within me, through highlighting the beauty of the most simple and organic things in life. It is an incredibly enriching read for anyone. I would also recommend that after reading this book, you watch the short video by Stanford: “A Strange Relativity” where Paul speaks about his experience as a surgeon-turned- patient. Seeing Paul in the flesh and hearing his voice was an incredibly surreal feeling after being inside his mind throughout the book, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.

To conclude, here are some quotes from the book that I found particularly poignant:

“the call to protect life- and not merely life but another’s identity.”

“if the weight of mortality does not grow lighter, does it at least get more familiar?”

“shouldn’t terminal illness, then, be the perfect gift to that young man who had wanted to understand death? What better way to understand it than to live it?”

“When there’s no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeon’s only tool.”

“to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.”

 

Why YOU should become a volunteer

If you are someone that is interested in medicine, or indeed have no interest what so ever in that field, volunteering is an amazing opportunity to challenge yourself and experience things that wouldn’t necessarily be possible in everyday life. In any caring environment, (whether it be a care home or a hospital), volunteering pushes you to show kindness and confidence in situations where you may have been too afraid to act had it not been your ‘job’. Because of this, I think being a volunteer is a life long lesson, as once you know your capabilities to help others, you are no longer afraid to extend that kindness when you leave the hospital or care home at the end of the day.

I personally chose to dedicate my summer to volunteering at my local hospital. Summer programmes are a brilliant opportunity to try a variety of roles within the hospital as the hours are generally longer. Since I was volunteering for 5 hours a day, 4 days a week I was able to broaden my roles as a volunteer and challenge myself to do things that I was less comfortable doing. For example, I was particularly anxious at the prospect of fundraising, as I was strung on the image of me standing awkwardly for an hour, being ignored by everyone that passed by. However, after pushing myself to do some fundraising, I soon overcame those anxieties and realised that people are more generous than you may think. In fact, some of the most pleasant interactions I have had have been between people during fundraising. The point of this story is to show that things we imagine to be beyond our scope may simply be a case of breaking down mental barriers and going for it! I can guarantee that anyone who takes up volunteering will at some point overcome hurdles. No matter how small the hurdle, the feeling of pride that accompanies this self-growth is one of the most rewarding feelings that I have experienced.

Humans are social beings and most are very receptive to kindness. Volunteering is definitely eye-opening to that fact and a lot can be learnt about human nature (both the good and the bad) in environments such as a hospital or a care home- where people are often at a point in their lives where uncertainty and instability are common themes. It is often the little things that people take for granted when they are caught up in life’s flurry. In the hospital, time slows down and patients begin to long for interactions that bring a sense of ‘normality’ into their lives. The role of the volunteer is to carry out these little acts of kindness to provide comfort and companionship to patients. Through keeping patients in good spirits, we also take the strain off other healthcare staff such as nurses. Happy nurses means better care for the patients, so all in all, volunteers are fundamental to patient well being.

So if after reading this: you seek to challenge yourself, to enquire into what makes life meaningful, and to give yourself the opportunity to experience things that may influence you as a person- then definitely considering becoming a volunteer.

 

Hello!

This blog will be comprised of lots of miscellaneous posts regarding all things medicine. The aim of this blog is for me to reflect on my experiences and hopefully, inspire some readers along the way.

Please watch this space!