If you are interested in Neurology and the diseases that are related, then welcome to my blog piece! I am Peiyan Zhou, an intern in a hospital who would like to share how my experience with patients affected my career decision. To start, why am I interested in Neurology? It all began when I was attending a Neurology competition. With the busy preparation for my final term exam, I didn’t prepare much for this competition. It was a big surprise when I found out I won third place! I thought perhaps I am talented, plus the field of neurology is mysterious, challenging, and pure fun to learn about! I have always been interested in Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is somewhat related to Neurology, so I thought why not explore this career option more?
When I heard about a program, in which each student is assigned to a mentor, who is currently working in this hospital, I was intrigued by the opportunity to work with specialists, and see real patients for the first time. They would teach us knowledge about the nervous system and guide us when making their rounds through the Neurology wards. I decided to go for it and bring you along on an overview of my experience! I would like to invite you to a trip throughout the wards with me…
Let’s make our first stop at room 101. This patient has something in common with me, he is a Chinese student who studied abroad in America (which is where I hope to study too). Let him tell you why he is here, “I was misled by my classmate who inhaled nitrous oxide recreationally, I was drunk, and so he succeeded in persuading me to join him. That is the worst decision I have ever made. After that, I started inhaling about 200 to 300 cans per day. Impressive number, isn’t it? No doubt, I got spinal radiculitis. Walking at that time, felt like stepping onto cotton, my legs and feet felt pretty tired.” He scared me, being unable to move anymore. I was frightened by the fact that in the future, when I go to study in America, there is a high possibility of me falling victim to peer pressure. Being vulnerable as they are, the people in the Neurology ward, lose the ability to control themselves physically or logically. That is why I feel sorry for them. This has helped shape my goal of helping patients who cannot help themselves.
Let’s see our next patient, a young man who looks visibly confused and shaken. The doctors suspected that he has Gerstmann syndrome (GSS), a kind of disease where the patient in general has problems related to cerebellar ataxia (a condition characterized by; problems in pronouncing words, walking, as well as tremors/dementia/confusion). The disease is not what is important for this visit, instead the aim of my going to this room is to see the medical procedure known as a lumbar puncture. Lumbar puncture, is often used by doctors, in order to get some cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a fluid contained within the human head to protect the brain. In some disease, like GSS, the CSF is quite different from ours. The patient was lying on the bed when I saw him, eyes filled with confusion and fear. The doctors turned him around, exposing his waist, then tried to find the appropriate place to push inside the needle. The needle is long, somewhat similar to rulers of 30cm! Hollow as it is, the doctors put a tube on the peripheral of the needle afterward, to collect his CSF for analysis. The patient groaned, a weak cat’s sound, when the doctors found the right insertion. The sound continued for a long time… My mentor explained that he can’t control the sound, which is probably from discomfort. Seeing the patient in pain and involuntarily crying out showed the power of the nervous system. This lumbar puncture made me realize the role of the nervous system- as the leader; controlling it’s teammates (the other organs)to give rise to all of our thoughts, actions and decisions. . The exact “how” behind how this leader works, is what interest me the most.
The last patient I want to talk about, whose circumstance is pretty odd, is the previous head doctor of the cardiology ward. Doctor turned patient! He went into the Neurology ward for treatment of his Epilepsy, which is getting worse. The clinicians treating him question his sanity. So, we invite him to explain himself and ask him if his condition is getting worse, “No definitely not!!! Remember what I told you the other day, the evils who want to report me for a murder, well this is good, because now I got cleared by my committee, but you guys won’t give me my contract of being cleared. Why not? Answer me!” We can’t believe he is the previous head doctor, can you? It’s just unbelievable to think that once when he was the head doctor, he must have seen a lot of patients, lying here as he is now. Life is so unpredictable, that, during my experience in the Neurology ward, I came to the conclusion that we should never laugh at those who are in dire or desperate health situations, because perhaps one day, you may end up like them.
After experiencing so much, and taking you along with me, I hope you can appreciate the potential of Neurology, particularly with the awareness that the nervous system is the leader of our body. As a person who feels sorry for the patients who have lost their ability to think and act for themselves, I am willing to make the change, to explore the yet undiscovered part of Neurology. Just like Emma Watson once said, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”
Written By: Peiyan Zhou, 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures Mentee