In high school, a few of us kids who were interested in medicine had the opportunity to shadow a physician. In my junior year in high school, the closest I got to medicine was when Dr. Mance, my pediatrician, allowed me to perform a urinalysis on my own pee (I was stoked when I found out I had ketones in my urine; Dr. Mance wasn’t). So I was excited at the possibility of getting closer to medicine.
Dr. Daleiden was an OB/GYN, and his children attended CMHS with me. I was giddy; I had heard students got to sit in while the doctor performed ultrasounds and counseled expectant mothers. Better still, a few of my classmates were lucky enough to be in the Labor and Delivery Room in the hospital and witness a real, live birth! I was so nervous when I dialed Dr. Daleiden’s office and asked if I could shadow him for a few hours. I spoke to a very nice woman who said I could come in a few weeks later.
As the big day approached, I imagined that I would walk into Dr. Daleiden’s office and he would take one look at me and say, “Erika?…I need you to assist with this labor! Stat!“ (and he would use Stat! because all doctors used Stat! when doctors spoke), and we would hop into his fast car and on our way to the hospital, we would discuss the patient and how she was expecting a sweet baby girl, and how I would be of great assistance to him and his entire staff. And I would deliver the baby, and the mother would thank me, and they would name the baby “Erika”, and Dr. Daleiden would shake my hand, and that night, everyone at swim practice would hear that Erika delivered a baby! and I would immediately have my choice of medical schools because I have a glowing recommendation from Dr. Daleiden (“The Dr. Daleiden?”, admissions counselors would say, and the Head of Admissions would nod quietly and whisper “I heard Erika delivered a baby when she was a junior in high school! High school!), and I would be married to Noah Wyle and we would live happily ever after—Dr. Erika and Noah Wyle—and I would have his babies. The End.
On the big day, I arrived, dressed professionally, heart beating out of my chest. I think I was drooling from excitement.
“HimynameisErikaEnkandIamheretoseeDoctorDaleiden,” I said rapidly. My face was bright red. I was ready. Any moment now, Dr. Daleiden was going to burst out from behind the door and shout “Stat!” and we would hop in his Babymobile.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Dr. Daleiden already left. He had a delivery,” the receptionist said. My heart sank. “Hmmmm….I don’ know what we can do. Let me see if Dr. Hunter is available. Maybe you can shadow her.” OK, I thought. All was not lost here. Maybe Dr. Hunter was going to go on a hospital run and deliver twins or something. Or triplets. She would certainly need help with that.
Dr. Hunter walked out of the big door and took me into her office. “I won’t be delivering any babies today, but I do have a full schedule and you are welcome to shadow me, if the patient doesn’t mind.” The first patient was my age and was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, so I waited in her office quietly. We didn’t want to risk the possibility that she could be a classmate. But maybe the next patient would have cancer, and I would find the cure…admissions counselors…whispering “I heard she found a cure for cancer. In high school!”…Med School…Dr. Erika and Noah Wyle…have babies…The End. Yes, it could still happen.
The second woman was post-menopausal, seeing Dr. Hunter for a routine appointment. I got to watch Dr. Hunter perform a Pap smear on a very hairy woman as both the patient and I looked uncomfortable.
We returned to Dr. Hunter’s office and she briefed me on her third and final patient before I left. “This woman is here for an exam because she is concerned because her periods have stopped, and she believes she is going through the early stages of menopause.” She listed her age and vitals. “The patient said it was okay for you to be in the room.” Okay, this is good. I can do this. Deep breath. Insights….Med School…Noah Wyle….Babies…The End.
I walk into the room behind Dr. Hunter. I look up. It’s Mrs. M.—the mother of a girl on my swim team! “Uh, I, um…I…I don’t think this is a good idea!” we said almost simultaneously. “We know each other.” Dr. Hunter chuckled. “Erika, why don’t you go hang out in my office?”
No, I didn’t get to deliver a baby. I didn’t even get to see a birth. But that night, everyone in swim practice heard about what happened.
“Hey, Gynee,” my teammate shouted from across the pool for all to hear. “I heard you saw my mom! What the hell were you doing, Gyneee?!” My face was bright red.
And the rest of that swim season, I was known as “Gynee”. The End.