Last year, I was on intake with a doctor working in the casualty unit of a Durban hospital. He told me the story of how he became a casualty officer.
After completing his community service, he wondered what to do. He thought about internal medicine, but decided against it, because patients frequently died and couldn’t thank him (his words).
He considered surgery too – but by the time surgical patients were out of the hospital, they were so sick of procedures, that they simply left and never bothered to thank anyone.
He chose orthopaedics; he reasoned that a majority of the patients in orthos aren’t actually ‘sick’ and thus, they would come to the hospital relatively healthy and leave well, giving him a ‘thank you’ somewhere in the process.
He plodded along in orthos for several years, until a personal crisis arose and he had to leave the programme. So he became a casualty officer, where he mixed whatever he had learned over the years with a healthy dose of orthopaedics.
At the time I didn’t know what to make of this story. Despite the limited clinical exposure we’ve had as medical students, one picks up pretty quickly that medicine is a thankless profession. When you get something right, no-one’s there to pat you on the back and give you some flowers. When you get something wrong, well … no flowers either – for you.
You can’t exactly expect a thank you for stabbing a patient numerous times with a needle/sticking your fingers in every orifice/being misdiagnosed/being repeatedly examined by twenty-odd enthusiastic medical students who have never felt a liver THAT BIG.
So when you come across someone who tells you that they’re simply after a thank you in medicine, your first instinct is to thwack him on the forehead and tell him to stop chasing rainbows.
But several months ago, in our rural rotation, I realised what he meant.
A young patient had come in with a pelvic fracture. She had been treated at a level 2 hospital (a hospital with specialists) and was referred back down to level 1 for further treatment. She had had a urinary catheter in for more than a week and she needed to have it removed. I explained why it needed to be removed and tried to answer the other questions she had. I altered her prescription, then ran everything by the medical officer on call (I’m still a student so everything we do has to be sanctioned by a senior doctor).
After I was done seeing her, she asked that she be wheeled out of the main casualty area so her visitors could see her. All I did was push her bed out of casualty, to the side of the large passage that led to it. And she turned around, slightly awkwardly due to her fracture, and said, “Thank you.”
I don’t know why, but the moment she said thank you, it was suddenly all worth it. The ache in your feet and lower back, the literal hunger, the running around, the time you spend explaining things, the stress, that feeling when you’ve opened a catheter collection bag and you’re pouring that wee down the drain and some of it splashes on your gloved fingers and you just want to die … BOOM. All worth it.
Suddenly I understood why being thanked was so important to that casualty officer. ‘Thank you’ is truly a magical phrase.
GREEN SUMMER RICE
Adapted from Mariam Mahomedy’s Cosmopolitan Cuisine VI
During our rural time, we were invited to our friend’s brother’s house for supper. His wonderful wife, Humairah, made this recipe – it was so yummy that my roommate and I had to have seconds. One of the interesting things about this recipe is its use of green tomatoes. In a panic I messaged Humairah to ask about this weird ingredient – and she replied so calmly, you would think green tomatoes were sold by the dozen. In fact, it turns out that there’s a whole host of recipes dedicated to these guys! We found our green tomatoes amongst the usual red ones in Food Lover’s Market on Cowey Road.
For the rice
1 and ¾ cups basmati rice, partially cooked in salted water
For the green chutney
1 generous handful of coriander
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1 teaspoon crushed green chilli
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
Salt to taste
For the chicken
3 large chicken fillets, sliced into strips
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic mix
1 teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, grated
1 teaspoon crushed fresh green chilli, or to taste
1 teaspoon lemon pepper spice
1 teaspoon jeeru (cumin) seeds, dry roasted and crushed
2 medium sized green tomatoes, liquidised
1 teaspoon salt
1 green pepper, chopped any way you like. I cut mine into squares
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- Blend the green chutney ingredients together, using a stick blender or liquidiser. Set aside.
- Marinate the chicken with the cumin-coriander, ginger-garlic and two tablespoons of the green chutney. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a deep pot. Saute the onions together with the green chilli, lemon pepper, and crushed cumin. When the onions turn translucent, add the chicken.
- When the surface of the chicken is not pink anymore, pour in the liquidised green tomatoes, salt, green peppers, and the remaining green chutney. Cook for about five minutes. There should still be some liquid in the pot.
- Add the partially cooked rice and thawed peas. Turn off the heat.
- Mix well and leave to steam with the residual heat from the stoveplate, for about 10 minutes. Serve as soon as possible. The sooner you serve it, the greener the rice is.