Buzz, buzz … as I rolled over to turn off the alarm clock, I quickly realized something was not right. I could barely make out the numbers on the clock, and my head was throbbing. In an instant, I realized that my last month of high school would be irrevocably changed. Shortly thereafter, an ophthalmologist diagnosed me with autoimmune corneal neovascularization. With finals, AP exams, and college planning now in flux, I had to face the challenge of juggling these life events with very limited vision. This diagnosis threw into question all of my future life plans. The next few months would challenge me both physically and emotionally, but I proved to myself that no physical ailment would stand in the way of me achieving my dream.
“This is not something that is going away in a few days, weeks, or even months. In fact, if you had not gotten here sooner, you would likely be permanently blind.” Imagine being 18, one month short of graduation, and hearing these words from your doctor. Scared, confused, and uncertain as to what the future would hold, my whole world was turned upside down. I couldn’t drive anymore, had to wake up every 2-3 hours to put steroid drops in my eyes, and had to keep an eye patch on at all times. In the midst of this, I had to relearn how to read with my one functioning eye to take my final exams. All of a sudden, my day-to-day routine morphed into chaos. Everything I had been working for and planned was now being thrown into question.
The thought that this diagnosis would linger for months was overwhelming. Simple tasks became giant stumbling blocks. I learned firsthand the value of adaptability as I had to learn how to read and write with one eye. My mental acuity and fortitude were put to the test. However, I did not let this impediment hold me back. I simply had to adapt my approach by taking things one day at a time. By focusing on the goals of each day, and with the help of my teachers and family, I was able to pass all my final exams with stellar marks. Despite the challenges of moving away to college and dealing with my poor sight, I summoned my inner resilience, knowing I had to overcome the current obstacles to achieve my goals. Ultimately, this whole ordeal taught me that hardships and unexpected challenges can make us stronger and shape who we are meant to be. This experience reinforced my passion to become a future physician.
In many ways, this tribulation along with other life events has solidified my desire to become the best physician I can be. Fostering compassionate, patient-centered care has been one of my main goals since medical school. As a future physician, establishing a strong bond with our patients can give us more leverage to improve our patients’ lives. This knowledge, along with the perseverance it took to overcome navigating the unknown of temporary blindness, has shown me that I am prepared for the enormous trials that confront a physician.
It is my belief that health is a human right, and my promise is to help everyone achieve this right. This means lifelong learning, teaching, and service to the community. I have always believed that we are here on Earth to serve and guide one another. As such, every person has a story to tell, and I want to shape those new, exciting chapters of their lives yet to be written. I want to not only treat patient illnesses but provide the assurance patients often need to trudge through the travails of life with confidence that they are being taken care of. Ironically, being temporarily without sight gave me the insight that intellect and expertise alone do not ensure that you will be a great doctor, but when combined with an empathetic ear, can make the difference between treating a patient and making a lasting bond with that patient that goes beyond any medication I could prescribe.
What life event has most influenced your character as a physician? Share in the comments.
Currently a PGY-1 Internal Medicine Resident at EAMC, Dr. Reddy graduated with Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from ACOM, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Birmingham-Southern College majoring in Biology-Psychology. Dr. Reddy enjoys tutoring/mentoring, piano, writing, volunteering, meditation/yoga, research, and medicine.
Image by illu / Getty