In high school I was a year younger than everyone else and much less mature. I graduated without knowing what I wanted to do, but knowing I didn’t want a desk job. I wasn’t a good enough skier or rugby player to be a professional athlete. I wasn’t good at math and I couldn’t draw so becoming an architect wasn’t an option.
In Buenos Aires there were two choices left to me: agronomy (the science of soil management and crop production) or farm school (agriculture and taking care of livestock). Argentina leads the world in everything related to livestock production so it seemed like animals were my calling.
I went through the pre-veterinarian courses, which were shared with pre-med students. One day I went to bio-chem and sat next to an Argentinian girl.
“You’re in veterinarian school?” She asked.
“I'm in med school.”
As a veterinarian I had to study the comparative anatomy of cows and horses and pigs. She convinced me that being a medical student was easier because you only had to know the human body. It also didn’t hurt that she was gorgeous…so I switched over to medical school!
After med school I spent four years in a residency program where I literally lived in a hospital with the other residents. All the residents rotated through surgery, critical care and all the other components of medicine in the hospital.
Practicing medicine in Argentina in the 1980’s was like practicing medicine in another century and the hospital life was as colorful as you could imagine. When the doctors needed a resident they would call over to our dorm. There was one nurse named Sergio who always forgot the number, so he would grab an orange and throw it at our building. Every time we heard a thud we knew someone needed to head over to the ICU.
We had to patrol the wards at night. The patients were all instructed to urinate in jars. The hospital was dark so the residents had to walk around doing ‘kick rounds’ where we would kick the urine jars to make sure the patients were urinating as instructed. We got so good we knew that ‘bonk-bonk-bonk’ meant that the jar was full but ‘bank-bank-bank’ meant it was empty. We used to drive the patients crazy doing the rounds at 3:00 in the morning, but if the chief resident found out that one of the patients wasn’t urinating correctly we’d get in trouble.
There was no money so the patients had to buy their own disinfectant and gauze. We re-sterilized catheters so we could use them two or three times. There were no x-rays at night, only when it was light in the morning. We had to use a stethoscope and our hands to diagnose and treat patients, so our eyes and ears and hands replaced x-rays and ultra sound and other modern medical tools. These experiences taught us not to become over-reliant on technological devices but rather to pay acute attention to what the patient told us and what symptoms we could observe with our senses.
I came to New York City on March 21st 1998 on American Airlines flight 9556 from Buenos Aires. I remember the flight was empty. I changed into my best clothes while the airplane was descending towards New York. When I landed, I immediately walked outside and asked the taxi driver to take me to the nearest hospital.
When I got to the hospital I asked if there were any open residency spots. They said there were, but to get the job I had to first answer three questions…
Follow me on these social media sites:
- Facebook – Goose Chronicles
- Twitter – @goosechronicle
- Instagram – goosechronicles
- Tumblr – Goose Chronicle