On the final day of orientation, I was given a single sheet of paper. We had spent the week learning about this exciting journey ahead of us, but also about the difficulties we would face. Over the next four years, we would be faced with both external and internal hardships that would put our bodies, minds and spirits to the test.

Instructed to write a letter to myself that would be given on graduation, immediately I knew what I would write to remind me of the reason I took this journey in the first place.

I had just started working in the ED /Urgent Care as a scribe. That particular night I had been working with a nurse practitioner maybe 2 weeks into starting this new job. At the time, I had no interest in the medical field. Yeah, the stuff we saw was interesting, but having been pushed by my parents to even attend college, I had no desire to attend medical school on top of getting a Bachelor’s degree. But that night changed everything.

A small child presented for a “cold” with his two parents who were high out of their minds. But upon exam, even inexperienced me could tell there was something serious wrong. The NP ordered x-rays and as we waited and waited, the anxiety built. After the one millionth click to refresh EPIC it seemed, the results were finally in. The child had suffered a chipped vertebrae, fractured femur and several broken ribs. Devastated we just stood there looking at the radiology report, not saying anything.

That night I didn’t get back to my parent’s house until well after 3am. I walked into my parents bedroom and knelt beside the bed with tears in my eyes. I gently woke my mom and simply told her, “thank you for being good parents.”

I don’t have to read that paper to be reminded of this child. I don’t know exactly what happened to him after leaving our care, but his story will never leave me. I carry him close to my heart as my reminder for why I chose this difficult path.

“The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” -J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring.