Bright Lights, Cold Steel

Bright lights. Cold steel. Blue people scamper about, unrecognizably in gowns, masks and goggles. There’s a constant beeping sound, accompanied by a screen depicting a scrunched wave. Up, down, up, down. Cords run in all directions. For a moment, the boisterous room stands still. The door opens to the alpha of the pack, wearing not blue drapery, but a long white coat. The chief is first updated on the current status, then ready for incision.

Scalpel. Pick-ups. Clamp. Nimble hands reach for a diseased lump, located right beneath the ribs and lungs. It is handled with the utmost care, and then placed into a shiny silver bin. Out from the cooler comes its replacement—roughly the size of the Big Mac that caused the organ to deteriorate in the first place. This new heart is pinker, larger, and stronger and came from some unfortunate individual whose family is now mourning down the hall.

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Clamps are removed, and the audience crosses their fingers behind their back. The room awaits the miraculous sound they have been waiting to hear all day. Thump, thump, thump.

Upon observing a heart you cannot tell its owner’s gender, race, or social status. To me, the heart is a metaphor for a larger picture: we, indeed, are all the same. The figure could be an Amy, or a Peter, or even a Jeremiah. But none of that matters. What’s important is a life was spared due to the unfailing precision of another’s hands. Most people fear that kind of responsibility—having someone’s life in your hands. But not me. I embrace the challenge.

I have wanted to be a doctor my entire life, except for the typical princess and veterinarian phase six-year-old girls go through. Even as a toddler, I never cried getting shots. I just sat there and smiled, even laughed, as the pointy needle penetrated my skin. This rare mix of pain tolerance, fascination with dissections, and ability to work well with people in distress makes me a prime candidate for medical school. I’m sure people find me a little “out there”—I mean, who else watches Grey’s Anatomy reruns, spends their summers in the corridors of the hospital, and views a human cadaver as interesting? But, I am happy with who I am. These traits define me and how I want to spend the rest of my life.

The doctor proceeds from the OR, clipboard in hand and pants dotted with red. She strolls down the hall to the hospital waiting room, looking for a worried wife and family. Large bags under their eyes show they have not slept. After updating the family on the patient’s current status, joy and hugs illuminate the room. This single moment makes up for all the rigorous years of schooling and internship.

Can you hear it? “Dr. Ashley O” —the mere opportunity that my name, can save so many others.

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