NaBloPoMo. It sounds like alphabet soup. No wait, that’s the name of my future cancer ass-kicking kid musical – but more on that later. NaBloMoPo. It sounds like something I would coo at a wee patient wearing one of those awesome baby hats crocheted by a saint with non-arthitic fingers. Or a new flavor of bubble gum from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. Or a remote zen sanctuary in Burma.
November is National Blog Posting Month – a spinoff of National Novel Writing Month. A challenge to those of us who fear the 50,000 word requirement but fear we will be less of a writer if we don’t rise up and start typing. Click here to see the 1,500+ brave souls who have taken on the challenge as of Day 2:
I fully realize that the slow realization that I have semi-abandoned this blog under the disguise of being too busy/grumpy/sleepy/weepy or otherwise in the hospital is fueling my interest in NaBloPoMo. But there is more to it. Writing is an exercise, the soul-illuminating kind. The “oh I thought this was on my mind but clearly it wan’t since I just spend 20 min writing about that” kind of exercise. I spend the better part of my day in the hospital carefully documenting patient care. I already write every day. I use buzz words like “no hepatosplenomegaly” and “review of systems otherwise negative”. I outline a patient’s “disposition” using neatly typed 1. , 2., and 3. bullet points. I write a lot, but how much do I actually say? In medicine, we have to be reductionist and clear in our communication. We have to use a format that other healthcare providers can understand. We have time imperatives. We know – or at least I like to think we do – that a patient’s narrative cannot be told in bullet points and outlines, that behind the history of present illness there is a litany of questions and emotions, hopes and fears. That the (insert age here) year old (insert ethnicity here) (insert gender here) with (insert chronic condition here) presenting with chest pain has as much going on with his physical heart as with his metaphysical one. But we, physicians, don’t usually talk about that and we certainly do not document the more delicate matters of the heart.
And yet nothing in medicine makes sense without some understanding of the greater story. What is the patient’s understanding of their illness? How does the illness change their identity? How does this medical interaction, right now, shape the rest of the relationship between the patient and the medical system? Can one encounter change everything? Can the patient and the doctor emerge strengthened, renewed, and more compassionate? Yes we can.
And so in the spirit of NaBloPoMo, I will type my heart out daily and reconnect with the exercise that is creative writing (and double post as needed to make up for lost days). As an added (self-imposed) challenge, I will write about emotions and feelings. The soul-elevating kind as well as the heart-destroying kind. My own as they bubble up in response the people and things I see in my field of medicine. The stories and tidbits that don’t make it into the hospital notes. I will do this because this is how make sense of life happenings. I will do this because I am willing to split open.