“When you live your life with an appreciation of coincidences and their meanings, you connect with the underlying field of infinite possibilities” — Deepak Chopra
“Coincidence” has been a major theme these past four months in med school. It seems as though when ever I learn about a disease or illness, I start seeing or hearing it mentioned everywhere. Myasthenia gravis and Guillain-Barre syndrome being the ones most frequently come across by both Lauren and myself. But this past weekend was the most poignant coincidence thus far.
I’ve had a much needed Thanksgiving break having just finished up the extremely arduous units called Hematology/Oncology and Immunology. Basically, we spent the month of November learning everything about RBCs, Leukemias, WBCs, blood types (of which there are hundreds), antibodies, antigens and on and on and on…. Don’t get me wrong, these units were my favorite so far, but I’m sure no one would like to take a stressful exam on these subjects.
OK, sorry for the rambling, back to the story.
So to relax a bit from school, my sister and I went to a concert in Philly to see the band Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness (they’re the ones behind song “Cecilia and the Satellite” in case you’ve heard it before). I didn’t know this before going to the concert, but the lead singer, Andrew McMahon, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) ten years ago when he was just 22 years old. As a med student, I was instantly intrigued seeing as I had just learned about ALL a few days prior. At one point during the show, he shared his inspiring story with the crowd and, in particular, pointed out how lucky he was to have a family member that could donate stem cells in order to treat and cure the leukemia. However, he also brought up a crucial point: not everyone has a close relative that is a bone marrow match. So what did his band do? They brought along the Love Hope Strength Foundation for their entire tour in which reps signed up concert-goers for the national bone marrow registry. I would have signed up right then and there, but I had–coincidentally–just received my swab kit from Be the Match the week before.
These coincidences this past weekend really made me think about the seemingly small things in medicine. As first year med students, we learn all about terrible diseases, but we really haven’t seen how they affect the patients that have them. As lay people, we hear about or know people with illnesses, like ALL. We express our sympathies, but we don’t really know what more to do. But we can do something. We can sign up for great programs like the National Bone Marrow Registry or donate blood through the American Red Cross. These seem like such small things, but they really do save lives!
Please check out the linked pages above and consider signing up. It’s a very fast process (you literally fill out a 5-minute online health history and swab your mouth with a couple of giant Q-tips) and it’s such a wonderful thing to do. FYI: there’s a fairly low chance that you will actually be asked to donate after signing up (about 1:540)– there are simply so many antigens to cross-match between donor and recipient to ensure that the stem cell transplant will have the best chance of success. Don’t let this stop you from registering though! You never know, you could be the exact match for someone who desperately needs a donation!
So sorry for the long post guys– I’m definitely not the most concise blogger, especially when I get to writing about something I’m particularly excited/passionate about!
Anyhoo, until next time,