My daughter began medical school studies at the age of forty two. Her son was fourteen, entering eighth grade, while her daughter was five, ready for kindergarten. We were surprised when she was accepted, considering her age. I wasn’t sure she would be able to stick with it. If the medical school was willing to take a chance, I thought it might be possible. We all had some doubts about it.
The first week was hotter than average for August. We all moved to Worcester, Massachusetts to help out for the first week. Our two grandchildren stayed with us until the evening when Maria would return from University of Massachusetts Medical School. I remember Sean reading the map for me while I drove around trying to locate interesting places with air-conditioning. Nora behaved as if she was in summer camp. She had no idea what her mother was getting involved in nor how it would affect her life, and her distance from the people she knew best. Nora took up residence in a little house near Dorothy Pond in Millbury. Sean remained in Northampton with his father. Nora’s father taught biology at U. Mass. In Amherst so he had to travel back and forth to see Nora. Anyone who knows Nora agrees that she’s worth the trip. Nora’s father is a dedicated Dad.
Once regular school started, Maria had a morning baby-sitter for Nora so we could return home. Once a week we drove back to visit. Maria rented her house out to a couple so the mortgage would be paid and she rented the house near Dorothy Pond.
In her third year, Maria moved to Pittsfield to do a surgery rotation and she lived in a little house with other students. Nora lived with her father during that period. Occasionally we brought Nora up to Pittsfield to see her mother. Maria didn’t like the separation or the surgery rotation. Her first patient was a woman brought in from a crash scene who needed to be treated for severe trauma and was later flown to Boston. A laparatomy was performed to find internal injuries while Maria held the retractors.
There were other rotations as well during the third year and Maria enjoyed obstetrics as well as family practice. Various hospitals served as training spots. I think her training as a gymnast probably helped her to hold up under the pressure.
When graduation day finally came, we heard a heartwarming speech from Dr. Lazar and another one from the new editor of JAMA, a doctor as well as a nurse. Maria looked tired, but no worse for the wear after four years and Nora was about as wonderful as any third grader could be. Sean was proud of his mother and about to graduate from high school. We all survived.
Maria is now in her second year of internship and has a year of residency to go. She is often on call for thirty hour shifts. A sixty hour week isn’t unusual. We have consulted with her ourselves about her father’s abdominal pain this past year. Turned out he had two hernias and an ulcer.
Of course, we’re proud of Maria but even more, we are amazed that she could stick it out under the circumstances. She will bring to her medical practice her experience as a physical therapist and a mother. Her patients will be lucky people.
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