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by Iris Mónica Vargas

The one question I’ve never been capable of answering properly, or in a completely satisfactory way is, why do I want to become a physician? It probably has the same answer as “why am I a writer?” and I cannot answer that either. I want to be both. Perhaps we do the things we know that we can do well. Or maybe we do what this organism inside us feels it should do even if we still don’t really know, not with absolute certainty, if we can do it.

The other day, though, something happened that offered me a glimpse, perhaps, into the possibility of an answer. The best I can do, then, is tell you the story.

I know there are probably few people in the world who will understand what this means as much, or as clearly, as you will, because you, too, are in the midst of pursuing a dream, chasing something which, many a time, has seemed rather elusive but which you know, your entire organism knows, is held dear within you. If this livens up that fire in you that had dwindled at some point because life’s vicissitudes have taken away its oxygen, then let it. Sometimes we need all the inspiration we can get.

The story begins as most do, with an ending. You see, I am a non-traditional medical student. After passing my first and second year of medical school successfully, I attempted to settle and study for Step 1. That’s exactly when life happened. Illness and death. I took more time than I had anticipated to present my exam. And then, I found Saint James School of Medicine and it allowed me to continue where I had stopped. I passed my board and, the other day, in anticipation of my 3rd-year rotations, I took a trip with my husband and kids (I have two little boys ages 5 and 9) to search for a place to live in Chicago.

This is how it happened.

We have just exited the airport train, and are now on our way to the terminal when a man collapses, half of his body lying inside the passenger car and half over the busy hall brimming with people running to catch their flights.

I don’t know if we have time or not but when I see the man collapsing, I tell my husband about it and we start running back toward the train’s doors. My husband drops his bag right there, and I collect all our belongings and place them next to my children. (Secure the area, my CPR instructor had told us. Verify scene safety. I have just taken the CPR course two weeks prior, as a prerequisite for the 3rd year rotations application.)

“We have to get him out of there!” I tell my husband. He and another traveler grab the man and place him safely in the middle of the wide hall. People accumulate around us. In my field of vision, I see only their feet.

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