I have a heart, thus I’m human. I tend to be sensitive and get carried away with emotions, but I do not show them externally, especially around people. Let’s say, I’m watching a sad movie with someone, I will not shed a tear. BUT if I’m watching a sad drama with a dying lover by myself, I will bawl like a baby and use up a roll of toilet paper. I did this in college, when my roommates were not around and I watched those depressing Asian dramas, like 1 Litre of Tears (oh, the irony of the title).
Today, I had a 9:30 Foundations class. It was not class-class, but it was movie time. I figured I could do some cooking and catching up on the videos for my Clinical Skills session today before going to class. Needless to say, I strolled in late. I was expecting to lay back and nap… but that failed. Instead, I got sucked into the documentary, “A Closer Walk” about the HIV/AIDS global epidemic, particularly in Africa and developing countries.
It was such a poignant movie that stabbed and twisted my aortic pump. Beginning in the 1980s, HIV/AIDS has wrought significant damage across the globe, killing enough people to top the number killed in 20th century wars. Gay men were blamed mercilessly in the beginning. Dependent drug users spread the disease through sharing dirty needles and infiltrating the general population. Sexist cultures like in India subjugate women, putting girls and wives to shame even when it is their unfaithful husbands are the blame. Instead of standing up for their rights, they stay in oppressing marriages, withstand abuse, and choose to endanger their children with HIV/AIDS transmission just to have a baby and satisfy their families.
What moved me the most were the fragile, dying children. They were helpless and small, suffering babies in Africa. If children did not succumb to AIDS, they were orphans who lost parents and loved ones. There is significant stigma to the disease in poor countries. One girl was left to leave school and take care of her dying mother because relatives refused to help. She herself had AIDS and eventually died too. But seeing the sacrifices she made, the girl was strong. And she died because she did not have access to medications, expensive ones that would help her manage the disease.
Flashback into the 1980s, doctors in America were baffled and helpless. According to one of my deans here, it was a massacre up to the early 1990s. People were dying left and right, and doctors could do nothing. Now, we have top-notch medications that can provide improved quality of life and help manage the infection. We do not see the crazy massacre nowadays, but it still happens in the rest of the world.
By the end of the movie, I had tears welling up just like my doctor professors. In my lecture hall, I did not want to just break down and cry. But I felt my lacrimal glands on over-drive. I get sentimental when I see dying people, particularly enfeebled babies who can barely talk or lift an arm. Though I am not personally affected, I still get moved by seeing other people pain-stricken. I’m beginning to wonder, if I were to become a doctor, how will I face sick people and …death? What if I harden and lose my compassion?
The message my professors offered was to be compassionate. Every person can take that extra step to take part in the AIDS campaign and make a difference. Whether it’s fundraising or traveling abroad, everyone can put in that effort to raise awareness and help the sick.