Where can healing be found in the wake of a family trauma? What happens when you're asked to do actual CPR while shadowing in the ER? How do you reconcile the privilege of having an able body with the lived traumas of patients in the burn unit? Why do we often feel so powerless in an art that has so much potential to alleviate suffering?
This week, I went to my first Temple Story Slam. The event, held at the med school, used a similar format to other live storytelling platforms such as The Moth. The goal was to showcase "stories that bind us and remind us of the incredible things we do and see and feel in and around Temple University Hospital and across Temple Health." 12 members of the health community, ranging from students to attending physicians, shared five minute stories with the audience. At the end, the best story was decided by a vote.
In short, the event was cathartic. The tone of the narratives was varied: humorous, contemplative, sad, proud, angry. Shared among all the stories was a sense of change, a sense of growth, a sense of purpose. That, to me, was inspiring. No matter what events were recounted, the people behind these narratives were changed by what they experienced.
I am training in a field that overflows with narratives spanning the full spectrum of human emotion. As a storyteller, this richness is unparalleled. But in a way, that future scares me too. Hearing other people talk about their medical work, I know that medicine will test the limits of my compassion, my resolve, and my optimism. Patients will shout, will be unappreciative, will relapse, will be lost to followup, will die. I will make mistakes, will hurt people, and will injure my soul.
But if we pull away into isolation - if we hide in our armor - we lose the ability to truly touch other. Listening to the storytellers this night, I'm reminded that in exposing our deepest vulnerabilities, we create opportunities to grow and form our most authentic human connections. The hard moments ground us, and with a little grit, they can give way to our finest.
Thanks for reading! I've been pushing myself to move past my own inertia and write more frequently, even if its smaller in scale, or not 'perfect.'
After this night, I feel full and empowered, I'm even more driven to help build more spaces like this to allow folks to express themselves through storytelling in the future. Check out more on the last Temple Story slam or Narrative Medicine.
Do you have a memorable story about medicine? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @phildelrosario!