Les Miserables – I was thinking of those of us who are

I was thinking of those of us who are privileged to have been accepted into medical school and who have successfully navigated through tests and courses, internships and scholarships, and ultimately caring for people. As family difficulties filled the theatre and Fantine’s miserable life unfolded before us on stage, I was taken back to my twin home room at medical school. I thought of Police Captain Javert who condemned the theft of Jean Valjean and who could not reconcile his act of robbery from a distance with his many cases of generosity and mercy in his later life. KevinMD. com was founded in 2004 by Dr. Kevin Pho and is the leading internet platform where doctors, advanced students, nurses, medical students and patients share their findings and tell their stories. It is a sacred privilege and responsibility to take the time to unpack the gray stories of our patients’ lives, believe in redemption and reserve judgment. We are often able to care for our fellow man in his worst days, in his most miserable moments, when he has fallen into disgrace, when he is most in need of grace and generosity. But this time, as I watched Fantine and Jean Valjean and the prostitutes and the homeless, I thought of the miserable circumstances in which many of the characters found themselves. We were not forced to literally sell our hair or our bodies in prostitution to provide for illegitimate children who were being abused by the wives of lecherous innkeepers. I wept over Jean Valjean’s heartbreaking words from the balcony of a community theater when I was eight months pregnant. I saw Les Miz many times, starting in college when my great-uncle Jack spoiled us with theater tickets that were not at all within budget. I read his parts of the poster while waiting for the lights to go out, reinforcing key elements of the plot and pointing out the main actors in the “organic” section. As Jean Valjean sang “ses” last scenes, I saw my daughter’s hand sneaking up out of the “corner of my eye” in a perfect replica of my own tears. The shades of gray are more difficult because we cannot put each of our fellow men in an orderly bucket. In the end, we both finished medical school in four years and moved to the doctor’s offices of our choice. But at the time, it seemed more like hell than a dream to fill our heads with neuroanatomy and cardiac physiology or to study for the next big standardized test that could end a career.

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