When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a doctor. I never had a problem with grades and I was a pretty good athlete. I spent a lot of my childhood nursing baby field mice after their nests had been exposed and their parents killed by my dad's overzealous lawn mower. I would raise them up with a heating pad and eye droppers filled with milk. My mom would freak but I would put bandages on their uninjured paws and carry them about in my pockets.
After college, I applied to medical school and was accepted. I got married, graduated third in my medical school class, had two kids and went on to a prestigious internship.
Then my mom got sick.
It started off with some symptoms of dizziness, nothing special, just a feeling of being off kilter or a slight tilt to the room. I thought it was her eyes so I had her cataracts removed. This didn't help. Her dizziness persisted.
After a few months, my mom’s personality began to change. Little, nasty slurs were whispered as asides to my kids about their behavior. .She started to forget things. She started to insult me.. Definitely not my sweet, loving mom.
This mandated a trip to the neurologist. The CT and MRI scans showed nothing.
Weeks went by and her symptoms didn't change.
Then she started to fall.
When she broke her ribs, she landed in the hospital for a week. The doc in the hospital said that not only did she have broken ribs, she also had a gaze palsy, past pointing nystagmus, a delayed blink reflex and poor convergence.
In short, she had PSP.
As soon as I got the diagnosis, I hit the medical books. For the life of me I could not remember any symptoms or the prognosis of PSP. I recalled the disease being mentioned once in my entire medical career. So that night I stayed in my office and read late. And when I finished, I cried.
For the first time in my medical training, I could not save my patient. I could not treat her, I could not heal her or extending her life expectancy. As a physician, I was helpless to save one of the people I loved most in the world.
And my life was changed forever.
With all my skills as a physician, I was as helpless as my hairless baby mice.