First Times

Med school is a series of firsts.

The first time I sutured a skin laceration on a real, living, breathing human being, all by myself.

The first time I witnessed a birth.

The first time I delivered a baby (*Hint: The baby does most of the work for you).

The first time I helped suture a uterus in a c-section.

The first of my patients who died.

And then the second.

And then the third.

The first of my patients who fit the textbook picture of their disease process.

And the last one who did.n’t.

The first patient who couldn’t respond to me because he had cerebral palsy.

The first time I looked into a child’s ear – for zebras, giraffes and signs of infection – using the otoscope.

(50 sets of ears in, I’m still in awe of pediatricians, veritable masters of the physical exam).

The first time I saw white tonsillar exudates… just like the ones in the pictures!

The first time I told a patient that their head CT was negative, the family breathing a sigh of relief.

The first time I saw a patient cry.

And then the second.

And the third.

The first time one of my patients was told she had miscarried.

And, unfortunately, the second once more.

The first time I saw real, deep fear in a patient’s eyes.

And the first time I held their hand, because there was nothing else I could do in that moment.

The first time I saw a first-time father’s face turn white as their child was getting born (“Yes, this is really happening.”)

The first time that a nurse offered me guidance, assistance, and reassurance.

And the second, the third, the fourth and thirtieth time since then…

The first time I allowed myself to ask for help.

The first time I put my scrubs in the washer.

The first time I heard a heart murmur.

The first time I missed a heart murmur.

The first circumcision I helped on.

The first time I was faced with a patient’s presenting complaint and, after taking an (overly) detailed history, still thought to myself: “I for the life of me have no idea what they have.”

(And then the second, and the third, and the fourth, and the…)

The first of my patients who held my hand and said, “Thank you.”

The first time, and every time since then, that I have felt so privileged to be part of this profession.

Med school is a series of first times, and for that I am ever, ever so grateful.


Alexis del Vecchio is a graduate of Yale where he majored in Theater Studies. He was a professional voice-over actor before college. Since graduation, he has produced television movies, acted in national commercials, seen his original plays performed on both coasts, and founded two companies in the educational field. He has lived in Florida, Maryland, Connecticut and California, and now calls Greenville home. He never wants to leave South Carolina – why would anyone want to live anywhere else? – and is thrilled and grateful to attend USCSOMG.

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