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Editor's Comments on 'Meeting Halfway'

 , April 03, 2018

All medical students rotate in the core specialties of medicine whether they want to or not. One frequently dreaded (or highly anticipated) rotation is Ob-gyn, known for its brutal hours and demanding schedule. Unless you are inclined towards drawn-out hours of suffering, unexpected turn of events, tightly gripped hands, gushes of blood and other body fluids from various orifices, squalling newborns, rips and tears, and the occasional life-threatening emergencies, Ob-gyn is not for the faint of heart. It’s a specialty for those who enjoy the rigor of the operating room, but also the intimacy of working with women during possibly one of their most intense, vulnerable moments that could possibly happen. 

In “Meeting Halfway” by Jason Han, we are given a typical scenario of an expectant mother and a nervous medical student on the labor and delivery ward. As medical students, we are encouraged to be present during those palpable, painful moments of the labor and delivery, and if given the chance, to assist in a delivery, or “catch the baby,” so to speak. We approach our laboring patients with nervousness and anticipation for such permission, but are also secretly appalled that any woman in their right mind would allow uninitiated hands near them. Han captures this excitement and fear on the delivery ward with poise, describing the moments of pain and uncertainty with humanity. He is greeted by the laboring mother “with that universal gesture—a smile,” and gives his hand to be squeezed through waves of painful contractions. They tell stories to pass the hours, a homemade dinner is offered, and a connection is made between two unlikely people.

When progress suddenly halts, and the mother and the unborn baby’s status turns life-threatening, we find ourselves in Han’s place as he struggles to find rationality. Why isn’t medical intervention enough to prevent bad outcomes? What’s the point of our meticulous monitoring if things can go wrong anyways? 

“Meeting Halfway” is an admirable reflection on the limitations of medicine, and how we as physicians will inevitably face moments where we realize that when modern medicine cannot, the art of caring can. 

Esther Lee