By Puja Nayak
“Doctor,” I say, my voice fading. I hear footsteps running and my eyes shut.
Hours later, I have a wire in me. I try and pull it out but my doctor stops me.
“No, don’t do that sweetie.”
I give her a look. I don’t understand why I’m here. My head is hot, I am sweating, and many students surround me, taking notes. Are they talking about me?
“Honey, you have something called Kawasaki.”
I raise my eyebrows.
“Your body and I are fighting it, so you will be okay.” She hands me a juicebox and leaves the room with my parents.
Being only three years old, hospitalized in the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, I often felt sad and vulnerable. At the time, I didn’t understand what my body was going through and why I was stuck in a hospital bed for over a week. I longed to go home. Other than my parents, nobody understood my pain better than my pediatrician. My pediatrician always provided reassurance that I would regain health. In my times of being sick, I remember being confused, but all my sad thoughts would vanish when my pediatrician walked into the room. Bringing toys, books, and my favorite snacks, she always did her best to ensure I was taken care of. Not only did she bring things for my personal pleasure, but she also always carried a smile. I believe her positive attitude allowed me enjoy my times at the hospital and soon regain health.
My pediatrician inspired me to become a pediatrician from the time I was three and today still motivates me to work towards it. Seeing her dedication to helping sick kids in the hospital, I felt her impact. I want to do the same she did for me and care for the future generation.
As I got older, I researched into Kawasaki. With less than 20,000 cases a year, Kawasaki is a rare condition that affects young children. Kawasaki a condition that causes inflammation in the walls of some blood vessels in the body. Till this day, doctors have no answer as to why Kawasaki occurs or how it is caused. I hope that one day, pediatricians find an answer.
Later on, my mother told me the story of my journey. She told me how I didn’t eat anything, not even my favorite foods. When she took me to the doctor, they all told her I had a fever. But something told her that the problem was much bigger. When nobody believed her, she called my pediatrician, who was off-duty for the week. She was referred to another pediatrician on call, Dr. Myers. Dr. Myers knew something was wrong and immediately had my parents take me to the Children’s Hospital in Dallas. Rather than being dismissive like many of the doctors my mother had contacted, Dr. Myers was caring and took my mother very seriously. She worked hard to find my diagnosis and assured my parents that I would be okay. Graduate students studied me because I was a “rare case” they had never seen before. After hearing this, I realized the importance of medical research and the importance of a caring doctor. As I was diagnosed with a rare disease, my parents feared not receiving attention from the medical community. The likelihood of finding treatment for Kawasaki was low but Dr. Myers worked hard to make the case known to her team of doctors.
As I got older, I visited the hospital my grandmother was at when she was diagnosed with cancer. Located in India, the hospital was overly crowded. While walking through the halls, I noticed a room for children with cancer. It pained me to see many kids waiting for proper treatment, but it touched my heart to see many doctors working hard to ensure the children were treated. This incident furthered my interest to become a pediatrician.
Like my mother, Dr. Myers did not give up on me, and I hope to do the same for my patients. As Dr. Myers was interested in helping a mother who urgently needed someone’s assistance, I hope to help others in the future who face the same obstacle my mother had faced in the past. Because Dr. Myers took time into looking for a treatment for my rare condition, I see the impact of medical research. In the future, I hope to look at cases that are rare and provide care to everyone who needs it, not just the “mainstream” cases. To me, kids are the reason the world moves ahead and a creative lens to society. With the dream to give them the same care my pediatrician gave me when I needed it, I aspire to help the future generation grow stronger.
Puja Nayak is a senior at the Texas Academy of Math and Science. When she was four, she was diagnosed with a rare disease and thus has seen the impact of medical care and future. These experiences have shaped her, inspiring her to pursue biomedical engineering and then go on to become a pediatrician in the future.