HOW I FOUND MY RHYTHM WHEN THE MUSIC STOPPED

At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.

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THE MAN IN A BLUE SARONG

I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.

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PATIENT “OWNERSHIP”

I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.

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experience, and each surgery I only hope that I can provide to patients and their families what was provided to me and my family more than two decades ago – peace, compassion, hope and benevolence at a time of utter chaos and loss of control.


Life is full of the “unexpected.” From time to time in life, the music will come to a stop. We have to trust in our strength and our preparation, and keep the rhythm. Ultimately, we know deep inside that this is what our loved ones would want. Thank you to medicine and my brother for helping me keep the rhythm.


In loving memory of my brother, Chinedu.

At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.


The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.


After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted. He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, and was currently admitted for chemotherapy induced neutropenia. That day was different. I always ran ahead and as I ran to go see him, I saw my mom in the hallway embracing one of the oncologists. I could hear her sobbing and I remember getting this feeling. It’s the feeling you get where your legs buckle from under you and you can feel and hear your heartbeat as if nothing else in the world existed for that moment. I knew this meant bad news. Tests had showed that his cancer had become metastatic. A month later he was placed under the care of home hospice, and three months later on May 29, 1997, he died at 18 years old.


How, from that experience, did I find medicine? How did I find meaning in such a sad ending? Well, I spent a lot of time in the hospital whenever my brother was admitted and when he went for various treatments. I remember being in awe at all of the people coming in and out, that seemed to be fighting as hard for his life as he did.

BY AMAKA AGOCHUKWU, MD

I tried to understand how and why they cared so much for us and for him,  as though we were their own family. I also could not imagine Chinedu or us going through what we did without them. They constantly gave of themselves, and made sacrifices for the well-being and healing of their fellow human beings. I saw it as the ultimate career of service to humanity. It was then that I decided that I wanted to be a part of this field, in some shape or form. At the young age of 12, I distinctly remember that compassion and care that doctors, nurses and even child life specialists had for Chinedu and our family. Sometimes I still feel it today. I will always be grateful, and I will never forget. Medicine had as much of an impact on me then as it does now. It is clear that this experience impacted my siblings too, who have all also been led to a career in medicine. Medicine did not cure my brother, but it never failed to try. Perhaps most importantly, it also realized when there was no more it could do. This allowed us to savor our final moments with him, in the respite of our home.


When my brother died, I felt like my world had stopped. There was no more music. Somehow I kept the rhythm, and through the whole experience, I found medicine. Or perhaps more accurately put, medicine found me. I consider myself grateful to be chosen for this unique and special field. Through each patient

AMAKA AGOCHUKWU, MD

Currently a 6th year resident in Plastic Surgery at the University of Kentucky, Amaka was born in New Orleans, LA and went to medical school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She is one of five children, is married and has a 2 year old son.