Professional Life

It wasn’t only out of gratitude to Dan that Rachel decided to become a doctor. All those years looking out for the weaker ones… the ones who were too young or too old to easily defend themselves… Rachel wanted to keep right on doing that. Putting broken bodies back together, trying to solve the mysteries of illness and, yes, soothing the way when the bodies couldn’t be put back together or the mystery could not be solved.

When she broached the subject to Dan and Judy, their reaction was not what she expected. Her telepathic skills were still giving her problems, Judy said… why not try something easier and spend time on herself. Medical school required a lot of discipline, said Dan… she was still far too likely to lash out physically when stressed and angered.

At first, she felt betrayed by their seemingly negative attitude. But after a few days, she realized they were right. She still had problems sometimes hearing the thoughts of others. And she did get physical when she was angry. She was not going to let these problems stop her, however. She was determined to be a doctor. She would do whatever it took to real her goal.

Controlling her anger, while not a simple matter, was the easier of the two problems to solve. She signed up for a Taiji class and almost immediately discovered the calming influence it had on her psyche. It meshed well with her street-acquired martial art skills and her biofeedback exercises to control her pheromones, as well.

Dealing with her erratic mental shields was a different matter. Her training in that area was woefully inadequate, and she had no idea where to go for better instruction. Instead, she spent hours each day sitting in crowded Daley Plaza or at Union Station trying to fend off the voices that echoed in her mind. Likening her shields to a muscle that need strengthening, she kept using it over and over until she could no longer hear a single voice in an entire day in downtown Chicago. She would often feel the thoughts of others brushing her shields… others with psi talent… if they passed close to her. The feeling was eerie, and sent shivers down her spine. If she had had hair on the back of her neck, it surely would have been standing up.

It had taken months, but finally she went back to Dan and Judy to present, once again, her plans for medical school. The look they exchanged when she described the work she had been doing over the past several months convinced her that they had hoped for this very result. She felt a rush of affection for this couple who had taken a very troubled teen into their home years ago and made her life worth something.

Given her outstanding scholastic achievements during her undergraduate years, it wasn’t surprising that the University of Illinois Medical School accepted her for their next class. In the meantime, she still had a couple of months before she started school. Her grandparents were no longer healthy, relying on friends and neighbors to help them do even the small things that needed to be done. Rachel moved back in with them to help.

Back in her old neighborhood, she had many of the same problems that existed before she left. At least once a week, she found herself defending a child or elderly person… and even herself on occasion. But now, instead of reacting out of anger, she was able to calmly act out of a sense of serenity and knowing that what she was doing was the right thing to be doing.

A month before she was to start medical school, her grandparents died. It was almost supernatural in that they both died in their sleep the same night. Rachel was heartbroken. She knew they were old. She knew that the weight of their years weighed heavily on them. She knew they were probably far happier with whatever Spirit held them now than they had been alive. She knew all this. Still, she cried for the first time in many, many years.

When school started again, she finally understood why medical students always seemed to have a dazed look on their faces. The sheer volume of facts was overwhelming; trying to integrate the facts into some semblance of order seemed a superhuman task. But the human body, and the million and one ways for it to fail, fascinated Rachel. The structure itself could not be divorced from its proper care… mental health had a strong bearing on physical health… and there were cases that defied all explanation, except to term them miracles. For four years, she wandered in a daze of facts and figures. Her instructors found her refreshing. Without exception, all of her classmates found the quiet young woman pleasant to be around… a big contrast to her high school years. She enjoyed all her rotations, but none as much as Emergency Medicine. It was in the Emergency Department that all the facts and figures seemed to gel, to come into focus for her.

Before she knew it, her four years of medical school were completed. To no one’s surprise except her own, she graduated at the top of her class.

With no family left except her surrogate parents, Rachel nevertheless elected to stay in Chicago for her residency. She rotated between Cook County Hospital, the primary trauma center for the central city, and Weiss Memorial Medical Center, the primary trauma center for the northern part of the city. The work was exhausting both physically and emotionally, and Rachel made a point of spending at least half an hour each day on her Taiji, even if it meant giving up some sleep. Maintaining a firm grasp on her temper was especially important now, when so many outside influences were ready to push her into a rage. It was particularly difficult to patch up the broken bodies of young children — the victims of parental child abuse — only to see the same children back in the Emergency Department a month or two later with more broken bones or burns or bruises.

Her gentleness with the children often prompted her co-workers and superiors to wonder if perhaps she should consider Pediatrics rather than Emergency Medicine. She only smiled and shook her head.

Rachel devoted so much of her time to medicine that she really had no time for anything else. She spent every Sunday when she was not at one of the hospitals with Dan and Judy. But she rarely socialized with anyone else… only occasionally attending any of the various parties given by her co-workers. Despite her reputation as a loner, the staffs in both Emergency Departments were always relieved to have Dr. D’Konis on duty.

With her residency ended, Rachel sent applications to the five major trauma centers in the area. To her surprise, each of the five hospitals offered her a job. While Cook County’s offer was not a great as the others — the hospital was threatened with closure each year due to lack of funds, and their Emergency Department was certainly not as state-of-the-art as Loyola’s and the University of Chicago’s — Rachel had come to know the staff and perennial neighborhood patients. She traded her white resident’s lab coat for the blue coat of a staff physician with pride.

Being on staff at Cook County wasn’t a whole lot different from being a resident. Her paychecks were a little bigger, her days off a little more frequent, but Rachel still spent most of her time at the hospital. Still, she had more time to pursue friendships. She was more likely to accept invitations to co-workers’ parties. In time, she even developed a tentative relationship with Tony Fischer, a staff pediatrician. For several years, her world revolved around the hospital, her patients and Dan and Judy.

When she was 31, her world fell apart.

© Kelly Naylor