Dyspnoea, in a good way


My journey to medicine hasn't been straightforward. I didn't grow up wanting to be a doctor. Before I graduated from medical school, I studied law. However, that wasn't straightforward either. Law was a journey through depression, panic disorder, anxiety and agoraphobia. A laundry list of things that can leave a person feeling incredibly lonely. Yet, these are some of the best things that ever happened to me.

I often sat alone those days, in a philosophical and physical darkness, breaking down the ego and getting to the meaningful parts of my soul. That was when I discovered the love of medicine through a love for people. Since then, medicine has been huge part of my life. I love being a doctor. In 2019, our team worked in the busiest emergency department in Australia. We've had hairy moments. We've experienced unprecedented pressure. Still, I'm lucky to feel like a part of this close-knit family.

During the long days in big stretches of shifts, there are moments that remind you why you do this. It might be the connection that you make during the simple act of bringing a cup of tea for a distressed parent to sharing someone’s journey through a catastrophic diagnosis.

I learned what it's like to be a patient because my journey through medicine wasn't straightforward either. It was punctuated by traumatic cervical spinal cord injury in medical school. This taught me a lot, but reinforced a love of medicine and what it can do for people. After the accident, I spent nine years dedicating my soul to what we do. I entertained very little else in my life, and never felt the need to. Life felt incredible.

A couple of years ago though, something happened.

I noticed a beautiful nurse going about her work on our emergency department floor. Her petite frame and dark hair, shining away in a ponytail, was highlighted by the green nursing scrubs. Her eyes were like a starburst of hazel shining into a dark copper sky.

Over time, I noticed the deep care that she gave every single patient. She was also clearly clever. But when she spoke, her soul melted me. She left me breathless when I saw her. Every time. It was hard to find the words to speak to her.

Friends used to ask me whether there was anyone in my life. My answer was was always no, but sometimes ended with "... but there's this nurse. Wow."

It took a couple of years, but I ran into her in the corridor one day. I asked her if she wanted to hang out. She said yes. Maybe she almost got annoyed the first time we hung out. "Dinesh!", she said as I asked her a thousand questions. I wanted to know everything about her.

I remember the very night that I realised that this girl has changed my life. We were at her house. She'd cooked me an amazing dinner, which has changed my eating preferences from a steady stream of takeaway. We just sat together in the evening, with her face glowing in the dim light. As I looked into her eyes, I knew that my life had become far more incredible than I thought it was.

I found so much meaning in medicine. But to find such beauty in this way, still leaves me breathless.


Dr. Dinesh Palipana OAM