Bobby Laverty

Bobby Laverty is a third year at the University. Majoring in Biochemistry, Bobby aspires to attend medical school and is currently employed in the UVa Emergency Department as a Medical Scribe. He volunteers through Medical Services in the Aquatics Program located at the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center.

Posts from Bobby:

“Look at me momma,” the child exclaimed, his mouth sprawling into a toothy grin. “I’m swimming.” For many patients at the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Clinic the simple act of ambulating from their wheelchairs on solid ground is an insurmountable feat, let alone swimming. Thus, any progress made, however remote, can bring about the most indelible feelings of accomplishment.

This week was one riddled with progress. A patient who had previously struggled performing some of the most mundane of tasks was now leading her own exercises, pushing instructor-set benchmarks and exceeding the expectations of us all. While finishing one lap had been laudable last week, the threshold for praise was upended as the patient began strapping on weights and frolicking around the pool like a young Dara Torres.

We were also introduced to a new patient who was afflicted with an illness significantly more debilitating than any others I have ever worked with. Though I cannot personally speak to the taxing effects epilepsy can have on a person’s mental and physical acuity, I must say I admire all who deal with this on a day-to-day basis. Progress would almost immediately be impeded by a onslaught of spontaneous fits and convulsions.  This patient required constant support — both physically and mentally — throughout the session but by the end had managed to reach all of his goals for the day.

While I have been fortunate enough to work with children stricken with a wide range of disorders and diseases, of recent, we have experienced a noticeable decline in children enrolling in the Aquatics program: both in- and out-patients. It is unknown whether this stands as a barometer for the precarious state of healthcare in America or less people simply need our assistance. Nevertheless, I hope to continue working with patients as they are not the only ones benefiting from the experience: the reward is mutual.

As a pre-med student, I seize every possible opportunity to be in a medical setting. Through ED scribing, EPIC implementing and various other shadowing internships, I have been fortunate enough to fulfill this aspiration many times over. Per these experiences, I have learned much, seen much more, and I once ended up as the patient needing five stitches after a vasovagal of my own. But something was missing. I wanted to step out from the shadow, emerge from the background, and forsake my role as an observer—all of which was made possible through the Aquatics unit at the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center.

I do not mean to imply that I was unhappy in any of those previous roles; I was simply unsatisfied. I am completely cognizant of the fact that my lack of formalized medical training prevents me from interacting beyond an observer capacity, but I yearned to provide some facet of patient care—outside of prescribing medications or performing surgical procedures.

The water was warm, almost too warm. “To get the blood flowing,” my supervisor promptly reminded me after witnessing my apprehension to dive in. With twelve years of swimming experience, I felt fairly confident I could coach a patient through a thirty-minute session of basic breaststroke and free-style with a few interludes of muscle building exercises. I was unaware, however, of the impact that this would have on someone who struggles daily with a debilitating disability.

Throughout the session, the patient beamed with joy and laughter after each lap —always asking, “Can I do it again?” I often replied, “as long as you want,” or “as long as you stop beating me.” His motivation to improve was inspiring. Nevertheless, long turned into short and soon enough we were out of the pool drying off. His fervor, however, could not be quenched. The patient, still glowing, grabbed his mother and demanded to know when he could “do it again.” “We’ll see sweetie,” she said, appeasing her child, “we’ll see.”

Though Olympic gold may not be in his near future, it was almost as if, for that brief thirty-minute period, he felt a sense of invincibility: unchallenged by his diagnosis, undaunted by the hurdles that lay ahead.

“Working here makes you never want to drink again,” commented a nurse on my second day of the job. While all patients in the Medical Intensive Care Unit are not admitted for alcohol-related diseases, witnessing the physical state of some sick individuals results in a lot of reflection on how your everyday choices will affect you down the road.

The MICU is not a wing of the hospital you want to be admitted to. An environment that typically has a nurse to patient ratio of 2:1, this sector houses patients who need hourly and sometimes by-the-minute care and observation. When you learn of the causes and past social histories of these people —alcohol, drugs, or genetic bad luck — it teaches you of the horrific consequences a flippant attitude towards health in your early life can have.

Your health is no joke. Many of us have had this drilled into their mind, but since the onset of the effects from poor habits are so far down the road and often internal we do not visualize repercussions such as arteries slowly narrowing in due to cholesterol build-up from Big Macs and other unhealthy foods.

But the MICU is not solely a source of depressing reminders that one day our health will catch up to us. It also provides inspiration when patients are able to persevere through their adversity and get discharged back into the real world. The optimistic attitude visitors tote along with them in and out of such a morbid place is very impressive too and makes your burdens seem trivial.

As a pre-med student, you embrace every opportunity available to gain insight into the world of medicine that you so desperately desire to join. Volunteering in the Medical Intensive Care Unit has provided such an opportunity and though it does not entail clinical experience such as observing surgeries and other operations that we students usually pursue, the MICU has many other redeeming qualities.

I have become a part of the car that drives the hospital. I am no transmission or steering wheel. I’m not navigating through triple bypasses. I am not the emergency brake or On-Star button that will immediately provide crisis support when hostile patients threaten their life or others. I may be as insignificant as a Hokie bumper sticker or as unappreciated as a consent form that (as I learned last week) may not be so insignificant after all. It is not as much as what I physically do or witness in those three hours each week that keeps me coming back; it is what I learn.

You learn basic workplace etiquette that can be applied to any office scenario, but when it involves others’ health – the antes are raised. When a nurse attempted to approach a superior last week with an urgent problem, she was met with an antagonistic attitude that only compounded the issue. Both soon became upset and inherently there productivity was lowered. Such simple amenities like treating co-workers with respect and without frustration is what greases the system to function smoothly.

And then you see situations that contrast the latter, such as when the University Hospital’s second-in-command made an appearance to aid with a surgery. Arriving with glowing enthusiasm, he epitomized the co-worker who you always wanted to work alongside. Even venturing out of his (very important) agenda to introduce himself to me, he illustrated the vast difference common courtesies can have.

Collect some of the smartest people in the world, put them in a room with a variety of sick people and unless they get along, you may find more problems than solutions. Hospitals don’t have enough rooms for patients, much less egos. You learn to leave the attitude and personal problems at home, so we can all enjoy the ride.

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