My Biggest Failure

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“It’s not supposed to be this way…”

Amy and I hit it off from day one. When you put 24 research scholars  together in one room I suppose it’s perhaps a natural law that the two premeds in the room would find each other. Amy was actually from my senior cohort, having already completed and presented her project at conferences, she was there to act as a role model for newbies like me. It was pretty obvious she was going to be a doctor, but she easily could of played one on TV instead. Amy had a sharp eye, was a great listener, and had a great sense of humor.  She told me she had applied to medical school unsuccessfully, due to the fatal mistake of applying to too few schools, and was now giving it another go in the coming season — she promised to share with me all she learned should I have questions, what a great role model right?

Several weeks later Amy and I were invited to be part of a panel of guest presenters. The purpose was to talk to pre-vet students, and discuss animal research, we all presented our research and explained why animal models were necessary. After the presentation was over, I thought about asking her to hang out, but I thought it’d just come out wrong so I put it off. I was fortunate to see her almost weekly, I became president of the cohort so I more involved in the cohort than I ever imagined. For the time being I was satisfied with our short random one-off conversations. But, whenever I had to make an argument to the cohort (it’s very difficult to be president of a group of people who are likely smarter than you) Amy was the one I turned to for the nod of approval. When I saw that nod I knew I was on the right track, and the other nods were sure to follow — she was a great logic barometer.

I suppose I was too caught up in my project to not notice that Amy didn’t go with some of our cohort to Berkeley to present her project that year, on account of her doing it the year before.The rest of the cohort nailed their presentations, we can home triumphant, though without Amy and a few others who stayed home.

I finally did get to sit down and learn a lot more about my role model. She went to Europe on a merit scholarship, in fact she had a long trail of scholarships on her CV, great grades and loads of honors. Amy loved animals, practically considering her cats and dogs to be her children.  On top of all that she was an athlete. I learned a lot about Amy at her funeral.

Amy took her own life shorter after we all return from the research conference. The scholarship program coordinator told me on the my cell phone, I was studying for the MCAT when I received the call. The only thing I could think at that time was “It’s not supposed to be this way”. After months of wondering how I mucked it all up, and missed all the signs, I then it slipped into wondering “If I can’t save a friend who can I save?” — that question shook me.

When a friend disappears this way it doesn’t hurt any less with time, you just grow accustomed to the anguish. All you can do is wonder “Should I of asked her out for the coffee?”, shouldn’t I of hung out with her more, maybe I would of been there to talk to her instead? Every time I cracked open my MCAT books I recalled I considered setting up a study session with her that weekend, but I didn’t, maybe she would still be here if I had reached out? I can’t help her now, I’ve already failed, and it’s something I won’t allow myself to get over. But, what I can do now is give help to others, and remember reaching out a little may go a long way.

I’m sorry Amy.

*Unfortunately, this is a true story, but I changed the name for family privacy.*


2 thoughts on “My Biggest Failure

    serend1p1ty said:
    March 15, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss – a similar experience happened to me about two years ago, except this girl was more of an acquaintance than a friend. But I saw her less than 24 hours before the incident and all I could think of weeks/months later was whether there was something I could have done to prevent what had happened. All I can hope is that this will guide me in future scenarios and I think what you experienced will just make you a stronger doctor with a more empathetic perspective.

      masterofsleep said:
      March 16, 2014 at 3:11 am

      It’s never easy. But thanks for reading and sharing.

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