September 24, 2006

My Personal Statement

Dr. L entered the room as my heart anxiously pounded. I hesitated before shaking hands with him, not because I was entrusting my life in his but because I knew my hands were cold and clammy. "This will be the last time I'll have to shake someone's hands like this," I said with a grin. He had told me how the procedure would work: the sympathetic nerves of Kuntz would be severed to alleviate my hyperhidrosis. Although the surgery itself was quick, it changed my life drastically. I knew then that I wanted to be a doctor. Even though I now had the confident hands of a doctor, I needed more to actually be one. With my new hands, I started working on gaining the head and the heart of a doctor as well.

My critique: I'm sure many applicants have struggled as I did, trying to tighten prose without losing the context. Just to clarify, I had a bithoracic sympathectomy (video link), a surgery to cure palmar hyperhidrosis. I was disappointed that I couldn't adequately explain "hyperhidrosis"... it would have taken too much room to explain it. The people who read it caught on well enough, so that was good to hear. I could only hint at the details I really wanted to cover. Now that I know a little bit more, I'm embarassed to say that the facts are minorly incorrect too. The entire sympathetic chain was severed, not just the weird excess Nerves of Kuntz... but I tossed that in because it sounded cool.

Looking back at this PS makes me wince. This is what got me into medical school? Granted, it was a significant improvement over my opening statement from the prior year (which had the same gist, except I didn't make the hands/head/heart connection until the end of my PS.)

The poetry of gaining the hands of a doctor from a thoracic surgeon was something that I would have liked to elaborate on. I didn't see the doctor very often as a child, but palmar hyperhidrosis was something that I had been dealing with since 2nd grade.

You might be asking yourself: What's the big deal about sweaty palms?
Well, we're not talking about damp hands like someone who is just nervous. Yes, my sweaty palms were triggered by nervousness too, but we're talking about minor anxiety triggers. And it wouldn't go away... I would have to deal with sweat dripping off of my palms for the rest of the day. Imagine washing your hands and not drying them off afterwards. That's how my hands would be at their worst, mere seconds after I would wipe them on my jeans.

I would have to wear jeans everyday and a light colored shirt otherwise sweat stains would show on my thighs and armpits. My hands would freeze in cold weather, because the sweating just... kept on going.

Paper was my adversary. I would ruin books just by holding them and flipping the pages. I needed a folded up pad of paper to soak up the sweat when I took notes in class. My computer keyboard and mouse were all gummed up. I was afraid to touch anyone, especially girls, afraid of their barely concealed looks of disgust; I was afraid of intimacy.

I knew it would be a hindrance in pretty much any profession that did something hands-on, from social handshakes to labor-intensive crafts. I was concerned about shop, art and especially science LABS. Putting on gloves is a nightmare with damp hands. Wiping off equipment after touching it is annoying and disgusting.

I'm sure you get the point by now, after my woe-is-me story.
It was amazing to me that a decade of grief was wiped away after a same-day surgical procedure! I had tried so many other things, like topical antiperspirants (Drysol) and even palmar electric shock (Ionophoresis).

In typical understated doctor-speak, this surgery "improved the quality of my life."

I was inspired by the changes I saw in myself... something so minor that had such a large effect on the rest of my life and what I could do with it. I felt a newfound confidence from it, free from social anxiety and frustrating note-taking.

I was ready to make the same changes with other people. I wanted to become a doctor.

Despite the rough and clumsy nature of my opening paragraph, perhaps the admissions committee saw my PASSION and my . To you aspiring applicants, that's what you should put in your words. Share yourself and share your passions.

1 comment:

  1. I have always had a problem with sweaty hands. Not to quite the same extent though. I suppose it is part of why I really like the cold, because that's the only time I stop sweating is in 70 degree weather without intense lighting, or colder. I haven't had many problems with it since I was a kid, other than the occasional frustrated dance partner in high school or college. With my recent job though it has become a pretty big problem. When I get even a tiny bit nervous my hands sweat while I'm holding an animal. Yesterday I was holding this tiny fluffy well groomed puppy, and my hands were sweating. His hair started getting wet and matted, and of course then I just get iritated and embarressed, and it just keeps going. I can't tell the doctor "can I stop holding the dog so I don't soak the little guy" because his owners are right there.
    One day I was holding a very vocal kitten, and although I wasn't having a hard time with this cat my hands wouldn't quit. The cat was pretty upset and the doctor said "Oh dear, I think she must have used the bathroom... she's all wet." I told the doctor (with the owner in the room) it was not urine, it was because my hands are sweating.
    I am glad that you had such a good experience with your surgery, and that something so obnoxious would end up having such a positive final result in your experience.