Quality of life or preservation of life: which is more important? This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. On Tuesday, Sully – an emergency trauma nurse who is also volunteering at the Shepherd’s Clinic this summer- was sharing with me how in the emergency department, medical staff are often so focused on saving patients’ lives that they tend to disregard the potential long-term damage and suffering they cause patients. Here’s an example. Sully once helped resuscitate a deceased older patient who was rushed into the emergency room by his family. While doing so, the emergency staff had broken several of the patient’s bones in his upper body. The staff also put the patient on several drugs that shunted blood away from the patient’s extremities towards his core in order to keep his major organs running. As a result, the patient’s extremities over time began to atrophy and he developed wet gangrene in his limbs. In addition to all of this, the patient could no long breathe on his own due to damage to his respiratory system. The patient stayed alive for several more months, but he slowly grew bitter. This patient was miserable and he wanted to die, but his family wanted to keep him alive for as long as possible. There was a big family argument and eventually the family of the patient let him go.

When I came back home that day, I asked my apartment mates, both of whom are pre-med, which is more important: quality of life or preservation of life? Well, sort of. I actually asked them if they were doctors would they support physician assisted suicide, but framed it in the context of the quality of life versus preservation of life debate. During the discussion they raised some great questions like, Who has the right to end a life? How much control should an individual have in that individual’s own fate? Where do societal views of the value of life come from? It was a wonderful conversation that lasted about 2 hours, but we failed to reach a consensus.

On my way to work the next day, the blue jay shuttle driver shared with me, as strange as it may be for a mother to say this, that she would rather her two sons be locked in prison than “out here on the streets because if it ain’t them killing one another it’s the police killing them too. If they die in prison, at least it won’t be for selling CDs, or for reaching for license and registration, or for wearing a hoodie, or in front of their kids.” Her comment was made in response of the recent killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. Among other things, her comment made me think of this quality of life versus preservation of life debate. This is how I cope.



There’s this little boy named Jakari, with very big starry eyes…the one that calls me “Mr. Cheese”. He’s the troublemaker, as you can assume; always talking back to camp counselors, always horse playing with the other kids, always running around, and always with the last word. But there is something about the way he annoys you that makes you like him; he smiles when he does it, and makes a little puppy face that makes you feel so guilty for giving him timeout after he purposely mispronounces your name. One day I took the kids out to the basketball court for recess. And as usual, the kids taunted me as I watched them play from my comfortable seat on the park bench. It was 89 degrees that afternoon, that’s all that needs to be said. I stayed on that bench, and enjoyed hearing the kids taunt me under the sweat drops on their foreheads. But then, as always, little Jakari yelled out “Mr. Chi can you teach me some dibble moves?” He even said my name right.
That was on week 2. And after 2 weeks, little Jakari can make 5 layups in a row with my hand in his face…he is about 4 ft tall and I am 6’1. If you don’t know basketball, it’s pretty impressive to see that from an 11-year-old boy. We started with the basics, learning how to make layups from the right and left side of the hoop, using both the right and left hand. That took a while. But, we eventually moved on to passing, and how to use a hop-stop when receiving a pass or driving down the lane. He is a fast learner. I’m excited to see his progression by the end of camp.


Sometime in late October, I sat in my faulty advisor’s office, looked her straight in the eye, and said “I’m done.”

In just a few short weeks I had already been overwhelmed to the point where I just wanted the semester to be over. I didn’t want to deal with my classes or my dance group or my job. I had mentally checked out because I couldn’t take it anymore.

Second semester was better. The winter break gave me a lot of time to spend with my family and my newborn goddaughter which helped me feel more normal. I got a good start in all of my classes, things were looking up for the dance group; it was very much, new semester, new me.

But I realized I was lying to myself. In reality, I was always stressed, always sick, always tired.

Anyway the point is this past year taught me the importance of self-care. I need to take out time for myself to disconnect and see where I am and not feel like it’s wasted time or like I should be doing something else. Everyone needs those few minutes to just get away from the craziness that is being a Hopkins student.

It’s something I’m still struggling to learn and keep up with but I’m grateful for this program because it’s forcing me to go out and explore Baltimore in ways that I can’t during the school year. Every weekend that I’ve been here, I get out of my room as much as I can. I’ve gone to museums, festivals, parks, discovered I really enjoy walking around the city and have even gotten to hang around DC a little bit more.

It all makes life feel more normal.

I think in light of recent events and whatever is to come in the future, it’s good to have that reminder to take care of yourself.

I’ll end it with this:
When I was learning to be an EMT, one of the first things I learned was scene safety. The instructors always told us, when it comes to safety, first you worry about yourself, then your partner, then the patient. After all, how are you going to help someone else if you can’t protect yourself? Then you’ll just end up having two patients: the victim and yourself.



Good Morning, Baltimore

I woke up Sunday, July 3rd at 7:17AM—terribly late considering I had to make it to Penn Station for an 8AM train. Unlike most people who would only be taking off for the holiday, I would be taking off for the whole week in order to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Eid ul-Fitr, with my family. This had been my first Ramadan without my family and my first in Baltimore.

However, as I went home for the first time since May, I realized how much Baltimore had seeped into my daily experience. Yes, I’ve been here for the past three years, but as a student you really don’t have the opportunity to go exploring as much as you like. As a summer intern with MOST, however, I ended up almost all over it. The Maryland Out of School Time office for the city is located in Mount Vernon, just up from Peabody Library. When I chose to intern for MOST, I was excited to work so close to the library—to be in breathing distance of a real-life Beauty and the Beast library. However, when my position changed to site counselor, I learned that I would instead be working just blocks away for Johns Hopkins Hospital, at Commodore John Rodgers. I, like so many of my friends spending the summer doing research, began each morning waiting for the JHMI shuttle hoping to get an actual seat. Then from the hospital walked several blocks from the hospital toward Chester St. I won’t try to glamorize parking lots and construction, saying this was the most beautiful Baltimore I’d ever seen—but it was definitely new. I’d had no reason to walk here, and now I was walking here every day.

Most of my exploring through MOST (I was actually dying to use this), has in fact been through Baltimore City Public Schools. All of the SummerREADS sites are elementary or elementary/middle schools that have newly renovated libraries through the Weinberg Library Project. Although counselors are assigned a single site for the duration of the 6-week program, the weekly staff meetings rotate across each of these Weinberg libraries. So in addition to working at Commodore, each Friday I find myself in a different part of the city, at a different school. There are probably hundreds of ways to explore this city, but I have found this to be one of the most exciting as I walk into new neighborhoods that children many years younger than me know so well and walk in every day. If you’ve ever passed one of these schools then you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say I’m only walking in their giant yellow-green footsteps (they’re actually painted on the sidewalks near most of the schools, leading up to the doors).