A significant number of medical professionals will go their entire careers without ever having the opportunity to experience first-hand what it is like to be a patient at their own institution.
Dr. Claudia Martinez, who is in her third year as a resident physician at the TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston, Texas, can confidently say that this will not be the case for her. Because she spent a whole year within those very walls teaching herself how to walk, talk, and feed herself, Claudia is intimately familiar with the experience of being in need of specialized medical care.
When Claudia began experiencing headaches and blacking out, she was in the pre-med program at the University of Houston. She was given the diagnosis of Chiari malformation, which meant that her brain was disproportionately large for the size of her skull and was putting pressure on her spinal cord. In the end, she required no less than six operations on her brain.
Then, following her sixth operation, she had a stroke, which rendered her unable to move below the level of her neck.
After the accident, Claudia was rendered “incapable of functioning from the neck down.” She underwent significant speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy during her time at TIRR Memorial Hermann the next year. She fought hard not only to restore her body but also to continue with her medical studies, despite the fact that there were times when fear and uncertainty entered her mind.
“There was a time while I was at TIRR that I was like, ‘I didn’t think that I would make it here,’” she admitted. “I didn’t think that I would make it here.” “However, I was really determined, and I wanted to demonstrate not to other people but rather to myself that I was capable of achieving this. Because I never wanted my disability or my medical ailment to define me or have other people let me kind of slide by with accomplishing less, simply because I had a disability or was in the hospital for such a long time, I worked more than my peers did.
The medical staff Claudia worked with urged her to complete her education, which she completed in May of 2020. After graduation, she changed her speciality due to persisting concerns with her hands.
She had originally intended to become a surgeon, but ultimately made the decision to study physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) in order to become a doctor like the ones who had assisted her in getting back on her feet. She even accepted a residency at the same facility! Now that she is working, she is putting the first-hand information that she gained navigating the medical system to use.
She expressed her gratitude by saying, “I’m very glad for that experience and the opportunity to now share what I know with patients in order to better assist them.”
While in med school 👇🏼
1st gen college grad#LatinasInMedicine
6x brain surgery survivor
lost function neck down
relearned to walk, bathe, dress, write, type
survived off feeding tube & central line
Today Dr. Claudia I. Martinez, MD pic.twitter.com/CgnSPZH8zo
— Claudia I. Martinez, MD (@CIMartinezMD) May 1, 2020
“Disabilities do not define the capability of a person,” Claudia wants to convey to other people now that her own health issues are behind her an essential lesson about coping with disabilities: “Disabilities do not define the capability of a person.”
She went on to say, “Never in your life should you underestimate someone who has a disability.” They have a great deal of value to contribute to the world, and there is a great deal more that they are capable of accomplishing. Sometimes all we need is a little compassion and patience, and now that I’m here as a physician, there are so many things that I do differently than my colleagues just because I have a disability. However, just because I do things differently doesn’t mean that I can’t do the things that they do.
What an absolutely fantastic trip! It is encouraging to see that Claudia is making progress toward realizing her goals in spite of the challenges she faces. We are sending our best wishes her way as she applies the newfound knowledge to improve the quality of care she provides to others.
Remember to tell a friend about Claudia’s journey and don’t forget to share it!