KUHF-Houston Public Radio's "This I Believe" with Gary Walker

Gary is a third year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine. Raised in the Woodlands, Gary knew at an early age that he wanted to be a physician. He's the first in his immediate family to do so. His intense training at Baylor has already provided a life changing experience which reminded him of the daunting responsibilities he assuming. It also was the foundation of his essay for KUHF's This I Believe.
Gary was raised in The Woodlands and he went to college at Brigham Young University. Once he was accepted at Baylor College of Medicine, he was able to move back home to Houston. Pursuing medicine was something Gary decided early in life. Now that he's in his third year of med-school, he's working 100 hour weeks. He's looking forward to graduating in a year and then it'll be on to the next challenge. Gary is married and has two young children.

Here's Gary Walker with his essay for KUHF's This I Believe.
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"'You have Leukemia.'

I uttered those words with much trepidation…and I wondered to myself, 'What am I doing? Who gave me the right to pronounce this?'

As a third year medical student I had taken care of many patients, but never like this. She was just a child and came to the hospital with an infection that rendered her unable to walk. This young patient and her family were not from America and spoke little English, so my foreign language skills became an important link between the medical team and the family.

A routine blood test showed a troubling result: her white blood cell count was very low. The cancer specialists agreed to come to the county hospital to perform a bone marrow biopsy. I sat with the family as they consented to the procedure and we reaffirmed why we wanted to do it.

Only hours later, our colleagues called with the results — Leukemia. I was devastated, and thus could not fathom what this family was about to go through. With such a life changing diagnosis we wanted the interpreter to help us break the news, but as often happens in a busy hospital, our interpreter was unavailable.

Time was running out as the ambulance was in route to transfer the patient to the children's hospital so she could begin chemotherapy. My attending physician turned to me and asked if I would break the news. As I sat with the mother and then the daughter to tell them what we had found a flurry of emotions ran through me. I felt a calling to help, to comfort, to teach this family what the diagnosis meant for their child.

As the ambulance crew swept the patient away, she handed me a simple wooden frame with a colorful array of stickers and beads pegged around the outside, a way to say thank you. I wondered what more I could have done for this patient. Perhaps equally important, I wondered what I could do to help children like this young girl. It didn't matter that she was an immigrant; it didn't matter that she couldn't pay.

That experience confirmed my belief that I have a medical responsibility to provide the best environment for children, ALL children, to grow and progress in life. I believe that your child is just as precious as every other child. "
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Paul Pendergraft

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Paul Pendergraft is KUHF-Houston Public Radio’s Senior Producer for News & Public Affairs...