A Month of Mourning

When I was eleven, I saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for the first time. I loved it. The adventure, the history, the mysteries…. At the same time, I was learning about ancient world history in my social studies class, and I was enamored. So it was decided. Save the fact that Indy puts himself in life-or-death situations, save the fact that he knows how to read hieroglyphics, save the fact that he knows everything about EVERYTHING, when I grew up, I was going to be Indiana Jones.

I taught myself how to read and write the Greek alphabet, and I read everything I could about ancient and medieval cultures. I wanted to know it all.

But when I was 13, something happened.

I was watching TV one night and I saw a commercial for this new show, House. I was never one to follow shows, and doctor shows usually didn’t interest me. But something about this show sparked an interest. If I were a more avid television viewer, I’d probably watch this show. But no, it was probably stupid like all the others, so I put that interest aside for a while.

Then one night, I was getting ready for bed and walked past Mom and Dad, who were sitting on the couch watching tv.

“What are you watching?”

“House.”

“Can I watch?”

“Until the next commercial, then bed.”

I sat on the arm of the couch, ready to leave when the commercial came on. But when the commercial came, I stayed. Mom said not a word. Next one, I told myself. But I didn’t leave. I was hooked.

I can tell you exactly which episode it was (13, “Cursed”), what the disease was that inflicted the patient (leprosy). I can tell you the patient’s name (Gabe), and that he was the boy from the movie Spy Kids. 

I can also tell you that I no longer wanted to be Indiana Jones. I didn’t tell anyone for a while, still grappling over my sudden change of heart. I would be a doctor.

Not a misanthropic ass like House is. No, I was more attracted to the mysteries, the logic, the game. I was attracted to the teamwork, to the excitement, to the imminence of disaster striking, only to be caught at the last minute.

Of course I know, as I always did, that medicine does not work like this in reality. I know Dr. House would be fired immediately, if even hired at all, for his harsh words and his hatred of authority. If my boss were to treat me the way he treats his staff, I would probably go home in tears every night. I know that even a special team of doctors like House’s wouldn’t be able to perform all the different surgeries they do, and work in the lab, and manage to sit differentials. It’s usually one or the other (or the other).

And yet, I still fell in love with the show, the profession, the idea of fixing people.

I took biology in 10th grade. Every so often, my teacher would put an application question on our tests: “So and so is wrong with this patient. Here are his symptoms. What do you think is wrong with him?” I would write notes next to the questions asking for more like those. Yes, a bit nerdy. But we already know that about me.

I took a computer graphics elective class in 10th grade, as well. I would race through the assigned projects and use my free time cartoonizing the cast of House. I photoshopped my head into a collage I’d made of the characters, and I set it as my Facebook profile picture, testament to my devotion. In fact, for six years now, my bedroom door at home has been covered with cutouts from magazines, the internet, and my computer graphics class, all images of Dr. House or his staff.

In my freshman year of college, I had no television. I would beg my downstairs friends to let me use their tv once a week, so I could watch House in real time, not the next day when it came online. Once, the boys were late and I couldn’t get into their room. I’ll admit, I may have been overreacting, but I believe I came close to tears.

I’m not telling you all of this because you don’t already know it, or because I want you to know what a freak I am. I’m telling you this because I feel that, as the show comes to a close– its last episode will air on Monday, May 21– I need some kind of cathartic release to deal with the loss of what has become an important force in my life.

I know, I know. It’s just a tv show. But it’s not just a tv show. It’s become more than that. For eight years, I have spent hours and hours rewatching episodes season by season, learning about all these great medical anomalies without even trying. Last year, I had to write an essay about a neurological condition for my neuro class. I looked through the House archives and found CIPA (Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis, or the inability to feel pain or sweat, present from birth) and wrote my paper about it.

Even just a few weeks ago, my neuro professor here in Dunedin was talking about a case study. The patient had had a limb amputated but still felt pain in his hand. I knew exactly how to cure him, even before the professor told the class.

What I’m trying to tell you, I guess, is that House has significantly influenced my life. When it airs its last episode in a month, I will feel a loss, like I have lost a great friend. From House, I have learned the biology and the medicine, but I have forced myself to go the step further and to teach myself. I have learned about bedside manner– both good and bad– and I have learned about hospital life in general. I’ve learned that in moderation, it probably is a good thing to defy your boss’s orders if you disagree with them. I have learned that what is right is not always moral, and what is moral is not always right. I have learned that even doctors make mistakes, and that sometimes, no matter how good a doctor is, no matter how soon (or not) they diagnose  a patient correctly, sometimes people will die, and there’s nothing you can do about that. And that is ok, it’s part of the job.

When I was applying to colleges, I wrote my CommApp essay about three of my heroes: the grammarians Strunk and White, the creator of the documentary Supersize Me, and Dr. House. I’d like to think he helped me get into college.

So this is why I am so sad Dr. House is going away. I am not a crazy fool who idolizes fake television characters. Well, maybe a little. Mostly, I am a crazy fool who is going to soon enter the world of medicine (fingers crossed) and who will be moving forward without her hero alongside her.

So I might cry when the show ends. Please be sympathetic to me. I will have lost a great friend.

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3 thoughts on “A Month of Mourning

  1. The writer in you should be equally saddened by the loss of brilliant tv script research and writing:) Your welcome… (for your second career!)

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