Iatrogenic. The word rang out across the lecture theatre and I quickly wrote it down. I was a few weeks into my medical degree. I was amazed I’d never heard that word before, as it describes a condition or disease that has resulted from medical treatment and/or the actions of healthcare professionals. It was this very phenomenon that prompted me to apply to medical school in the first place.
In 2017, I underwent a spinal operation for a herniated disc. During the procedure, the surgeon accidentally operated on the wrong part of my back. After some months of excruciating pain and panicked insecurity, the problem was uncovered. But it didn’t end there.
Corrective surgery, post-surgical complications, more pain and stress saw me finally give up on my plan to move back to my beloved Berlin, where I had spent the preceding years enjoying a life of underemployed debauchery.
Instead, I moved in with my father in Alice Springs to recover.
I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that medicine had upset my health again, just in a different way than I was used to
I spent the next few years getting back on my feet, reflecting and reinventing myself. I started studying again, then applied for medical school. Ultimately, there were many reasons for my career pivot. Chief among them was a hope that, in helping others heal, I might be able to make up for what had happened to me in some way.
As luck would have it, I began classes and the world promptly ended.
It was 2020 and, as COVID swept across the globe, we junior medical students were sent home to study. That was when I truly discovered the perils of a sedentary lifestyle for people whose spinal columns have been remodelled to resemble a precarious,