“NY Med’s” Specialty is Helping Viewers Appreciate and Embrace Life

“NY Med’s” Specialty is Helping Viewers Appreciate and Embrace Life July 9, 2014

During the Christopher Award-winning first season of the documentary TV series “NY Med,” a member of the medical staff commented that his job has taught him there are a lot of different ways a person can die – more ways than he ever realized.

Ironically, “NY Med’s” specialty is helping viewers appreciate and embrace life.

For season two, which began on June 26th on ABC, executive producer Terence Wrong and his talented team of producers and camera people returned to New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Weill Cornell and Columbia campuses, while also adding Newark’s University Hospital to the mix. There, they act as invisible observers, providing a window into the perils, tensions, and comic moments that constitute everyday life in a hospital.

Beyond the Stethoscope

One of the show’s best features is probing beyond the labels of “doctor” or “nurse” to see the human beings underneath with all their aspirations, flaws, fears, and successes.

For instance, during episode two, Weill Cornell ER doctor Debbie Yi helps to save the life of a man who got hit by a New York City subway train. She later reveals that she used to work as an investment banker on Wall Street until her sister Christine had her leg ripped off by a subway car in 2003 after falling into the gap between the train and platform. Sitting with Christine during her recovery and watching the care she received from doctors and nurses convinced Yi that her true calling was to be a doctor. Now here she was, coming full circle in a sense, tearfully admitting that the opportunity to save lives is a gratifying and humbling experience.

Meanwhile, at University Hospital, ER doctor Hugo Razo thrives on the pressure that surrounds him while managing to stay calm and rational and get the job done. Part of his motivation for becoming a doctor was society’s low expectations of him. He said, “I was always told I’m not going to amount to anything. Just look at the town where I came from. Like pretty much every other Latin teenager, no one expected much. The most people expected of me was to work at McDonald’s or something of that nature. It’s almost like I wanted to show all those people that they were wrong.”

Razo relishes his ability to make a genuine difference in patients’ lives, and could easily be a role model for inner city youth who want to better themselves and become personally and professionally successful.

It’s interesting that Yi and Razo and many of the other featured medical professionals were inspired to pursue their careers after some kind of struggle or suffering in their lives. In a sense, their pain became redemptive because they used it to build lives of service to others in need.

It’s not just the doctors and nurses who are the show’s heroes, though; sometimes it’s the patients themselves. That was the case with a man brought into the Newark ER with his fiancee. During a home invasion, he endured a gun to the head and severe beating in order to save her from being raped and killed. Thankfully, they both survived with minimal injuries and – as the camera unobtrusively observes – an even stronger love forged during the most horrific of experiences.

A 19 Year Old’s Dying Heart

Emotions run deep for the patients and their families too, as seen in the case of Chris Molnar, a 19-year-old who went through basic training as a Marine only to come home on leave and suffer a stroke. Doctors discovered that Chris suffers from a severe cardiac disease that enlarged his heart to five times its normal size. As a stopgap measure, they surgically implanted a pump that would help his heart function, but recovery was so uncertain that doctors and the hospital chaplain told Molnar’s parents and sisters to prepare themselves for his passing.

Though Chris survived that incident, he needs a heart transplant in order to live. The Molnars open their home and their lives to “NY Med’s” crew to share their journey with viewers. At times, it brings humor, like when Chris’s younger sister says he won’t let her date until she’s 30. At other times, the conflicting emotions of this sad predicament rise to the surface, such as when Chris’s mom says, “It’s an unnatural way to live. The bottom line is that somebody else has to die so that he can live, and it feels a little selfish.”

Still, the call comes that a heart has become available for Chris, and we get to see both the surgery itself and the family’s excruciating wait for news in a situation whose outcome is far from certain. Watching the Molnars pull together during this time offers a reminder that love becomes more deep and intense when you’re threatened with its loss. And since every parent’s greatest fear is the loss of their child, the love here is palpable.

Nurses Not Immune to Troubles

While “NY Med” contains its share of heavy moments, the pacing and editing wisely make room for matters that aren’t about life or death, moments that are actually funny, like the macho patient who turns into a scared little boy when nurse Marina Dedivanovic tries to take his blood.

Dedivanovic is part of a trio or nurses – along with Katie Duke and Diana Costine – who we got to know in season one – and they’re about as close to regulars as this show has. With their inherent professionalism, compassion, feistiness, and humor, they put a positive face on the nursing profession which doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. Yet even they are not immune from troubles.

In episode one, Duke was fired for posting a picture on social media of an empty exam room in which they’d just treated a patient. Though she admitted it was a mistake, the punishment seemed to be overkill, especially in light of her seven years of service at the hospital (Duke shares her side of the story here).

And the series trailer reveals that in an upcoming episode, Costine’s lifelong and life-threatening heart problem, which inspired her to go into nursing, will rear its head once again, leading her to undergo surgery. Will Dedivanovic escape this season unscathed? I guess we’ll have to watch and see.

Love, Service, Gratitude

Though only two of eight episodes have aired, season two of “NY Med” is shaping up to be riveting television with heart-pounding moments that can rival “24.” In highlighting the stories of doctors and nurses who rise to their best when their patients are feeling their worst, it reminds viewers how precarious life can be – and why we should live it to the fullest.

But it doesn’t promote that idea of living life to the fullest in a shallow, self-aggrandizing sense. Instead, it comes down to simple ideals like love, service, and gratitude: show love to family, friends, and strangers; seek fulfillment in helping others; be grateful for all your blessings; use the pain in your life to make you a better, more compassionate person.

If you’re looking for a prescription to heal your spirit from some of the hopelessness and darkness in the world today, “NY Med” will do the job.

(NY Med airs Thursdays at 10pmEastern/9pm Central through August 14, 2014. Watch episode two on Hulu.)

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