\o7 Since the fifth grade, when he first saw the "Emergency" television series, Tabo Saito knew he wanted to be a doctor. Everything in the life of the 21-year-old biochemistry major at UC San Diego has been geared toward that goal. In addition to his full load at school, Saito volunteers from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturdays in the emergency room at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. Saito has been at Scripps two years, observing all forms of ER techniques and assisting the nurses. Scripps is the third hospital he has worked at since he was 15. Saito said he learned about how to set priorities when he became a Boy Scout at age 12. He credits the Scout principles with keeping him on the right track. Times staff writer Caroline Lemke interviewed Saito at Scripps, and Kenneth K. Lam photographed him.
My main job is patient care. I want to be there to support the patient because it may be his or her first time at the hospital, and they're pretty frightened. So I want to make them as much at home as possible. I want to sit down and talk with them, find out a little bit about them and make them feel comfortable. Aside from that, I'm making beds and helping out the nurses as much as I can.
Saturday nights are fortunate for me because they're so busy. But, then again, if you look at it from a different point, from my age, I'm 21 and I should be going out to the bars and having a lot of fun. But I did all that in high school. I felt like, I think, I did a little too much. So I sat down and asked myself, "Where is my life going to go? I have to get serious now or forget it."
I was just like a normal teen-ager. I raced, too, and have been on motorcycles without helmets. But here at the hospital, seeing the actual family suffering or seeing such a young life being wasted because of something careless or because of a drunk-driving incident, it just doesn't go over well.
I'd have to say the hospital has matured me a lot. You see a lot of kids racing around the city, running around on motorcycles with no helmets, no shoes. I see the outcome of this carelessness, and it makes me realize what's going on. I think in that respect the hospital matured me because I think about it every time I do something or every time I'm about to do something.
The most dramatic experience was my first night here. I had never experienced a trauma before. I had never seen death before. We had a trauma victim who came in from I don't remember where, but it was a gunshot wound. Thoughts were running through my head: "How am I going to take this? Am I going to faint? How am I going to feel? Is this really what I want to do?"
I sat there and watched the patient come by and go into the trauma room. They activated the trauma team, and this swarm of physicians and medical aides came in and they worked like clockwork, like a team. They were trying to stabilize the patient because he had been shot in the head and a few other places.
I didn't take it so bad. I didn't get sick or anything, or feel like leaving. I stayed there. I wanted to learn. It was interesting. At that point, I felt that none of the gore to it really bothered me. I took it from the standpoint, "Something is seriously wrong here. Let's do something about it." When you think that way, regardless of how bad the injury is, it makes it go by a little bit better.
Things that upset me the most are young kids who waste their life needlessly or get their life wasted needlessly, because I feel they have a whole future ahead of them, and it's being taken away right here at this spot. I've seen death many times now. When you're sitting there watching someone who still has life in him just turn over, pass on, it's different because you are sitting there and watching it happen. It's not like television.