08 August 2009

on call

so i'm on call. i have been since 7am this morning. it's been a pretty good day - pretty constant flow of stuff to do and patients to see. i'm actually in the call room right now, about to hop in bed to catch a few Zzzs in case i have to get up in a few hours to see a patient emergently.

i really enjoy being on call. i don't love being away from home and henry, and it can be boring at times, but today i've had some excellent one-on-one teaching from my resident. i've seen patients by myself at the VA hospital and university emergency department. i've done neuro exams while the neuro resident is watching and ready to critique me (! anxiety provoking at first, getting much better at this). i've read CTs, MRIs and chest x-rays.

i think what struck me most today was the emotional rollercoaster i can be on if i let myself. when i first got here at 7, i saw one of my regular patients who is recovering from a stroke. he looked the best i'd ever seen him: when i walked into his room he declared "i want ice cream." i winked and grinned. "only if you cooperate with your physical therapy today!" shortly afterwards, i rounded with my attending physician and watched as all support was withdrawn from a young man who came in last night with a stroke that left him brain dead. although i never knew him, it was incredibly difficult to watch him be withdrawn from life support, struggle to breathe, and pass on.

in a matter of a few hours i went from practically giddy to relatively devastated. every new patient allows me to see life for what it is: unexpected joy and incomprehensible sorrow. i always knew i was supposed to be a doctor to take care of people; i never knew it would take care of me back. what a blessing it is to truly live and experience life, both at its best and its worst.

i went back later to see my ice cream-requesting patient and found him sleeping peacefully with three empty cups of ice cream on his bed tray. he heard me walk in and looked at me very seriously. "doctor? i have a question." i braced myself. "can you get me a popsicle? the ice cream was good, but i need a popsicle."

after all, we're only human
always fighting what we're feeling
hurt instead of healing
after all we're only human
is there any other reason
why we stay instead of leaving?
after all
.jon mclaughlin.

1 comment:

Mark and April Skinner said...

"every new patient allows me to see life for what it is: unexpected joy and incomprehensible sorrow."

Amen to that. I know exactly how you feel. And, having done what I do for a couple years now, I think I can say that it's a good thing to feel that, and to sometimes let yourself be on an emotional rollercoaster, because that way you don't forget how to feel. (Which, unfortunately, can be fairly easy to do after a while...)