Friday, November 23, 2007

scratch your head

Last January was the worst month ever. This time I won't tell you about this or that patient. This is mostly family related. January came in like a lion and wrought havoc. I'm talking about the flu. At any given point in time, 2 or more of the family were with flu. Not that we were any different from any other family, but add to this on-calls, well, you get the picture.
The first week was the worst. Our oldest and youngest had the flu. I, of course, left Saturday morning for the hospital. The expression on my wife's face was a combination of pathos, like a kid who had his Nintendo confiscated, and burning jealousy, that I was escaping the wrath of the Devil. I had never seen that expression before. It was unnerving.
The on-call was, as usual, action packed and exhausting. I came home expecting an empty house and a few hours of sleep. My bubble was about to burst. My wife was exhausted, the baby kept her up all night. I told her to get some sleep and I would watch over him for a couple of hours. After some rest, she took him to the pediatrician and I got some sleep. Our ordeal was far from over. Over the next 3 nights neither of us got any substantial rest. The baby demanded to be held in our arms. Furthermore, like a motion detector, he would sound the alarm if, heaven forbid, I tried to sit down.
My wife literally broke down in tears from exhaustion. I am used to being tired all the time, but this was much worse. The last time I felt this degree of fatigue was in basic training in the army when I went 5 days without sleep. I was the only one in the company to get leave for the weekend because during grenade practise I blew the target up into the air. My buddies accredited my grenade-throwing skills to my previous baseball training. (I didn't let on that I never played little league, I played soccer). I didn't really enjoy that weekend because I went to bed on Friday afternoon and woke up on Sunday morning. I vaguely recall getting up to go to the lavatory, but I'm not sure. I didn't eat and I didn't drink, and before I knew it, I was back on base.
OK, enough flashback. My wife bounced back rather quickly, but I didn't feel quite right for several weeks. I was suffering from vertigo and every morning I woke up with a headache, and I had no energy to do anything. And I was still doing on-calls. In the mean time, everyone had at least one more round of the flu in various forms. At this point, I started to imagine all sorts of really nasty diagnoses that might explain my symptoms. What, you say, go to a doctor? Are you nuts? Have a doctor poke and prod me and finally tell me that it's probably viral, yeah, right. I myself have used that line many times. I'd like to remind everyone of a sobering fact: Fifty percent of all doctors finished medical school in the bottom half of their class. With my luck, I'd be examined by the guy/gal who finished last. Do I sound paranoid?
Fear not dear readers, I've fully recovered, the wife and kids are all healthy. Not only that, but the baby started walking this week. Amazingly, he can even talk at the same time. Yep, he walks and talks simultaneously. I must add that both he does like a drunk, but I suspect that he will improve with practise. For those interested I've uploaded a fuzzy video of said achievment. He also managed to break my glasses and my cell phone in the same week. The glasses-breaking annoyed me. The cell phone much less. It gave me an excuse to upgrade to a much sexier phone that does almost everything. Though I can't figure out how to get it to change diapers. I admit it, I love my gadgets. So sue me.
To somehow connect all this to medicine, I relate the following phone conversation while on call. The clerk in the ER called to tell me that there was a trauma victim in the trauma room who fell from a height. She then told me that he was fully concious and that there was no need for the presence of an anesthesiologist in the trauma room. This conversation took place in the evening. I was reminded of a scene from the Three Stooges. (yes, yes, I am not ashamed to admit that I was addicted to the Stooges in my youth). Moe can't sleep so he wakes up the other stooges with a slap in the face. Groggily the other two ask what happened, and Moe says, "Wake up and go to sleep". I asked the clerk "If the victim had come in at 5 in the AM, would you have woken me up to tell me not to come down to the trauma room?"
She had no idea what I wanted from her.

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