Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Scotsman

I don't know how coherent this post will be since I was on call yesterday and my wife is on a trip up north just for the ladies paid for by her boss (The Ministry for Environmental Protection). So it's just me and the kids. Well, I do have the help of the most fantastic babysitter ever invented, ever! She is wonderful with the children and our youngest, (all of 2.5 yrs of age) is completely smitten with her. And best of all, she has a black belt in karate. Anyway I'm very tired, but still feel the need to write.

The month of Elul, the last month of the year, is traditionally, a month of reflection. This year, Elul happens to coincide perfectly with the Gregorian month of September. The last day of September is Rosh Hashannah, the New Year. After which, on the 1st of October, I will begin my job in Tel Aviv. It is so coincidental that it's eerie.

There is a common practice in academic hospitals to conduct a journal club. This is where doctors present the latest professional literature to their colleagues so that everyone keeps up to date. In our department, it is called (in Hebrew): Pinat hashekef. Which, roughly translated, is "The Overhead Slide Corner". That makes no sense whatsoever. It actually sounds like a really tricky baseball pitch. (Maybe I'll invent that some day.) Remember towards the end of the previous millenium, before Powerpoint? We used to prepare presentations on plastic pages to be projected by an overhead projector onto a screen. These were generally handwritten! So that's where the name came from. Now, of course, we use powerpoint presentations, but the name stuck.

This Sunday, I'll be presenting my very last pinat hashekef ever in Soroka MC. I decided to depart from the normal procedure and offer a reflective presentation of my observations over the past 19(!) years. Most of it will be humourous (I do have a reputation to maintain). It will be mostly inside jokes and I'll be making jabs at some of the staff.

But I will also present some of the wisdom I've accumulated over the years and will thank my mentors, one of whom I will mention here:

Dr. Alan Fisher z"l passed away suddenly several years ago. He was found slumped over a workbench in his workshop, he was an amateur carpenter. Dr. Fisher came from Scotland in the 1970's and was a pioneer in establishing the ICU in Soroka. He also was involved in medical ethics, surely a novel field at the time. True to the stereotype, he was thrifty and drove the same automobile for 30 years, well, actually, to save money he rode a bicycle to work. His work ethic was legendary and he kept us residents on our toes. He also had a fantastic sense of humour. Being the only other English speaker in the department, I was privileged to hear him tell jokes in a Scottish accent that couldn't possibly be translated into Hebrew. There was only one minor problem. His timing was terrible and he ruined most of the jokes. Nonetheless, I laughed, may I be forgiven, because of that fabulous Scottish accent. Truth be told, he was the source of much of my early material. I was able to translate some of the jokes into Hebrew, often to a raucous reception. From what I've written here, one might get the impression that I spend most of my time engaged in jocularity. There are situations in medicine that are often pregnant with tension, especially when the staff is tired and working hard in the middle of the night. Sometimes, just the right turn of phrase diffuses such a situation. And many times, a patient, anxious to the point of tears facing emergency surgery, will relax after a kind word, a smile and yes, even a lousy pun helps.

Dr. Fisher taught me many things. He taught me anesthesiology and critical care. He taught me about diligence and attention to detail. But most of all, he taught me to be a human and humane in inhuman situations.


Dragonfly said...

What better teacher could there be?

rickismom said...

My son-in-law is a volunteer for "Zaka". (To those who don't know, this is the organization that collects body parts after terrorist attacks and the like.) They are very serious at such times, and often afterwards, But every once in a while they cope with humor. (Later, not at the time of an attack.) It is a powerfull tool, and sometimes a needed one. But, sometimes, as a nurse, I wonder if families who see someone laughing don't think we're crazy. (Actually, maybe we are.....)

concernedjewgirl said...

I happen to work in an environment that has ridiculous stress, I’m a chemist.
The way we make it through the day is with humor, laughter and trying so hard not to think about the pressure we are all under. Not exactly the same pressure you are talking about, but within reason for corporate America.

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