Memories cubed

I’m surrounded. Our kitchen table is strewn with piles of my old journals, many years’ worth of writing workshop printouts, and copies of every academic literary magazine that ever published my stuff. It’s a lot of my old writing, including some fairly well-developed stories and essays, but mostly it’s barely legible scrawled notes.

I’m writing a book series exploring medical culture, and as such, I’m immersed in my own memories from medical training. This is the main reason I’m only writing one blog post a month, and why these tend to be “reprise” posts from years past. Most of my creative energy is going into this three-edition creative endeavor, and I apologize for the dearth of fresh content.

So that’s why I’m going through my blog archives right now. I was going to pick a medically relevant Thanksgiving post from the past, tack it up and call it a day. But this funny thing happened: As I’m reading my November 26 post from exactly ten years ago, I’m noticing that it also begins with me explaining why I’m not posting enough, and apologizing. Hmmm.

And as I read on– I’m remembering that 2012 Thanksgiving holiday call weekend, and the patient who was in the respiratory step-down unit and even the medical details I was documenting in my notes that I didn’t mention in that post. I remember explaining Takotsubo cardiomyopathy to the distraught family, trying to set balanced expectations, knowing that my patient had every negative prognostic factor and was at high risk for a bad outcome. Hell, I even remember the spot in front of the nurses’ station where we were all standing, the dimmed lighting and dingy linoleum floor. Then my mind jumps beyond that, to seeing that very patient in my clinic over the years, and how we sometimes referred to their “temporarily broken heart” episode, but mostly didn’t even bring it up, since it wasn’t an issue anymore and there were so many other more important things to discuss.

I keep reading, and I’m realizing that the rest of that 2012 post happens to be a reflection about an annoying medical happening from ten years before that. Then I recall THAT episode, and how frustrating it was to hear about my male colleague being coddled by the nurses, one episode of many similar, and several more come to mind right off the bat… Like when a male resident came down with Norovirus while on an overnight shift, and the unit nurses fussed over him and hooked him up to an IV bag in the call room, saving all their questions for morning so he could rest. Meantime when it was my turn, I ended up holed up in the staff bathroom, huddled shivering on the nasty floor, answering pages between explosive episodes. I don’t recall anyone giving a damn.

Ah, memories jarring more memories, reflections spawning more reflections. So much to write about!

Meantime, here is my Thanksgiving weekend on call post from 2012. Enjoy!


(Originally posted November 26, 2012)

I’ve had alot of guilt over not posting for the past 2 weeks.

I haven’t had any time for posting for the last 2 weeks!

But I often thought about what to write: I was on call for our practice the week leading up to and then including Thanksgiving, and there were many blog-worthy moments. I wanted to share my thoughts on major holidays in the Hospital, to describe that eerie quiet-hospital feeling, when there is practically nobody around, the office is dark and spooky, and there is bad-for-you-food in all the nurses’ stations, and all the families are there visiting and want to talk, and all I want to do is get the work done and go home to my kids and turkey.

Then, as I was writing notes in the respiratory step-down unit, the beeping and buzzing and alarming of all the vents jolted me into a PTSD moment, remembering residency on-call, those now-illegal 36-hour long ICU shifts, feeling so tired and weary and beaten down as to be nauseated for much of it… I remembered when one of my male colleagues pulled a 36 hour shift in the Neonatal ICU, and the nurses went to the local CVS and bought him underwear. There was such a female nurse/ male doctor cutesie friendly vibe where I trained… and the opposite also, the female nurse/ female doctor cattiness/ nastiness that I never understood, and always bit me in the ass.  That memory annoyed me still, over 10 years later. I am thankful that here, now, in 2012, there has been a strong emphasis on teamwork, and I rarely get a nasty catty vibe from any nurse. I don’t know if that’s a sign of the times, the fact that I’m in a better hospital system, or the fact that I’m an attending. But I like it.

I also wanted to write about funny on-call phone calls: though I laugh a bit, I’d rather get a completely unnecessary call and be able to reassure a patient, then get a real call about something serious. I wanted to write about on-call screwups: one more reason to want to drop inpatient coverage.

And it may have been my last inpatient coverage– as we transition to using a hospitalist service. And I’m thankful for that also!

Now, I have to get back to work, and alot of my thoughts will go unblogged… but here is, in a spare bit of time, 10 minutes of random rambling about being on call.

2 thoughts on “Memories cubed”

  • Thirty minutes ago I put a sticky note up at eye height on the wall above my kitchen sink:
    Do Not Get Distracted By That Shiny Object. Five minutes later I took it down to add in smaller text: Except to put it away.
    That is my mantra for today.
    From a sister who would never let you sit on the floor of the bathroom alone and miserable.
    Enjoy the sunshine today!

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