The novelty of becoming an intern has worn off, the fresh sheen of excitement on each shift, the crampy belly pain as I walk into a critical patient’s room, the rush of adrenaline as I try to intervene on a patient slowly or rapidly dying in front of me. Get up, go work, and sleep. And not much more.
The first time I performed CPR — that is, literally kept a human alive by the very force of my hands — I was a third-year medical student. In other words, I was a book-smart twenty-something with two years of multiple-choice medical knowledge and a single four-hour course on ACLS under my belt.
You’ve seen Mr. H before. He comes in occasionally, usually at the end of the month, when his Social Security money runs out. He’s homeless, has no family to speak of, and his success in the community is tenuous, effectively measured by how many dollars of disability money he has saved.
The message, like all earth-shattering pronouncements, came with the softest of dings. As I was walking out from my house into the cold December air for a morning shift in the emergency department, my parents messaged me about the passing of my grandfather.
A specialty known for its brevity, emergency medicine can be appropriately summed up in haiku form. This is a collection of haikus about life in the emergency department.
“Hey hey! How are you?” someone calls out as I walk into the fluorescently lit emergency department I call home. “Living the dream,” is my habitual answer, and it’s only half facetious.
Everyone warns you that intern year is hard. It’s a year of little sleep, a rollercoaster of emotions both good and bad. Frustration and guilt in wanting to know everything now because everything you don’t know might be what matters for this patient, this time. And tremendous successes. Some of the things I did this year, I really can’t believe I was able to do. And survive.