Good afternoon, ma’am. Wow, what a contagious smile you have. I hear that you are here because of a stuffy nose? They said that you tried Claritin and that did not help. You feel congested, and it’s hard to blow anything out? And no fevers, no cough, no difficulty breathing or any wheezing?
“What part of what I just said did you not understand?” The fellow patronizingly chastised me in front of the entire medical team. Her tone and body language felt demeaning, almost as if she was more intent on embarrassing me than caring for the patient.
Back in that operating room, I am dutifully holding onto the basin just beyond and under the table edge. What I see is what the mother would never wish to see; being a part of her care, we accept that burden for her, and in a much different way that she ever could from her intimate connection with it. It is our service to her, to alleviate that pain, to be an open support to her health and well-being. It is an acceptable cost, but a cost all the same.
The waves beat; / a cold, relentless torrent. / You stand against them / taking the impact
The unexpected suicide of a graduate of our surgical residency program — nearly seven years ago — still reverberates off the walls of Stanford Hospital. While he didn’t end his life on the premises (that happened during fellowship in another city), the effects of his tragic death subdue the residency to this day
Humor… / it’s what saves me / keeps me from dying inside
“Goddamn doctors,” says a voice down the hall, slightly muffled through the curtain of the exam room where I lay. “What now?” comes another voice and they both grow louder, batting back and forth gripes. “They make the worst damn patients, know exactly what’s wrong with them and exactly what to do and you’re not doing it quick enough.”
Several months ago, I was asked by an attending about my future plans. “So I can pimp you,” he said. I told him that I am pursuing further training in addiction medicine. “Isn’t that just for psychiatrists?”
“You need to just take care of yourself” — a phrase I’ve heard often over the past few years. What does this even mean? I thought it was silly and laughable.
Lunch hour on a Thursday
in the skies above
Prior to starting medical school, I meditated for an hour every morning. There is a Zen proverb that goes something like this: “If you don’t have time to meditate for an hour everyday, you should meditate for two hours.”
It’s been about three years since Jacob committed suicide. In the high turnover microcosm of general surgery residency, there aren’t many who remember him.