Just like many Americans, Teresa is a busy mother-of-two with a lot on her plate. When her four-year-old daughter fell ill with the flu, she was grateful that the Child Health Insurance Coverage (CHIP) their family relies on was recently reauthorized in January after four months of funding limbo.
Every job is different, but my experiences so far have drawn a very stark contrast to life as a resident. Now imagine, if you can: you stroll into work at whatever time you want. You round on your patients, write notes and leave. The rest of the day you give verbal orders over the phone while you hang out at the beach.
On night shift as an OB/GYN resident, you are not the same person you are when you’re among the living. It might be the long hours, the lack of sleep, or the darkness creeping in from the windows, but your temper is shorter, a pager sounding sends you over the edge, and simple nursing requests leave you sour.
On my first day of intern year, my attending corrected me in the hallway after I introduced myself to a patient by my first name. Following this, I sheepishly adopted a habit of saying “I’m Dr. Last Name” when sticking out my hand to greet a patient. In clinic, the nurses call me “Dr. Last Name,” even when saying a casual hello. When you refer to yourself as a doctor enough times, you start to believe it.
I first heard of Yayoi Kusama last year when her spellbinding exhibit came to the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Admittedly late to the international zeitgeist of Kusama, what initially drew me in was her story — a Japanese-American avant-garde artist who suffered from severe mental illness and successfully transformed that suffering into riveting artwork.
We coded the woman for forty minutes. She was forty-two, and had two kids, and was perfectly fine yesterday. Now she was gone, or going, her family in the lobby, and no one with any answers.
Another night in the emergency department in Pittsburgh’s Northside: busy, loud and chaotic. Paramedics pulled patients on stretchers and nurses pushed patients in wheelchairs through the corridors.
You are so soft / in voice and touch, / gliding through / the mines that are set in
I have always wanted to fly / but they wouldn’t let me / until I signed a contract / built on blood and tears
The grass grows tall outside my uncle’s home — he only cuts it when we play croquet. He blazes a crisscrossing trail through the sea of weeds to form a maze-like playing field. We push the white wickets into the earth, grab the mallets, and drop the balls to the ground.
“How are you doing this morning, Mr. Tracy? Sorry we’re running late. You’ve been waiting an hour.”
My last admission on my last call day of the year; only one patient stands between me and freedom. Freedom from the endless calls. Freedom from self-doubt and anxiety. Freedom.