The baby’s hat is bright orange, knit with vertical ribbing to mimic a pumpkin’s ridges, and topped with a tiny green stem. The cheeks below it bulge in perfect crescents. I turn to the mother to ask if she made the hat herself. Her eyes don’t leave the muted cartoons bouncing across the television screen as she mumbles, “The nurse or someone gave it to her.”
I distinctly remember my drive to the hospital for the first shift of my residency five years ago. It was a night shift, a fact that only added to my trepidation. My brain bounced frantically back and forth among a random assortment of topics of which I lacked, I felt, sufficient knowledge, but which knowledge I felt sure I would imminently be called upon to use in a critical situation.
“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.”