Saturday, December 20, 2008

Waiting as the VA drains away my soul

It's a beautiful December Saturday in southern California. We've had some funny weather lately (for instance...I've had to use my defrost to get the ice off of my car's windshield more than once this week). It's been raining, cold and nasty for the better part of the week, but somehow the sun managed to poke out from the clouds and life warmed up into the 60's today. It's actually the kind of day that makes you feel like going out and doing things -like errands-because an umbrella is not a necessity and dirty pant-hems are not a foregone conclusion. Which is, friends, EXACTLY why I am spending my entire day sitting in the VA hospital doing not much of anything at all except taking inane quizzes on the internet that tell me "What Breed of Cat" I am, or "What Kind of Wine" I should try. (By the way, quiz guru - I am most certainly NOT as nasty as most Siamese kitties, nor do I think that chardonnay is the way to go. Rethink your advice.) It's the last day of my ICU rotation, and had it not been for one unfortunate fact, I would have been skipping merrily out of the hospital doors at 11:00am this morning, ready to enjoy my two solid weeks of Christmas vacation. The unfortunate fact: my ICU team senior resident is the on-call resident today. This means that while he will be here all night...the rest of the team will be here all day to help him should he get barraged with admissions from the ER. I am hesitant to type these next few words, lest I jinx pager has not gone off. Not a peep, not a beep, not a chirp. Not that I really have much to look forward to if I went home: while my Christmas shopping is done, my house could be declared a national disaster area. {Come to think of it, maybe I SHOULD have it declared as such...then maybe FEMA would help me out, too.} There are dishes to do, floors that are crying out to be vaccuumed, a pile of laundry that smells rather badly, and a million other things to do before Chris and I set out for Phoenix on Tuesday. So the unfortunate reality is that even if I were not tied to a chair in the VA doing not much of anything, I'd probably just be glued to the sofa at home doing not much of anything there, either. *Sigh* But still, I wish, I wish, I wish...that I were skipping happily through the doors on the way to Christmas vacation, instead of rambling aimlessly on the inter web in a feeble attempt to bide my time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Open Letter

Dear Patient:

I think we need to set a few things straight. We probably should have set things to right when I admitted you; it was obviously an oversight on my part, but don't fret too much - it won't happen again.

I am very sorry that you are sick. Truly, I am. I am very sorry that you are stuck in the ICU when it is so near to Christmas. I understand that you are upset, probably for a variety of reasons. Undoubtedly, some of these reasons have to do with me.

I am sorry that you've been kept up by the nursing staff most of the night so that you could get the medications you need so that you can eventually go home again healthier than you are now. I am sorry that the IV machine that carefully keeps you hydrated ran out of steam and played the "I'm So Empty, Come and Fix Me" symphony last night. I am equally sorry that I had to be the one to wake you at 5:00am (after you'd finally fallen asleep) just to ask you inane questions about your pain/bowels/fever/vomiting/etc.

I know that you are tired of the vampire-ish phlebotomists that attack you with needles every few hours. I know that hospital food is about as far away from edible as it can get. I'm terribly sorry that I need to listen to your heart and lungs in the middle of your morning coffee-break. I realize that you are angry, depressed, scared, and feeling sorry for yourself.

But before you take all of your frustrations out on me:

I'll tell you a little secret here, one that I'll just bet you haven't considered. So chew on this, dear patient: I know that you don't want to be here, but I don't want to be here, either. At 5:00am, I'd MUCH rather be tucked up in my nice warm bed in my nice warm home. But alas, I rise out of bed and dress, stumbling into the hospital from the cold, dark December dawn just to make sure that you are alright. Make no mistakes...I do this for your health, not mine.

I don't particularly appreciate your abrupt dismissal in the middle of my questions. Maybe you're tired of talking to me...but trust me, I am very tired of asking you about your bowel/bladder/chest pain/breathing/vomiting ad nauseum every single day. And by the way, it's not just you I'm "annoying the hell out of" in the mornings; it's generally 4 other patients in addition to you. I don't really want to contemplate your bowel habits; I need to know about them before bigger problems arise to spoil your holidays.

I don't particularly enjoy being cursed at or smacked as I attempt to listen to your heart through my stethescope. That goes for the groping, too. Just because I have breasts doesn't mean that it's open season while I'm bending down, otherwise occupied. Perhaps my timing is not the best, but please put down your cup of coffee and take a couple of deep breaths for me so that I can make sure that you don't have a developing pneumonia. When I "bother you," I actually do have my's not for kicks and grins.

Even though this shouldn't be news to you - YOU ARE IN A HOSPITAL, NOT A HOTEL. I'M YOUR DOCTOR, NOT YOUR SECRETARY. I'm not here to care about your schedule or the fact that you think your breakfast eggs are too soggy and undersalted. It's tough luck that the accommodations aren't quite what you're used to getting when you stay at the Ritz. I'm here to help get you well enough to enjoy your Christmas holidays at home. I don't do any of these things for personal pleasure, trust me. I do them because my job is to take care of you.

You came to me for help, so let me help you. I don't ask for much from you; as Aretha says, "All I'm asking for is a little respect!"

Respect me. Respect my time.