Another post-call morning

The sky is clear as I look out the windows on the 10th floor of the hospital this Sunday morning. Another call day is gone by, and I got a few hours’ sleep so I can’t complain.

I was called early in the morning (~4:30) for a few issues in the ICU, so after taking care of those, I decided I should go ahead and round and write my notes. Since I’m finished with my work early, I hope to grab a bite of breakfast and make it to church after checking my patients out to my cross cover.

As we ate dinner last night, Clay and I talked about a few of our patients, and the sad situations we’ve seen. I know my friend DoctorJ has addressed this in his blog, but it’s weird how we learn to separate ourselves from suffering. It’s not that we’re callous or uncaring; rather I think it’s more out of ncessity. For instance, I could enjoy my chicken picatta, mashed potatoes, and broccoli while we discussed a patient who’d been placed on “comfort care,” which means all therapeutic medical intervention had been withdrawn, and the patient was simply being kept as comfortable as possible while she died. And this is one of many. There’s the 20-something-year-old girl with a history of physical abuse, rape, and substance abuse who killed her brain with insulin. There’s the 35-year-old man with metastatic pancreatic cancer I met late one night in the ICU as I was covering overnight. He has a wife and young children. And there’s the 45-year-old East African man I recently admitted with aggressive stomach cancer…his family is praying for a miracle.

I’m reminded of my stroke patient early in July. After turning back and seeing her one last time after I’d written the orders to discontinue her feeding tube, I cried as I left the hospital. It can be wearing to be around so much suffering, and yet it’s a blessing. I am paid to relieve pain and suffering, to be a healer, which is an amazing privilege. And I’ll use all God has given me to do just that.

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