That’s how I think of myself tonight. Floating eerily through the darkened quiet halls of the hospital. Nothing more, perhaps, than a faint shimmer of light in the mirror; a nebulous presence; the flutter of patient-controlled-analgesia forms that flip through the lonely chart at the abandoned work-station; the ominous chill up the nurses’ spines as they sit in the curry-scented break room. For tonight, this very night, I begin my week of nights managing the Acute and Chronic Pain Services. I am here to relieve pain, to ease suffering, yea, to walk with dying souls to the very brink of death.
Well, okay, not that last part, but the rest is true. I show up at 1900 and take over the pagers from the day folks. My job is to see any new (and urgent) consults, to help with any issues that come up on the existing patients, to be a backup anesthesia resident for the regular OR call team, and to hope the pagers stay quiet. With any luck, I’ll be able to keep my sleep schedule at nights and catch up on some things during the days.
The evening has already been interesting. I met Dustin at Soundz to celebrate his last day of his old job in the scheduling department of the Manhattan School of Music. (Just because I met him at a bar, I should note, does not mean I drank beer.) Tomorrow he starts in the recording/sound engineering department.
Prior to Soundz, I had picked up some bread pudding from Sarabeth’s on 80th and Amsterdam to make good on a bet I’d lost to Dustin. (Sure enough, the still unfinished towers of the Cathedral of St John the Divine are not both shorter than the gabled roof. Why do I make this kind of bet? Why have I not learned? I still owe him a six-pack for a more recent wagered assertion that Baton Rouge is of course fewer than seventy miles from New Orleans. The actual figure is 81 miles, if mapqust.com can be trusted.)
The cathedral in an artist’s rendition. I’ve seen a few variations on the web.
The cathedral more or less how it looks today.
Things haven’t been too bad at the hospital. I wrote some patient-controlled analgesia orders for a patient. I also helped a fellow resident set up for and begin a cardiac case–a patient with a recent heart transplant and an aortic balloon pump was being brought back for a ruptured aorta. (I don’t see why these things can’t wait for morning.) This was pretty cool. He came from the ICU with a spaghetti bowl of IV fluid channels and about ten stopcocks in a row with various pressors and medications flowing in, and his beating heart was covered only by a thin layer of sterile dressing.
Not wanting to get too caught up in all that, I left at a convenient time and made my way back to the tranquility and unfettered internet access of the anesthesia library, my home base for the night.