Monday, July 16, 2007
My black box
"This pager has fallen before in the toilet seat, but I picked it up. Take care of it!"
I said that as I was handling my pager to the new intern who was starting her residency next week.
She looked with the utmost digust at me, and a little bit of disbelief.
Imagine yourself exhausted, tired and hungry, you've been at work since 6 in the morning and now it's 8 pm, despite all of that you still have to stay at work till next day, probably for the next 16 hours you'll be stuck there, not just signing papers but actually trying your best to save lives because you're the only person in the hopsital supposed to do so.
That's not just one bad day I had, that was my lifestyle for three years where I had more than 150 nights similar to the ones above. My only companion during these nights was my pager, always hanging there with me. If any patient is coming to the hospital, to the ICU, on a breathing machine or with ten medications pouring in drips into his body, I was the assigned person to take care of him. If any patient already in the hospital gets sicker, I was supposed to run there to check on him and treat him ASAP.
The only was I could be contacted was through my pager. If something wrong happened to my pager some patients can really be hurt that night. I was in the bathroom, and believe me sometimes you don't have time to rush to bathroom, after I was done and thank God after flushing the toilet my pager slipped through my pocket into the very deep waters of the toilet seat, so deep that I could barely see where it was.
If it was a 500-dollar cell phone I would have left it there, even if it was my apartment key or a 100-dollar bill I would let it go, but this was my pager. I didn't give it a second of thought, I closed my eyes and ran my hand deep in the toilet to pick up the damn pager or as we call it the bitch box, because whoever carries that pager is nicknamed the bitch, just reflecting how s/he was being treated. I could have called Tech support in the hospital and they could have given me a new pager in a couple of hours, but a lot of patients can get ill or even die in those 2 hours, so I had to pick it up.
Many times I felt like grabbing my pager and smashing it into the pinkish wall at the nurses station. Many times I would find myself talking to the pager and calling it names, and this damn pager has been the main "character" in at least ten of my dreams. That's not only me, that's the experience of tens of thousands of doctors doing their residency in the US and probably everywhere else.
Earlier in July I handled my bitch box to this new intern who doesn't have a full idea how can this pager become a part of her family. I got a new pager from the new department I will be working at.
But nothing is like that good old pager. It's the only witness to the nights I spent in the hospital, the very stressful times when three patients start crashing in different parts of the hospital, or when a nurse calls saying "this patient was doing great this morning but his hear rate is dropping and he's not waking up".
With the extreme relief I had upon finishing my residency and getting rid of that pager, I felt a bit sad to see someone else carrying those loads of memories, having the name of someone else placed on my mailbox, or having the new code to my old call room changed. I really miss being the bitch.
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