Sunday, November 30, 2008

Post-Call Exhilaration

"I can see clearly now the rain has gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sun-shiny day."


I love post-call Mondays. After a week of being slave to the pager, up nights answering the phone at all hours (and sometimes, on an unlucky night, having to go in for a few hours) and working through the weekend. Here I am on Sunday night, writing in anticipatory pleasure and bliss, cheesy songs rolling around in my head. I am worried I will get busy tomorrow, and miss the opportunity. So here is my tribute, to a lovely tomorrow.


I have a random piano, right outside my doorway. Bait for the occasional wandering, lost hospital employee adept at playing chopsticks or toddler of a mother waiting up front for a blood draw. Luckily, it usually only attracts 5-10 minutes of attention. Rarely, a gifted individual will pick an opportune moment (for me, of course, 'cause it's all about me -- when I am not busy) and I will enjoy the distraction. More often, I become highly annoyed. Take last week, for instance.


A dishwater-blond, pony tailed, scruffy-faced young man had been commissioned by an unknown person to tune the piano -- a first in my year-and-a-half residence adjacent to the instrument. I was not the only one frustrated -- even those with offices far away were complaining. It lasted well over an hour. I was trying to dictate a bone marrow (my partner once compared the dictation of this difficult specimen to giving birth -- much to my delight and utter agreement), but could not think. PLINK-PLINK-PLINK. A futile effort, the tuning of this piano, according to my next door neighbor who is the head of histology and is musical. He claimed the piano's constant exposure to wind will surely reverse this young man's effort within less than a week. This realization only further frazzled my already jangled nerves. I slammed my door twice in passive-aggressive anger, shot him two or three dirty looks as I was going across the hall, and finally gave up working and headed to the doctor's lounge for an afternoon coffee.


Tonight, on the eve of post-call Monday, I would invite the piano tuner back. To tune the piano all day long. I would smile at him frequently, encouraging the tuneless, pointless endeavor, and leave my door open. Nothing could disturb my good mood.


Once, someone told me a hilarious story about a woman who came into the ER while they were a resident. She seemed perfectly normal, but would suddenly shriek hysterically and convulse at random intervals. This was her chief complaint -- it had been happening for a couple of hours. She was interviewed by multiple trainees and attendings at length, to no avail, with continued interval shrieking and convulsing. Just when a psychiatric consult was being ordered, they finally saw something on her chest x-ray. She had an internal cardiac defibrillator, which had been implanted years ago and was not uncovered during the interview because she in no way linked her symptoms to this device. An internal cardiac defibrillator is surgically placed inside the body to shock the heart, just like the external paddles do on the television shows when a patient is in cardiac arrest. Internal defibrillators are put in when a patient has an uncontrollable heart arrythmia (unregulated beating that can trigger a heart attack) that is unpredictable and can be life-threatening. The device is supposed to only be activated during an irregular heartbeat. This woman's device had taken on a life of its own. Shock-shriek-convulse. Anti-psychotic drugs wouldn't touch that. She was immediately taken to the OR to have it removed.


There is this sound that is emitted from the histology lab about once a week or so. My partner down the hall swears it will be the death of her. It is best described as something akin to having a wayward internal cardiac defibrillator. The last time it went off, I was walking down the hall in a post-prandial somnolent state, in a futile attempt to revive my mind to make it through the afternoon. Suddenly, a long loud bullhorn did more toward that effort than if I had drank an entire pot of coffee in under five minutes. The sound reminds me of war drills in movies (I am embarrassingly thinking of that awful song in Grease 2 "Let's Do It For Our Country").


On post-call Monday, I could happily listen to this sound all day long, and sing along with it. Maybe add a little of Michelle Pfeiffer's rendition of "Cool Rider." Nothing could disturb my mood, on this glorious day. I told you I had cheesy songs rolling around in my head.


I have a now-part-time partner hitting me up for call. He is trying to support his music studio and large piano collection. I am awaiting a board decision in December, to determine if everyone is OK with the idea. I would gladly offload two or three weeks, in order to spend more time free from work. But I would definitely want to hang onto the other five or six. I have known few feelings in my life that compare to post-call Mondays. The best natural high on the planet. On a Monday, of all days.


Can't wait to have a glass of wine tomorrow night. Or two.

1 comment:

TAS said...

hilarious! that is random to have a piano outside of your door!