A commenter wrote:
Congrats on your transatlantic heroism! I did get a funny feeling reading the story though. I know it must be annoying to be singled out, especially amid the stresses of traveling. And as a non-doctor of course I can only imagine what it's like facing these situations. And I know that with a story like this where you practically need a triage center on the plane, grumbles about bad luck and inconvenience may be exaggerated for stylistic effect. Nevertheless, I can't help but be bothered by the cavalier tone. Put yourself in the shoes of the panicked woman, or the guy too short of breath to speak, and think about how you'd feel if possibly the only person on the plane who can help you is using iPod headphones to drown you out... Yeah, it must suck to be constantly "on call," but doesn't it kind of go with the territory? I always thought people wanted to become doctors because they were passionate about helping people.
Am I cavalier? Well, the title of this blog is "Movin' meat." so I guess the answer to that has got to be "yes." There are two sides of every medical interaction, and from the consumer side, it *always* sucks, whether you are seeing me in the ER or on an airplane or elsewhere. And from the professional side, it's always kind of routine (though less so over the Atlantic Ocean). But every day, I care for people who are afraid, in pain, etc. It's just not possible for me to give each of those people my full emotional empathy. I've got the compassionate mien down, so you could never tell, but inside my personal emotional state is (usually) a million miles away. Obviously, as any reader of this blog knows, some cases affect me more than others. An emotional distance between the doctor and the patient is almost necessary as a defense mechanism, a survival trait for the doctor.
To those who see behind the veil: the family member who stops and listens at the nurses' station, non-medical persons who read this blog, etc, it can be more than a little disconcerting to see the emotional disconnect. It's hard to understand how a doctor can walk out of a room with a dying patient and grieving family, and seamlessly switch gears into laughing and talking about baseball. Until you have done it, it's hard to really wrap your brain around the fact that, to us, "It's just a job." Not that we don't care about it, not that it isn't important, but you don't bring your work home with you. So to speak.
I'm reminded of one time I was sewing up a laceration on a teenage girl's arm. She was a bit weepy and anxious, and she *hated* the anesthetic injection. As I worked, we chatted, and she said that she had wanted to go into medicine, but she didn't think she could handle it. "I don't understand how you can do this," she said, "Isn't it hard?" I thought for a moment and said, "No, not really. It isn't my arm."
As to "Next time," well, last time I swore that I wouldn't answer the call, but I did. Maybe I will suck it up again. Maybe I'll follow the advice of a partner who confided that as soon as he gets on the plane he has a few drinks so he *can't* answer the call -- now that is cynical! Who knows?
08 June 2006
A commenter wrote:
Posted by shadowfax at 6:18 AM