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Feb 19, 2012

Morning Drama

I had to go in to work this morning to round and, while I was glad to have the rest of the day off, it is still unhappy to wake up before dawn, pry yourself out of your warm bed, and go bother people who also don't want to be awake. This particular morning was even harder to walk out the door, as the kids woke up just as I was getting ready to leave, making my departure even more annoying and traumatic for everyone. So I rushed to work, rounded as fast as possible, and jet out of the hospital. I will admit to being less than my usual Joy of Work self, and I probably didn't give people the emotional connection the deserve. Regardless, people were cared for and I was heading out.

I rounded a turn in the hall near the main entrance and was thinking about something completely mundane, like how I wish I'd grabbed a thicker coat or planning what to have for breakfast, when I found myself walking directly between two people in a heated conversation. A man and a woman, each of them crying, talking to each other 25 feet apart.

We can still make it work! It's never too late!

It is too late! I can't go back to the way it was! I just can't! But I still love you so much!

Then what is the problem? I can't understand what's going on with us! Please, come back to me!

Oh, you know it can't be! (sob sob) It just can't!

I discovered that I had stopped, right in the middle of them, and was watching the exchange like a tennis match. And I wasn't the only one - several other people, employees, patients, random strangers - all entranced by this Hospital Soap Opera scene playing for us, the couple themselves completely oblivious to the audience. Finally, the two lovers separated, never coming any closer to each other than they had been at the start, and the crowd looked at each other. I wanted to applaud, another woman dabbed a tissue at her eye. Everyone was a little amused and touched and bewildered by the whole thing.

I personally don't think a hospital hallway is the place to break up, but I have also been in relationships and situations where that ugly, messy, raw emotional stuff just spills out and there isn't any way to stop it. Once, I had a horrible fight with my sister over the phone while I was Christmas shopping in a fancy mall. I was crying and cursing and it was completely inappropriate for public viewing and I vaguely remember people staring at me but, again, that's where it happened and there was no stopping it once it got going.

 I felt guilty for blowing off my patients this morning. Stopping to watch the personal drama of two people reminded me of my own patients upstairs, having just added to or started their families, and of their stories unfolding in front of me. I was too distracted to try to connect with them this morning, sit with them and admire their babies, listen to their concerns, allay their fears. Sure, they were fine, and I heard the "important" things, like that they hadn't developed a fever or bleeding or anything bad. But I didn't listen to how their nights went, how their babies are today, how they're adjusting to this new family.

I know that I can't be everything for everyone, and that no one blames me for trying to get home to my family on my day off. But that's part of being a doctor: expecting yourself to always be a doctor to your patients, whatever that means to you. Today, I didn't do so well. I'll do better tomorrow. And try to be even better the next day.

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