I have a pretty damned good life, and I'm not a bit ashamed to admit it. I am healthy, I managed to find the most wonderful woman in the world before anyone else nabbed her, I have two beautiful, healthy children, and I happen to be in a profession that allows me to live a very comfortable lifestyle. I seem to have no reason or right to complain about anything. Ever.
But, I still do. Yes sometimes events around me stack up so that it seems the world is conspiring against me, and at times like these I begin to feel sorry for myself like a big baby. I whine and complain and moan and groan with no legitimate reason to do so. Fortunately these times are rare, so my family and colleagues don't have to suffer my maudlin, melancholy, moody self very often (huzzah for synonymous alliteration!). Plus, it seems that every time I find myself in such a mood, something eventually happens that metaphorically grabs me by the ears and screams in my face, "SNAP THE HELL OUT OF IT, YOU FUCKING IDIOT!"
Just such a thing happened again a few days ago.
As I was on call for general surgery, I went through my entire day seeing patients without a single call from the emergency department/A&E. Not a gall bladder, not a bowel obstruction, not even a perirectal abscess. Nothing. But the Call Gods evidently wanted to have some nasty fun with me, because just as I was about to sit down to read my son a bedtime story, the call came.
Appendicitis. Of course. Goddammit, why? Why couldn't they call me at noon? Why must I miss ANOTHER bedtime? My blood was boiling, my blood pressure was rising, and I started bitching to myself, thinking of an alternative career I could pick up. I could be a car salesman or a window washer or a chef or anything else god damn it!
Then I took a deep breath. Calm down, stupid. It could be worse. Much worse.
I went to the hospital to see the patient, who had a relatively simple and early case of appendicitis. Her operation should take me no more than 15 minutes, so I immediately called the operating theatre. I was perfunctorily told that there were several scheduled cases from the daytime still pending, and that one of the orthopaedic surgeons had an emergency open fracture to do. I would have to wait until he was done, which meant waiting another 5 to 6 hours. At least.
SHIT. Moan, moan, moan. Well, at least I would get to read that story to my son.
I went home, read my son his story (Charlotte's Web, if you were curious) put him and my daughter to bed, and waited. And whined. And waited. And then I whined and waited some more. Four hours later I was still waiting, so Mrs. Bastard decided to go to bed while I waited and whined to myself.
Finally just before midnight the operating theatre called me to let me know that they had called in a second team, and my patient was ready. She was fortunately much more patient and understanding than I. Regardless, I brought her into the room, helped the anaesthesiologist put her to sleep, and walked back out of the room to scrub.
While I was scrubbing I looked down the hall and saw the aforementioned orthopaedic surgery also scrubbing. I waved to him and went into my room. As I was putting on my gown and gloves, I asked the nurse what the orthopaedic surgeon was doing, since he should have been done with the open fracture by then.
"Oh, he's doing a total hip replacement. On a 94-year old."
He's doing what? To a what? At midnight?!
"Yup, he had to bump himself to do the open fracture, so he is just starting it now."
As expected, the appendectomy was very simple (it actually only took me about 14 minutes). I finished my surgery, scrubbed out, spoke to the patient's son, changed, and went home, all before the orthopaedic surgeon had really gotten into the meat of his case.
And just like that, I realised I could be that guy. Even worse, I could be that guy's patient. Suddenly I didn't feel sorry for myself anymore. My minimal misery was severely put in its place.
I got home around 1AM, snuck into my children's bedrooms, gave them both a kiss, tucked them in, crawled into bed, kissed my wife, and promptly fell asleep.
Life was good again.