Monday, 23 November 2015

Perspective

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."

Wooooooow.

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. 

29 comments:

  1. I'm like that sometimes. My number 1 rule in life is to never use the Galileo argument with mothers. Ugh!

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  2. Could you clarify the events a bit? I'm not following what happened with that OR.

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    1. It was already running late, and then the orthopaedic guy had to do an emergency case instead of his scheduled case, and then he still had to do his scheduled case (the hip).

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    2. Ok, I get it now. I was trying to figure out how a total hip replacement was an emergency procedure. I had things backwards.

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  3. Could you explain what "he had to bump himself to do the open fracture" means? Do you mean he wanted to do that so he put the hip replacement off, and thats why he's doing it so late?

    Nothing like a hospital to give you perspective! Sometimes you just have to wait a little for the "oh my life is actually ok" moment.

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    1. Yes, that's exactly what I meant. Sorry for not being clear enough.

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  4. ORIF vs Total hip Replacement?

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  5. Sorry I'm probably being dense. Do you mean you could be the patient like the doc is bad because he bumped himself (what does that mean), or it would suck to get a hip replacement at midnight.

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    1. For "bumping", see above.

      I meant I could be the poor bastard waiting until midnight to get my hip surgery.

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    2. I wonder how long that poor bastard getting surgery at midnight had been npo?

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  6. Sorry I'm probably being dense. Do you mean you could be the patient like the doc is bad because he bumped himself (what does that mean), or it would suck to get a hip replacement at midnight.

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  7. and I'm sure the poor orthopedic surgeon couldn't just reschedule the hip for tomorrow, either... because he probably has a full schedule for tomorrow.

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    1. At 94 there was no guarantee he or she would still be around the next day. At that age I wouldn't buy any green bananas.

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    2. I knew a guy who renewed his driver's license at 99, and still drove better than people half his age.

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    3. He would certainly be the exception rather than the norm. Would you feel comfortable riding with him as he navigated rush hour traffic on a freeway where people tend to cut in front of you without warning?

      Just the other day, I was driving home from work in the slow lane doing the speed limit and approaching an intersection with a turning lane to my right. The light was green and I saw an SVU passing on my left out of the corner of my eye, except he/she didn't pass. They cut in front of me at the last possible second to make the right turn, no signal and no warning. I had to hit my brakes to avoid T-boning them and thankfully no one was directly behind me. Although I'm much younger than 94 I still qualify as a senior citizen. Lucky for that person I still have good reflexes but I'm glad my 91 year old mother-in-law wasn't driving.

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    4. passed an accident yesterday morning where a midsize SUV had apparently pulled out in front of a dump truck with a medium size excavator in tow. the ambulance was heading for the hospital code 3, which is a good sign, in situations like that.

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  8. Whenever I need some perspective like that, I can rely on the "WTF"-tagged mugshots at arrests.org, especially the ones from Florida.

    Those are some people having very bad days, and often having had very rough lives, from the look of them.

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  9. Nothing like perspective!

    For future bedtimes, may I suggest Stuart Little or perhaps one of the Eloise books? I will confess that as an adult, I was SORELY tempted to pour water down the mail chute. At work. I didn't do it but I flashed back to that idea!

    Wednesday

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  10. My favorite insight regarding perspective came a few years ago on a Christmas morning. We'd gone to church early, and stopped to have breakfast afterward at a favorite neighborhood restaurant before starting out on our rounds of holiday visits to the families.

    Here in the big city, free parking on the streets in our commercial areas went the way of the dinosaur several generations ago, so putting your money in the meter is a routine part of city life. Still, it was somewhat mind-blowing to look out the window on Christmas morning, to see the meter readers roaming the street, and standing at the meters waiting for the time to run out, so that they could issue meter violation tickets to anyone who'd gone to church or stopped to enjoy breakfast with loved ones afterward (all the other stores and offices were closed).

    Whenever I have a rough day on *my* job, I have to stop and think about those who actually have a job that requires them to piss off people on Christmas!

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    1. I believe in the metered city near me, the meters are switched off for bank holidays. - but they did once arrest a guy for feeding strangers' meters to prevent them getting citations.

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  11. Here's perspective....the call gods are insane and nasty, and Mrs Bastard and the kidlets do suffer for it....BUT how many little kidlets out there worship at your feet because you are the only thing that stood between life and death for their mother or father and you pulled them through? How many debts of gratitude will never be paid but people give thanks for YOU in their prayers each night? Probably more than any of us can count....and THAT is a perspective no one can argue with!

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  12. I'm still tickled that your wife let's you call her "Mrs. Bastard" on your blog.
    And wondering if I would even want my hip replaced at 94...? I know, my quality of life would suck with only 1 working hip. But I think I'd be too scared that I'd die on the table. I'd rather have the doc give me an Rx for a Tesla wheelchair (they should have them in a few more years) & send me home. A hip replacement is a pretty gnarly surgery. Long recovery. Crutches, then a walker, then PT. But at least old folks always get the good drugs after surgery.

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    1. years ago, one of my aunts had a hip replaced. legend has it, it felt so good she was calling to schedule the other one within the month.

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    2. Personally, I think it's even funnier when Doc refers to the kids as "the little Bastards". :)

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    3. Tesla wheelchair? Oh man, I am ALL over that!

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  13. So the only reason an orthopod would do a total hip that late is if s/he had a full OR the next day. Patients get really testy if they don't have their surgery as scheduled, and I'm guessing if this 94 yo was "healthy" enough for a THA, he's also the type of guy who'd be pissed if you cancelled his case. That said, I would not be keen to do any elective case that late, bad things happen at night!!! So prior to the open fx case, I would give the guy a choice as to whether he got cancelled or not.
    On another note, as an ortho trauma person...this is why you need a dedicated trauma room. And a dedicated trauma orthopod so the total joints guy isn't stuck washing out open fractures. :)

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