After working night shifts in hospital the last two Christmases in a row, I’m pleased to say I’m writing this story at home this Christmas. At a time when everyone wants to be at home – not in hospital – I can’t help but feel torn between feeling that natural desire to be home with family, and the responsibility in providing care for those who inevitably do fall ill at Christmas.
During a quiet period at some awful hour one Christmas night, I managed to get away to the doctor’s mess (hangout area) and replenish myself with some food – a piece of ham that had been quickly slapped between two slightly stale pieces of multigrain bread (I always seem to leave making my night time snack to the last minute).
‘Top 100 Christmas Songs’ was on the TV. I was alone in the room, imagining my family eating those wonderful squares my mom makes every Christmas – my first Christmas away from home. At least you’re doing some good, I would think to myself, trying to justify the situation, whilst realizing at the same time that this is the career you’ve got yourself into after finishing medical school.
At that time of the night, it’s almost possible to fall asleep with your eyes open. Boy bands were jumping around in the fake snow on TV – a scene you’ve seen too many times at this time of year – but you’re unable to change the channel because, sadly, this is the most ‘Christmas spirit’ you’re getting this year.
My phone rang – breaking the Christmas tune.
An elderly woman in emergency had arrived with abdominal pain.
I got up and left the mess, chowing down the last bit of crust from my sandwich.
I arrived in emergency to see a bright looking, elderly woman, with a large smile on her face.
Why are you here?
Oh yes – abdominal pain. I was just told. I was tired.
I took a history from the pleasant woman. It was Christmas night – the answer was predictable – family dinner, turkey, stuffing, pudding etc. – it almost felt like she was rubbing it in.
In the end, we were both in a cubicle in the Emergency Room.
I examined the lady – everything was absolutely normal. Much better than anticipated.
I took a look at some blood results that had kindly been done before I arrived.
Blood results – all normal.
Everything was pointing to one thing – nothing is wrong.
I approached the kind lady, who seemed to be reminiscing on the food she had eaten just earlier.
“So, what do you think is the problem?” I asked.
Her facial expression changed from one of satisfaction to a rather bashful look:
“Well, doctor, I think I just ate too much Christmas puddin’!” she replied.
“It seems that’s the case!”
She then told me she thought she was a fraud, wasting my time.
I suppose if someone comes to emergency, they’re not completely settled with their current circumstance – if they don’t want to make a judgment on their own well being, then leave it to the doctor – a perfectly reasonable mentality. After all, it is my job.
I reassured her that everything was OK – her bashful face turned to her previous expression of satisfaction.
The wonderful old lady returned home from emergency to her family and celebrations.
I returned to watch some more celebrities frolicking around in a fake winter wonderland.
photo courtesy of rgbstock.com/graham soult