July 2nd

Fourth of July weekend in a vacation town proves to be busy as expected. A steady stream of patients makes its way through the department. I arrive at 7AM groggy, eyes burning, slight headache. I’ve been taking diamox for 3 days to help acclimatize…usually I do well without, but considering I have to work…

THe day continues and I get more and more fatigued. Headache builds, eyes burn, patient’s keep coming. I hlep myself to the freshly brewed endless ice tea that is available free of charge in the “cafeteria”.

It gets busier. I find myself with little patience for patients. The effort of listening is excruciating, and of actually speaking back to them is nearly impossible. Headache continues…

What’s happening to me?

The department is full and there are patients waiting in the lobby. Charts are scattered with each nurse following a different uninterpretable pattern of work flow. Where are my orders? WHere is his discharge paperwork?

I start getting lightheaded when I have to talk. I sit down as much as I can. I take refuge in a patient’s room while waiting for a peroneal nerve block to take effect. I try to make lighthearted conversation and it nearly kills me.

I leave the room and sit down. The desk clerk asks if I’m OK. I’m nauseated, my head is throbbing, I feel lightheaded, I’m going to pass out any second. The din of the department becomes very quiet and I feel a hand on my shoulder.

‘Why don’t we give you a timeout?’ the nurse asks.

She walks me to the call room, where I get three calls in fifteen minutes. the last call, she asks me if she should call the next attending to come in 3 hours early.

I go back up to the department to see if I am able to work. The nurses are my crutches…they do discharge instructions, the splint broken bones, they elegantly guide me through a patient’s labs and CT scan results…Call the surgeon I mumble.

They escort me into a patient room and start an IV. 3 liters of fluid, IV benadryl, IV compazine puts me into a fitful sleep, twitching legs, numb lips & face…or is that the diamox doing that? I drift off to sleep and awaken 2 hours later in a bed on the hospital floor…they had moved me out of the ER because it was so busy.

My headache was gone, but I was too groggy to think straight. A nurse finally came in to drive me home, where I slept for 12 straight hours, and then went…back to work.