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Thursday, December 2, 2010

When the Job Comes Home With You

I love what I do. I am one of those lucky people who doesn't just have a job, but a vocation. Being a physician is a calling (because why the heck else would anyone choose to be tortured in med school and residency?). I don't think I could be a full-time stay a home mom - God bless you if you do - because I would miss using the ability and passion that I have been given to help heal people and to invest myself in my patients' lives.

About 99% of the time, I am able to go to work, come home and leave my "work brain" at work. A useful skill to keep your brain sane. I would imagine that lawyers and therapists and people of the clergy out there would be able to identify with this. I hear all of the junk people have going on in their lives. I know which parents abuse their kids, which parents are drug addicts and alcoholics, which families have absolute brats and which families are on the brink of divorce. I find out when the teenagers are sexually active and which ones are contemplating suicide. I know which of my patients are scared of Winnie the Pooh and who still wets the bed (both usually completely normal, BTW). It is helpful to be able to tune that part of my brain off so that I can function.

However, there have been a couple of incidents where that was mentally impossible.

Incident #1: I was about 6 months pregnant and doing my third year peds ER rotation in residency and we had a trauma where the young patients had been in a car accident (I think they were about 2 years old and 6) and their mother was killed at the scene. The little one kept crying for Mommy and I spent the bulk of my shift trying to keep her calm until the extended family members were able to get there. I drove home that evening crying on the phone with my mother because I finally understood what the loss of a mother could do.

Incident #2: I was about 8 months pregnant (and very ungainly) and had an oncology patient who coded and died in the most unexpected, sudden and gruesome manner that I have ever seen. In the 30 seconds it took for me to run downstairs to the code, it was pretty much already too late. We continued to run the code for an hour, but death sometimes comes quickly. It still is difficult to think about.

Incident #3: Happened this past Monday in clinic during a routine checkup. The mother told me that her husband had been killed (beheaded) in Mexico for not wanting to comply with the drug gangs down there. She has two children my daughter's age and she asked me how to tell them that their father had died. I said I didn't know. It shook me to my core.

Regardless of how you feel about Mexico and the HUGE illegal immigration problem (99% of my patients are Latino), there are families being torn apart and fleeing from the violence there for the sake of their children.

Mi corazón es lleno de tristeza porque la violencia es demasiado.

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