Returning to the scene of the trauma
As I write this, I am on a plane, flying to Chicago where I start my book tour. The irony of this fact is not lost on me. You see, I lived in Chicago for four years while I did my OB/GYN residency at Northwestern. But I havenít been back in more than a decade. Why? Well, itís not that I donít love Chicago. And itís not that I donít have good friends there. But my four years of residency were the hardest four years of my life. I honestly think I have post traumatic stress disorder because of my residency. Itís been more than ten years since I finished, and the nightmares only stopped last year.
Why the trauma?
Well, when youíre a resident, youíre supposed to give up caring about yourself in exchange for caring about patients. You might have been up for 36 hours straight, but if the patient under your care has a complication and needs to go back to surgery, youíre expected to scrub in, even if itís hours past the time when the next resident was supposed to relieve you.
And when your grandmother dies and you want to go to the funeral, forget it. My teacher said, in all seriousness, as if he deserved a medal, ďI didnít even go to my own fatherís funeral.Ē
And when youíve been in the operating room working on a cancer patient for eight hours straight, and you ask to scrub out for a five minute break so you can pee and change your tampon, youíll get laughed at. Someone will say, ďCancer doesnít take a potty breakĒ and youíll cross your legs and hope the blood doesnít soak through your scrubs.
Then, when youíre puking your guts out and pooing liquid from food poisoning and you ask if you can go home so you can worship at the altar of the porcelain gods in the privacy of your own bathroom, theyíll pump you full of anti-nausea medications, fit you with a Depends, and send you back to work in the operating room. And then, when you pass out in the operating room, theyíll put you on a gurney, run a liter of IV fluids into your veins, and send you back to work.