The world of medicine is like a bubble. A lot of people THINK they know what goes on there, but unless you're down in the trenches it's unlikely you do. So here is my semi-anonymous blog, here to tell you what really goes on in the life of a medical resident.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Hmm. Didn't See THIS One Coming.

One of my strengths in emergency medicine is my ability to have empathy without getting emotionally involved. I'm not made of stone or anything, but I have never had the breakdowns that my friends and colleagues have. I don't fault them for it... if anything, watching their totally normal reactions to horrible situations (stillborn babies, terminally ill children, victims of abuse, etc.) has made me wonder if I'm the one who is defective in some way. I've been involved in many a traumatic situation, but when the staff involved are offered the chance to debrief and get counseling I've never felt the need. My husband is a wonderful ear for my complaints and shoulder for support, and I've never needed to look further. One of my first shifts here involved a code on a perfectly healthy toddler. She died. I appreciated how tragic it was, but it didn't affect me deeper than that in spite of the fact that I was pregnant and hormonal at the time.

Then I had the Bean.

It was like flipping a switch. My ability to stay impartial and unaffected has been completely lost. Having to reduce a trampoline-induced displaced fracture on a child nearly had me in tears of sympathy my first week back at work. Hearing another person's account of a case of child abuse that had presented to emerg made me so nauseous I thought I was going to throw up in the middle of an academic session. Today, just putting a 1 year old (who looked strikingly like my own kidlet) under anesthetic for a minor surgery had me choked up-- the child's confusion and tears, his agitation when he woke up in recovery, the anguish and helplessness on his mother's face as she rocked him before giving him up to the anesthesiologist-- I just couldn't stop thinking of my own son and how hard it would be to watch him be taken away by strangers and waking up confused and in pain afterwards.

I wonder if this happens to men.  

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes it does - Neurosurgery Resident

8:44 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Second anon(8:44), it happened to me very much. The worst was a pair of SIDS codes just weeks after my son was born. Terrible.

11:19 PM

 
Blogger Resident Anesthesiologist Guy (RAG) said...

I absolutely dropped Peds as a choice after Daughter was born. I tear up often when it comes to kids getting hurt or neglected.

9:59 AM

 
Blogger Lipstick said...

I really enjoy your blog...
I can identify with the connection you feel to anything involving children. I remember after my daughter was born there was a well-publicized child abuse case. I wept, with that shoulders shaking type of crying that comes from deep within. I can't imagine how it was magnified for the docs that cared for her. After all, I just saw it on the news.

9:26 PM

 
Blogger Survey$Center said...

:-)

12:11 AM

 
Blogger ICU 101 said...

i know exactly what you mean... i'm in empathy overdrive since having J and find i'm way more emotionally involved than i use to be...

10:02 PM

 
Blogger Shannon said...

Does this help? I think you won an ecochick giveaway...

http://www.ecochick.ca/2008/05/big-green-purse-book-giveaway.html

8:06 PM

 
Blogger Couz said...

Whoo-hoo! I won something!

Now can I win that cute little reusable bag that rolls up into a ball? ;-)

8:06 PM

 
Blogger Braden said...

We recently had a 3 year old carried into our ER. After a long and difficult code, he was declared dead. I cried. So yes, men cry too.

It was a strange mix of relief and increased anguish the next day when I learned that it wasn't a fall from playground equipment that had killed him, but rather child abuse.

2:10 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just discovered your blog -- and I'm a reader forever!

Even though I had children I was able to distance myself emotionally from the children and adult patients I saw in the ER... until later in the evening. That distance allowed me to do my job and to help them. The emotional response later allowed me to release all the tension and sadness so that I could go to work again the next day. It was as though I were a faucet and could turn my feelings off and on -- it kept me sane. I hope you can find a way to achieve this as well...
Classof65

7:55 PM

 
Anonymous Herbs said...

I don't know how you do it. Day after day of seeing tragedy and suffering. I'm not sure I could do it for long.

9:14 PM

 

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