Friday, February 10, 2017

The Valentine Bear

When I was twenty-five, I needed surgery. I had neurological surgery on February 6, 1990, at the Moffat Hospital at UCSF. I was a patient of Charlie Wilson, MD, and Jacob Rachlin, MD.

Everything went fine.

I had nausea (post-concussive syndrome) that was severe. My recovery took one month, with one week in the hospital.

A friend at my work had given me a bear like this one, that had a music box inside it. It played the theme from Love Story. This was before the times with the electronic music inside of toys.

The only thing that helped with my nausea was droperidol, lying in a fetal position with the music bear on my ear, and chicken soup with rice. My mother in law cooked chicken soup with rice by the quart and brought mason jars of it to our house for four weeks. It was the only thing I could eat.

The treatment I received, and the high energy of the teams taking care of me, led me to pursue my own career in medicine.

I wanted to give back what was given to me.

My son had the chills last week.

It turned into a cold with snot everywhere, and a horrible cough.

I couldn't stay home with him.

It broke my heart.

I examined him before I took him to school. No fever. No process deep in the lungs (pneumonia). I gave him mucinex and hoped for the best. I notified his father the school might be calling him if he gets worse.

The school was nice and let him lie on a couch, do his work away from the classrooms and gave him tea.

He has missed three basketball practices due to his cough.

It turns out that both his father and I caught the bug from him.

His father was at work, thinking he was going to pass out, last Sunday.

It hit me on Tuesday. I was the first woman to take a nap in the 'man cave' at the surgery center two days ago--there's a recliner in a storage area. The nurses were kind and gave me warm blankets so I could rest during a gap in the schedule due to a case cancellation.

I came home and took a warm bath and skipped dinner, going straight to bed.

Yesterday I asked for a late start assignment, I got it, and I slept on a gurney in the room where we do ERCP's. It really helped. (my first case, the early one, cancelled)

Three nights ago I had trouble picking Anthony up from school, asked his dad for help, and his girlfriend picked him up. I finished work when the school closed, and there's a commute.  They asked if they should feed him?  I said, 'no, I'm hungry, please don't feed him. Why don't you go to your favorite mediterranean place for kebab, and I'll meet you there and will buy for all four of us?'

They got there early, and they ordered for me.

They bought me dinner.

It was the nicest meal I've had in a long time, with two adults and my son for company, real plates and forks, and warm fresh food that wasn't reheated.

There is a dark side to medicine that those of us in it don't talk about.

There are workplace violations.

I don't get breaks on any given day.

It's not by law like for the hourly employees. I am an Independent Contractor.

I can't call in sick, either for myself or my son.

I never know when I am coming home at night, and lately, we have had eight rooms going until six p.m.  Our facility has fourteen work areas. Our team has fourteen people. You do the math, right? It doesn't matter what call you are, you're going to stay late. And two nights ago, I wanted to go home, but the relief wasn't compatible with my surgeon, so I had to finish the case.

But when people sue, they sue the doctor, not the nurse who has the hours and breaks and workplace laws to protect her.

I was talking with a nurse who transferred to our hospital not long ago. She is a single mom for three sons.

One of her sons started suicidal attempts at age fourteen.

She did everything she could, short of staying home to care for him.

She had to work.

He had been staying at his father's house, and one day, she found him downstairs on her couch.

She knew he was sad, but she had to go to work. She got him a blanket, and warm drink, and tucked him in, saying, 'does your dad know you are here? he's going to be upset when he finds out. I'm glad you're here though, rest up.'

She kissed him and said I love you.

It was the last she ever spoke to him again.

Three hours later she got the call.

He had bought a gun and used it.

She couldn't work for eight months, she was so devastated.

She was able to find free counseling in Santa Ana for herself and the other two boys. She wished she had found it earlier, before...maybe it could have helped.

But she's a broken woman.

Last night I realize my work is a 'temple' of sorts.

Only those with certain training and a bit of luck get to do what they do.

I can't say much but a team of surgeons flew in, and another team drove across the LA area, people I have never met and won't get to see again, for a particular procedure.

I can say that my colleague who was assigned to the case was squeamish, and asked me to do it for her.

I did.

I've done this lots at my old work, and once here.

I watched the gift of life.

I rolled the bed from ICU past the family.

I stood while the husband and child and mother said their last goodbyes in PreOp.

I had a tear in my eye as I said, 'thank you' to the family, and let them know there are two recipients in my family...we can never thank the donor families enough.

I did my job well.

I did everything that was asked of me.

And more.

I spoke with the donor in Spirit.

At first she was horrified to watch...that it was real...that it was happening.

Then she looked closer at the skills. When you see a team like these ones, their skills are amazing, and it is an art what they do. (latest is to perfuse the live 'ex-vivo'--to keep it alive--running solution to nourish it between donor and recipient).

She thought it was cool.

She was same age as me.

She teased me and said, 'I know all the mysteries of death now, and beyond'...because she knew I was a medium, incarnate, and I knew them more or less too. I could talk with her.

We sang a song together, and it was most meaningful to me, for it was the one that motivated me through my darkest times after my surgery and getting to become a doctor...we sang it in spirit, but she liked it and I did too.  (one to learn, one to teach...which way the cold wind blows)...

I was watching the procedure with interest the whole time. The surgeons were really nice. And the nurse coordinator had been crying so hard at the goodbyes part her mascara was all over her face.

I heard her talking with a nurse from our ER who joined their team.

They have trouble finding nurses to work. Retaining their staff is hard.

(who wants to drop everything and work at all hours of the night, you know? in hospitals you don't know?)

Then I felt the donor's presence again. She looked at me funny, like she wanted to know a secret,  asked me the question I sensed she had been dying to ask me all night.

'Do you miss him?'

OMG YES! My whole soul just aches in a way words can't describe! Told her, 'I don't let myself think of it, because I couldn't function. I would just cry in a ball for days, and be inconsolable.'

She knew Ross, and was playing it cool. It was the first one of these where he wasn't there. But I knew our connection fascinated her, and she enjoyed talking to me for some reason, like she enjoys being in on some secret or whatever.

Anyhow, it was like 'girlfriends' in spirit, and I was happy to keep her company as she started her journey to The Other Side.

It was an honor to be present with my skills as a member of her team, too.

This is my tribute to her.  She was a registered donor.

And to her family.

Medicine is changing.  I don't think we are going to be seeing the 'cowboys' in the transplant department in the long run, once this takes hold in the culture of modern medicine:

I'm happy to be on the interface between the old and the new.

It's only going to get better...


I miss her too.  The same.

Now Carla has some projects today, outside of work. An the colleague who was too squeamish yesterday is doing a favor today for Carla.

Carla has to get bagels for school for breakfast with Anthony.

Then she has to volunteer tonight for the program where they middle school babysits the kids and the parents can go have a night out.  (It's so Anthony gets his share of the money for the middle school trip).

And she has to buy a cake and brink it to the function tonight.

I bless it.

clap! clap!

Aloha and Mahalos,

Ross and Carla
The Reiki Doc Couple

P.S.   Carla is not reading the latest from Fran Zepeda and does not endorse the message too.