New Vignette

I’ve written another entry for the “Vignettes” tab. These vignettes are short, humorous (well, you be the judge) stories about my life in family medicine residency.

Numb Lips

I always know I’m tired when my lips get numb. It’s easy to work for so many hours that I forget when I started, which leads to forgetting at what point I should be hungry, or go to the bathroom, or drink some water. But the numb lips thing tips me off with a pleasing rush of certainty, “I am now – surely – tired.”

While it’s nice to know something like this so clearly – it explains the stumbling, the gritty feeling in my eyes, the strange metallic taste in my mouth – it often doesn’t matter. Worse, it sometimes just gets in the way. It isn’t until after a day and night on call that we’re required to make oral presentations of patients and what we did for them. Sadly, it is after call that we are, obviously, least sharp and, as is often the case for me, when my lips are numb.

“Welcommmmm, poo murning preport.” I’ll say, my thick mind wandering back to those glorious days as a kid in the Colorado snow staring with fascination at my nearly frozen fingers and watching how slowly they moved on command. I work my lips a bit and try again. “Thurvvv been about sevun-eighteen two-thritty admushings since we’ve been on shift.”

To make matters worse, usually coupled with my numb lips is a sudden feeling that some language I don’t know – let’s just call it Gerbrewfrenshish – is now my primary language. English has inexplicably become my 4th language and, despite all those ESL classes, remains tricky and annoyingly liberal with the observance of it’s own rules.

Tell ‘em about the UTI lady, quick! Everyone’s waiting! You’re supposed to be running morning report! All I need to think of is a good couple of intro words – in English – like “Our first admission was…”. But my fumbling mind, connected to my numb lips, manages to speak in tongues comprehensible to only the most charismatic, “Haciendaherr facshalom.”

My R-1, who somehow got sleep last night, looking at the pained and quizzical look on the face of our faculty attending and says, “He’s communicating good morning and telling you about our first admission.”

Will all the alacrity I can muster, acting firm and commanding but inwardly lying prostrate before my R-1, I manage to smear out the words, “Ghoood, Paahl. Why don’t eeuw prsant theshe caseis?” He looks at me with a slight smile and smoothly takes over my job. No one could be happier than me, slumped in my chair, trying to remember the pronunciation of that word English-speakers use to express a feelings of warmth and abject adoration.

Soon, my R-1 skillfully brings morning report to a close and the doctors start heading off in different directions. I yes! That’s IT! I’ve got it manage to catch the eye of my R-1.

“Tttthhhhanks, Paul.”

“Anytime.” He laughs. “Go home and get some sleep.”

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