Alzheimer’s at 35

I don’t like to admit it, but I can be quite air headed.  Everyone can be absentminded at times, but some of us turn this endearing trait into an art-form.  I have occasionally found myself pondering the likelihood that I, at a generally-spry 35 years, have already contracted Alzheimer’s dementia.  In fact, you can become demented in your 30’s, but it usually is a more harrowing variant of the traditional Alz dementia.  Given that I seem to have been born with a permanent Seattle gray cloud around my brain, I probably don’t have the condition (never heard of anyone born with dementia).

There are perks to being forgetful, actually.  For one, jokes are almost always funny.  You may have heard it before…but then again, maybe not, so HA! HA! HA!  Games never seem to lose their allure, either.  I once had a golden retriever (arguably the most air-headed of all mammalian creatures) who chased pebbles that I tossed into a pond.  She waded around, darting excitedly at every pebble I threw.  Of course, she forgot that she could not, in fact, sniff well underwater.  She also promptly forgot the previous pebble as soon as I threw a new one.  So I watched as my perpetually-interested dog pounced from one pebble *plop* to another, repeatedly attempting to sniff the water where she saw the little splash.  Then with a tremendous snort to clear her nose after a failed sniff, she pounced at another rock and promptly jammed her snout into the water and sniffed again.

I feel like that often in residency.  Today I realized, at 3pm, that I had been scheduled to assist with a repeat C-section for one of my patients today at 7:30 that morning.  I was blissfully sleeping at 0730, oblivious to the fact that my trusting patient was about to have her abdomen incised by some surgeon she doesn’t even know.  I didn’t even think about it until well into the afternoon.  Once I did figure it out, my heart sank.  I felt terrible.  What a crappy primary care doctor I turned out to be!  And, to add insult to injury, tonight is a special dinner with the residency faculty to herald our ascension into the airy climes of 3rd year residenthood.  Tonight, we enter the senior role of our training program.  We’ve earned this night by virtue of our continued commitment to our patients, our impressive medical acumen and our all-around professionalism.


Racing back to clinic – a thousand lame excuses for why I missed the surgery flapping around my head like drunken bats – I learned that the surgery isn’t actually until next month. Yes, the same day (Tuesday) and yes, the time will be 0730.  But it’s a month away.  A month.

Understand that smarter folk would never have fallen into this trap because, of course, they always know when their appointments are scheduled.  But then this type of thinking deprives them of the unique and exquisite feeling of expansiveness when they think they messed up, only to realize that they in fact have not (yet).  Suddenly, the simple fact that my afternoon was totally normal gave me a feeling of grand invincibility.  I AM THE LIZARD KING!  I DIDN’T FORGET MY PATIENT!  I CAN DO ANYTHING!

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