Moo, Baa, La La La

“What are you gonna do, Napoleon?”

“Whatever I want!  GOSH!”

That’s me.  Doing pretty much whatever I want.  The problem is, I’m not really sure how to handle this kind of freedom.  With apologies to Sandra Boynton, I figured a great title for this post would be in reference to creatures like cows and sheep, etc.

I’m used to residency.  Every moment of your life for those years is owned, every minute planned and directed.  Residency training brought out the cow in me, built it up and filled it out.  I’m good at being told where to go, when, how.

“Dr. SW101,” Someone asked yesterday.  “You are the team leader of 15 medical professionals overseeing a wide panel of injured soldiers.  How do you want to proceed?”

“Ohh, haha.  That’s easy.  Mooooooooooooooooobaaalalala!”

Graduated – No Crying

The last days of residency passed – perhaps with a bang, and certainly no whimpers – and I am now full into my first week as a real, live doctor.

Everything feels the same, but with more sleep.

My graduation ceremony occurred 4 days ago, on Saturday.  For as emotional as I felt that night, I managed to survive the entire ordeal without much blubbering.  This had largely to do with my particular approach to the ceremony itself, which involved a skateboard, a wacky helmet and some iffy poetry.

Since there are only 6 graduating residents from our program, each of us enjoys (or endures) a sizeable amount of limelight as we graduate.  It starts with a picture slide show of us from our earliest days up to the present.  Some of my shots were strange, if not embarrassing, as you might imagine.

We are then introduced – for an agonizingly long time – by a faculty member.  Here our history, foibles and dreams are put on display for all in attendance to see.  This part can also be rather painful too.

It was then my turn to speak.  We aren’t given time-limits on our speeches.  As mentioned, there’s only 6 of us, so I guess we have the berth and he right to ramble a bit if we want to.

I survived the process with almost zero public display of emotion.

I’m not sure why this was some sort of goal for me.  I’ve always been a lousy crier.  I’m good at complaining, whining, moaning and bellyaching, mind you.  Rather too good.  But my crying skills must have atrophied somewhere in my childhood.

If I were to guess, I suppose it happened when I was about 5 years old and my biological father had just punched his girlfriend in the face.  He then leered at me and asked, “You gonna cry about that like a little girl?” in a drunken haze.

“Nope.”  I said.  And I never have.  These days, I can only cry when Ariel gets her statue of Eric blown up by King Triton, or the Broncos trade their franchise quarterback to the Bears.

So, I have some issues.  Fine.  I’ll bet you do too.  Intellectually, I admire the Roger Federers of rhe world who can stand on the international stage with unabashed tears streaming down their cheeks when they lose (or even win, sometimes) their latest tennis match.  Emotionally, I want to smack them with their own tear-stained pink hankies, tell them to find their purse and go back to the parlour where life doesn’t hurt so much.

Anyway, I wasn’t going to cry.  Smash my thumb with a hammer…we’ll talk.  But for this?  No way.

So, my approach was to first ride my Sector 9 longboard skateboard up to the podium wearing a tin foil-wrapped, overly-festooned bike helmet.  Why such a rather dumb graduation display?  Why, especially, at a solemn ceremony for a new practitioner of the healing arts?

sector9Aside from the fact that medicine is frequently too pompous and full of itself, I figured that if I could keep it fun and light, I could keep my eyes dry.  Plus, I ride my longboard to work most days, and I religiously never wear a helmet of any kind, much to the dismay and consternation of virtually every person I meet on the hospital campus.  For 3 years I’ve put up with near-constant haranguing to wear a helmet.

Why don’t I wear a helmet?  Well, I just figure that anyone traveling less than a mile, at about a mile an hour, while less than 3 inches off the ground…should garner me the right to feel the wind in their hair.  Granted, there isn’t much wind at that speed…and I don’t have much hair.  But that’s my metaphorical argument, people, and I’m sticking to it.

I also think that Americans are too stupidly safe these days.  We think we have allergies to things that 6000 years of humanity had no problem with.  We pad every corner in our houses and put seatbelts on our T.V.’s just in case the wall trembles and pushes that deadly thing over on a kid.  We have warnings on things like plastic 5-gallon buckets and nylon shower curtains.  Frankly, the fact that my children will never ride barefoot in the back of a bouncing pick up truck, screaming like golden-haired eagles as the wind whips wildly into their eyes, brings me no end of sorrow.

I grew up burning leaves, shooting bottle-rockets out of my hand and hunting fish with a whittled stick.  I think life is risky, and living life is an exercise in managing that risk.  Knee-jerk safety measures without true analysis of risk leads to heard-mentality that rarely leads to anything but really really bad groupthink: racism, genocide, militant nationalism, day-glo, Milli Vanilli, toilet-seat-shaped pillows for airplane flights that everyone carries around airports but never actually use for more than 10 minutes, to name a few.

So, in truth, I don’t wear my helmet when longboarding because I’m determined to not become a Nazi.  Gotta admire a guy like that, right?

Anyway, I understand that most of you dear readers will find fault in my little tirade, and will probably want to admonish my opinion about helmets just like all of the faculty, nurses, staff and freaking maintenance workers I see.

But take heart!  You don’t need to worry!  I rode to the podium in a helmet for the first time.  Just to make everyone happy.  Just to acknowledge that I’ve finally heard the message.  I give up.  It’s time to be responsible and extra-duty safe.  I’m a doctor now.

‘Course, my helmet was covered in tin foil and had sticks extending from it in every direction with tinfoil balls on the end of the sticks…but it was a helmet.

Then I delivered a poem.  It was supposed to be a rap – with a thumping beat and maybe a couple of dancers and lights flashing/spinning with everyone on their feet, their hands in the air all hip-hoppin’ on the floor.

But I’m white.  I’m a doc.  I’m in a tie.

Forget it.  It’s a poem.  A really bad 1-2-3-2 rhyme sequence that rhythmically scans like ice cream might feel if you were dumb enough pick a pile of it out of a sandbox and eat it.  But, in honour of my creation and the initial inspiration for it, I allowed that I would not in fact be delivering a rap, OR a poem that night.  It would be an amalgam, a mixture…a PAP.

This is fitting, of course, since we were all gathered to celebrate my new status as a fully-trained family medicine doctor.

My Pap made my mom cry.  I think my Dad too.  Kinda my wife.  And most of the people I talked to afterward said it made them a bit misty.  My goofy, two-bit hyper-syllabic tossed salad?

Cool.  People cried.  I didn’t.  I was too busy looking goofy, or saying goofy things.

Dear old Dad would be proud.

Time to Zip It

I’ve certainly gotten the point: SHUT UP about the fired resident already!

Numerous comments have come in, some from fellow medical bloggers whom I respect as “attendings” in the cyber-world due to their longer time in the games of both blogging and medicine (thanks shadowfax and Kevin).  Graciously, they weighed in on this topic with advice, support and commentary.

But the overwhelming message, both publicly and by email, is to shut my trap especially now that I’m genuinely involved in the proceedings of this situation.

I should point out that I agree with everyone who points out that nothing is anonymous, truly anonymous, in the blogosphere.  In fact, I started this blog assuming that anyone who wanted to figure out my identity, could do it with about 5 mouse clicks and give or take a modicum of human reasoning.  By comparison to, say, public school janitors (who I bet could write some pretty interesting blogs), there just aren’t that many doctors around.  Give even a few details about yourself (as I do) and you can figure out who a doc is with little effort.

So, I write this blog with the assumption that you know who I am.  The name of the blog is more of an expression of personality than any sort of attempt at identity obfuscation.  Thus, my comments thus far on the resident recently fired from my program have been made with every belief that they are available and visible to anyone involved with this situation, including the resident himself.  I’ve tried to just give my honest opinion; one that I would give any patient or the local barber – just hit it with a #1, please, and yeah that resident was a pretty good guy…most of us were surprised he got the boot.

That said, now I’m getting a bit antsy.  Maybe I’ve already said too much.  Maybe I shouldn’t have even mentioned this.  Maybe I shouldn’t blog at all.  Maybe I should sew up my lips like that ’80’s horror movie and never say another word as long as I live.  ‘Course, the problem here is more of a typing thing, so along with my lips maybe I should sew my fingers together so I have one wide “probe” extending from each arm.  That’ll teach me.

Anyway, publicly or privately, I await any opinions about whether or not I should pull down the blogs I’ve already written about this topic.  I understand that in cyberspace, once written, a blog is effectively permanent.  Judging by the traffic I’ve received these past few days, I’m sure those posts have settled into the web page loam of the internet and can be recalled from somewhere even if they’re gone from here.  But it would be harder to do.  It would be one more layer of insulation between me and what is almost sure to go from our country bumpkin appeals process into full-blown legal action.

Irrespective of the previous posts, I can say that this is the last you’ll hear about this topic (until possibly some careful recap when everything is over).  I can say it would be quite fun to report on the proceedings ‘from the front-line’, but I understand quite clearly how un-fun that little experiement could likely turn out.

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.”