Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's like riding a bike

I was having a particularly tough day at work. I communicated this to my father like I always do...by sending him a text message that referred to work but in no way mentioned the shittiness of the day.

Your Iron Girl is doing two kidney transplants today.


I started my first case. My attending was exactly as I was warned he would be--old, and slow, and wheezy, and mad at me because he has gout. The longer it took me to get the central line in, the worse his gout got. That's the pathophysiology of gout. Inept anesthesia residents, maybe even intentionally, cause terrible foot and ankle pain with their inability to cannulate the internal jugular vein in less than 10 seconds. Incompetent cruel bastards, the lot of us.

I was glad for the warning, but in the moment, it didn't really do much to help. It never does, does it? Someone tells you something is going to be painful...and then it is. The heads up removed the element of surprise, reassured me that it wasn't just me, that everyone exacerbates his gout. But, starting the case was still like swimming through wet cement. Reminding myself, "He's like this with everyone," didn't make the central line go in any faster.

But go in it did. Eventually. And he left the room. Finally.

I texted Blake to say, "This morning, I was worried my attending may not survive the day. Now I'm worried he might."

A few hours later, Wheezy came back to give me a break. Everything was settled by then, the patient tucked in, the charting all caught up. The Goutmaster sat down at the head of the bed, propped up a swollen appendage, and opened his email. I gave the patient a dose of this and that and vacated the premises.

I didn't realize until I stepped out of the OR just how shitty the morning had been. I had been doing the one foot in front of the other thing to get through the laundry list of tasks that have to be completed at the start of a case. I hadn't had time to really think about miserable it was. As I walked away from the room, I thought, "Given the chance, right now, I would walk to my car, go home, and not come back until tomorrow."

I turned to cut through the PACU on my way to my coffee cup. As I walked under the hand painted white and black sign that says, GENERAL RECOVERY ROOM--a sign hung back in a time when they actually used to call the recovery room, The Recovery Room--I found a text message from my dad.

They got the right gal on the job. Just be glad you're not your sister... She's working in the 'beyond' dept of Bed Bath & Beyond today...and who the hell knows what's beyond?

Seriously, if that were me lying there, I'd want you in the room!

Nothing anyone else would have said could have made me feel better than I did in that moment. I walked to my coffee cup feeling a thousand pounds lighter. The shit eating grin was stuck on my face for another two hours.

Later in the day, I texted my dad to say that Blake was returning to work after two weeks in London. He had received some rather unjust criticism prior to his departure and was not looking forward to coming back. My dad, the Union President, sent a little something for my friend.

It started with, This is great...he is facing down the beast early in his career...always best to meet that bastard (unjust criticism) while you're young and strong...

I forwarded it to Blake. He wrote back, Where do I pay my union dues?

The next day, I emailed Dad. To understand this email, you need to know two things:

First, it took me for-fucking-ever to learn how to ride a bike. My father used to run marathons. He didn't even have to train for the first one. After all the miles he spent jogging back and forth down the driveway holding me up on my two wheeler, he was a power bar and some Gatorade away from his first race. His eldest child was the biggest little chickenshit on legs. You've never met someone so afraid of falling.

Second, this is in sharp contrast to the way that he learned to ride a bike. When he was a little guy, the Weber boys put him on a two wheeler and pushed him towards Bailey Road during rush hour traffic. They yelled, Pedal! and Turn! In that moment, he realized that if failed to follow their instructions, he'd die. So, he pedaled and turned. And that's how he learned to ride a bike.

Dad,

Everything you said yesterday, both to me and to Blake, was freakin' perfect. The older I get, the more I wonder if shepherding us through adulthood might be even harder and more important than all of that stuff you do when kids are still in the house. And yes, I say that as one who took a full 17.5 years to learn to ride a bike. Every single day, I feel like one of the Weber boys is throwing me on a two wheeler and pushing me into traffic...with a patient strapped to my back. I'm still not sure how I'd pedal myself upright without you.

Love,
T

It's true. Every day does feel like that. But, there is this feeling when the lines go in like buttah, the intubation looks like I throw yard darts in my sleep, the patient and I soar through a big operation...when I Pedal! and Turn! and we avoid being crushed by that bus barreling down Bailey Road...and the job is even more fun than this girl thought it could be.

12 comments:

Terroni said...

Maria, I'm sorry I've been away so long. Each day is one hundred times more exhausting than I ever could have imagined it would be. You remember those days, yes? ;)

Susanlee said...

I love dads. <3

gitz said...

I loved this post. and would like to borrow your dad. you both should feel free to come over for supper and a drink :)

heather said...

This post is amazing. Gigantic. Totally perfect in any context. Thanks.

graci said...

The preacher man is still buzzin' on! Your pa is awesome : )

Maria said...

I do. And frankly, in my off hours I was usually knee deep in bong water or stinkin' drunk....so you are already way ahead of where I was at your age.

MmeBenaut said...

I've always been a fan of your Dad. I didn't have one; well I did but he didn't have a clue how to nurture or even provide so that when he died, I grieved for what I had desperately wanted and needed but had never had, not for him.
So, I recognise the power and importance of your relationship with your Dad little one and, along with him, I'm so proud of you.

Terroni said...

I'm so glad you're still here, Madame!

Med Student said...

Hi Terroni, I just started reading your blog about a week back, and I LOVE IT! In the 2nd year of med school, and I'm always a fan of reading people's experiences in the medical field.

Hopefully I can manage time better and start up my blog again.

I look forward to reading more whenever you're able to!

P.S. Anesthesiology!? Wow. You're one very smart cookie :).

Eric said...

A wonderful post, T. I was really happy to see a new one when I logged in tonight.

MmeBenaut said...

I'm still here little one even though my blog no longer is out there. I had to take it down because my stalker just wouldn't take the hint.
I'll be keeping an eye on you, I promise.

Jean said...

Love your blog, Terroni! Found you through Maria Cupcake. She has an eye for great writers, doesn't she?

Write write write.

Please.