Saturday, January 28, 2012

Goodbye, Turner McCall Boulevard

     It's Friday afternoon, January 27, 2012, and I just made my final exit from the hospital where I've worked for the last year and a half. Like Dorothy in the Land of Oz, I've reached the end of my yellow brick road. Although my traveling companions don't include scarecrows, tin men, or cowardly lions, I've been fortunate enough to meet the Wizard of Floyd Medical Center, conveniently located on Turner McCall Boulevard. The wizard's name is Sean. He's a gloriously gruff and grumpy nurse who runs the show in Emerald City, otherwise known as the Miracle Center's outpatient pre-op area. He does not believe in mincing words, and personally, I find this trait refreshing. He is a curmudgeon with a heart of gold, and you always know exactly where you stand with him; just don't stand too close, especially if you have a runny nose or a cold (love you, Sean!) Here in Emerald City, we don't have any witches, but we do have the Emilys. Emily P is Sean's right hand woman, although she's often perched at his left side at the nurses station desk. She is whip-smart and insightful, and I truly hope she will become a Mommy one day soon. Emily C, who works weekends as an ER nurse, is married to a detective, and they have a little boy who looks just like Charlie Brown. Ann, Kim, Darlene, and Cara round out the pre op crew. In order to chat with these busy gals in their cubicles, which are positioned next to the doctors' computer area, you have to peek through a wall of plastic foliage, designed specifically to keep certain annoying anesthesiologists out of sight and out of mind. We have an excellent team of recovery room/block nurses, including but not limited to, Jan, Kerin, Fayla, Sherry, Katie, Kim, and Jamie, all of whom I believe could probably perform the nerve blocks themselves. They have really made doing outpatient regional anesthesia a pleasure. The intraoperative nurses and techs, Shana, Michelle, Marcellus, Amanda, Jennifer, Chris, Tracey, Kimie, Kerry, Teresa, Megan, Tracy, Jenifer, Rachael, Regina, Phebe, Lisa, Ginger, and Stacy all demonstrate terrific compassion for our patients, as well as the warped sense of humor necessary for surviving life in the operating room. Jacklyn, Lori, Cathe, Toni, Gayle, and Susan keep our patients moving along through the recovery room. I know I've left someone out; it's a little overwhelming to mentally gather all the names and faces of people who've made this part of my job so enjoyable...I hope you all know how much I appreciate and respect you.
     I work with wonderful anesthetists, both in outpatient and inpatient. There is Ron, a German-Jewish immigrant whose parents gave him up for adoption just after WWII; he lost relatives in Mathausen, which was where my grandfather died. He lives in a log cabin with a menagerie of goats and rabbits, and is one of very few liberals in this town. He is really gifted at performing spinals. We have Wes, who charms children to sleep for their tonsillectomies and myringotomies by singing them, "Happy Birthday." I recently found out that Ann, who's especially fond of intubating with a Miller blade, was an officer in the military, giving me an entirely new perspective on her...I love it! I've always been intrigued by Stacy's wedding ring, the inscription of which looks to be Hebrew, but I've never asked her about it. She's a little spitfire of a woman, and I've enjoyed my conversations with her about kids, painting, and writing. I knew Ken in my previous life at Emory; he splits his time between Crawford Long and the Miracle Center, often riding to Rome on his motorcycle. On the inpatient side, there is Ben, who kindly offered many hours of his time to help Brad and me when we moved here. He is genuinely one of the nicest people I have ever met. He penned a witty guidebook for residents and anesthetists rotating through Cooper-Green Hospital in Birmingham, AL, which was where he did his physician's assistant training. Later, he was one of my anesthesiologist assisant students at Emory. Since he and I are both aspiring writers, we spend a lot of time discussing our craft, as well as religion and philosophy. He's been an ongoing source of support and encouragement for me. Jessica, also known as Sunshine, is jokingly referred to as our token black anesthetist. She possesses a wickedly dry sense of humor, and has a darling, precocious 3 year old son. She is truly a kindred spirit: liberal and liberated. Judy is from Kansas, like I am, and she has become a dear friend. She has a husband who's battling Parkinson's disease, and her commitment to him has been an inspiration. I hope that one day, she will finish her bathroom remodeling project. Spaghetti Joe is known for his uncanny ability to entangle every single IV line and cord that issues forth from his patients, as well as for his surgical scrub cap, the back bowtie of which magically rotates toward the front of his head as the end of his shift draws near. It's almost like a sundial. Paul has a son with autism; he and I share an understanding of what it's like to raise kids with chronic illness. He likes to deer-hunt, and last year at Christmas, he shared with all of us the most delicious venison kielbasa I've ever tasted. He's had a run of bad luck with ceiling leaks and tornado damage, and I hope 2012 is much better for him and his family. Tony amuses us with stories of his brilliant, chess-playing five year old grandson, whose family recently moved to Georgia from Australia. This kid has some of the most profound insights, and I hope Tony is writing them all down. His family is blessed with the genes for longevity, and I will miss hearing about how his stubborn, determined, 90-plus year old father is getting along. Cliff, a die-hard Packers fan, and his wife, Donna, an OR nurse, travel to the beach most weekends, and during last January's snowstorm, their sunny Facebook pix inspired an insane amount of envy amongst those of us stuck in the hospital. They are very much in love, and are not shy about PDA (public displays of affection). Cass, who is extremely slender, wears long underwear and wool socks under her scrubs all year round to ward off the chilly temperatures in the operating rooms at Floyd, which are kept unnecessarily cold. Like me, she is a fan of cottage cheese. Her commitment to keeping the schedule moving along is nothing short of impressive. Eddie, who has another life as a farmer and beekeeper, brings us raw honey and beef, entertaining us with tales from his hives and pastures. Grumpy Doug grew up in Pennsylvania, loves to work the freezing cold neuro rooms, and has "Iron Man" as his cell phone's ring tone. Michigan Doug is my age, so we have a lot of pop culture in common. His accent reminds me of my Canadian cousins, and I love that he can't wait to get home at the end of the day to "visit" with his wife, Eleanor, in front of a roaring fire. Dave and Heather are our resident married anesthetist couple; I knew both of them from Emory. Lani, whose baby was born in November, experienced the trials and tribulations of parenthood when her child had to be lifeflighted to Children's Hospital in Atlanta for repair of  twisted intestines; she's back at work, and her baby is doing just fine. Johnny and Richard both commute quite a ways to work everyday, and together with Alison, the newest addition to the group, they round out the complement of Miracle Center anesthetists.
     I haven't worked the inpatient side of the hospital too much recently, but that was the starting point of my trip down the Miracle Center's yellow brick road. Brenda is the first friend I made, after surviving a terribly long recovery room resuscitation together during one of my first nights on call. For some reason, she thought I hated her, and was shocked when I sent her a FB friend request the following day. There's a silly rule restricting nurses from the doctor's lounge, where the coffee dispenser is, and because of this, I've become Brenda's coffee bitch...she requires 4 containers of half-and-half per cup. She and her husband have become good friends of ours, and since they spend a lot of weekends in Atlanta, I know we'll see them there. From pre-op to recovery, I've come to know the Tonyas, Minnie, Kim, Jenny, Kelly, Kristy, Angie, Kandy, Holly, Vickie, Kristie, Melody, Connie, Sonya, Christy, Mike, Gia, LaDonna, Edith, Jessica, Sara, Donte, Penny, Stacy, Missy, Patrick, Shelita, Jerry, Jane, Gayla, Jennifer, Terri, Tracey, Denise, Robbie, Beth, Cathy, and Elaine. Together, we've shared many perioperative adventures, as well as a few misadventures. Again, I know I've omitted some important names; given the fact that I am terrible at remembering names, I am actually impressed that I've done this well so far! In GI Lab, there are Dawn, Scarlett, and Bobby, as well as another nurse whose name escapes me at the moment, all of whom have been of great help in getting our often incredibly sick patients prepared for their EGDs, colonoscopies, bronchoscopies, and ERCPs. I will always remember trekking up the back stairs to labor and delivery, located in the Miracle Center's Pleasure Dome, where Shelley, Ashley, Kris, Kay, Rhiannon, Maggie, Mindi, Jill, Tammy, Brandi, Kristy, Kierston, Amy, Stephanie, Connie, Alison, Jessica, Gina, Sandi, and Susan are a just few of the friendly faces who assisted me with placing epidurals, calming frantic parturients and their families, and getting through the seemingly mandatory 3 a.m. C-sections during my nights on call.
     In concluding this incomplete summary of my gratitude to all the amazing people I've had the opportunity to work with, many of whom I am proud to count among my friends, I realize that it's written in present tense. I'm guessing it won't seem real until I clean out my locker this afternoon and shred the patient lists I've kept since day one. I am hoping that I will be remembered as someone who cared deeply about doing the right thing for my patients, as well as being a relatively low-maintenance doc, someone who was maybe a little unconventional, but generally easy to get along with. I've thoroughly enjoyed my family here at Floyd Medical Center, and am especially glad for social networking right now. It has definitely revolutionized the way I keep in touch; perhaps that is why I don't view people I've known or worked with in the past tense. Once again, I'm off to see the Wizard, starting down a new yellow brick road.  I can only hope that my new traveling companions will be as personable and supportive as the ones I've gained here. The older I get, the smaller this world seems. Who knows? We may just cross paths again one day very soon.

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