Sunday, August 19, 2012

From Sacred to Sacrosanct

    I started blogging on Monday, November 28, 2011, going public with my first post at precisely 10:02 a.m. EST. I'd just finished taking my final 24 hour in-house call at the medical center where I'd worked for a little over a year, and aside from being exhausted, I was distraught beyond belief, teetering on the verge of irretrievable disillusionment with this whole "medicine" gig. Being a doctor had really started to suck. I came home, bleary-eyed, mildly confused about what day it was, and stinking to high heaven, like every good anesthesiologist does after being up and running all night between labor and delivery, the operating room (OR), and the intensive care unit (ICU). Let me pause here to explain the "stink." A little more complicated than garden-variety body odor, our stink is intricately layered, accumulated in waves over the duration of the call period. An on-call anesthesiologist's corporeal bouquet is directly proportional to one's cumulative time spent inside the hospital, as well as the usual stress-inducing suspects: lack of sufficient manpower to start scheduled cases; complex patients, including the mostly-dead ones who always seem to present to the OR at 3 a.m.; a$$hole surgeons and administrators; simultaneous obstetric and OR emergencies; inappropriate consults for central IV line placement from lazy hospitalists or emergency room docs; and last but not least, the presence of a full moon, which intensifies one's funkified aroma by several orders of magnitude.
     Showers are sacred to me. In medical school and residency, I learned to appreciate the sanctity of a quick shower and a fresh change of underwear. Regardless of how little sleep I was running on, the ritual of stepping under warm, pulsing water to rinse away that insidiously acquired, eutectic film of blood, sweat, and tears never failed to invigorate both my body and my perspective, rendering me relatively amnestic for the recent past's most unpleasant events. Standing in the shower on this particular morning, however, I was caught up in a nightmarish memory loop, reliving the events of the past month over and over again.
October ?: On call. Busy afternoon. General surgeon posts non-emergent, add on case: 2 year old with thigh abscess, high-normal white count, no fever, not toxic-looking. This kid ate a chicken biscuit less than 4 hours ago. Need to delay case by at least 2 hours to avoid aspiration risk from full stomach upon induction of general anesthesia, unless surgeon wishes to declare this an emergency, supported with written documentation. Surgeon declined this option, as well as doing case later in evening, opting instead to re-post case on OR schedule for tomorrow morning.
October 17th: Electronic anesthesia record goes "live", soon to be followed by other areas of the hospital. Been there, done that at Emory two years ago. No big whoop.
October 25th: Penned a comic-relief Facebook post about the hospital's newly implemented electronic medical record system, which was really stressing all of us out: 
"Going live with the Cerner electronic anesthesia record has made me dwell on such pleasant thoughts: rainbows, crusty scabs, happy clown faces, putrefied old urine, unicorns, toothless wrinkled old ladies who dip snuff, cherry sno-cones, and a skinny jackal's dirtbutton." Heh heh!
Received lots of amusing responses from co-workers and colleagues alike, including one which (seriously) suggested I should consider writing a children's book! LOL!!!!!!!!!
October 28-30th: Celebrated 2nd wedding anniversary in Chattanooga; first weekend away together since Brad's stepmom died last August. 
October 31st: Back at work; crazy night on call. Exhausted.
November 1st: Post-call day off. Colleague (Eddie) who is leaving our practice and has already moved back to Louisiana, arrived today to stay with us for a couple weeks while he finishes working his 90 days' notice. Made crispy-creamy sauteed flageolet beans and cabbage for dinner; enjoyed good Cabernet and excellent conversation with Eddie and "the hubs."
November 2nd: Assigned to labor and delivery, GI suite, and other "odds and ends." Crazy busy day; lots of epidurals and C-sections. Incoming phone call from boss around 10:30 a.m. as I'm heading to a C-section; unable to chat...will call him back. Home around 2:30 p.m. Brad has just quit his sucky, home-based IT job with AT&T, after encouragement from me. I make plenty of $; we'll be fine; IT jobs are plentiful. Finally call boss back at 3:30...
Him: "Uh, you're going to have to leave the practice." 
Me: "What?! Are you kidding? Why?" 
Him: "The administration didn't like your Facebook post, and a surgeon has complained you're too 'rigid'. You've got to go." 
Me: "Just like that, huh? And I have no say in the matter at all?" 
Him: "Just like that. There's nothing I can do."
     It really went down, just like that. I spent the next few days in a state of shock and near-suicidal depression, unable to get my head around this outrageously absurd set of circumstances. Brad and I had gone through so much trouble to move from Atlanta to Rome, and now we were both out of a job. Funny how the administration had overlooked an earlier barrage of Facebook posts from operating room personnel one stormy summer day when we lost power, and both the hospital's generator and backup generators failed, leaving patients under the knife, as well as their surgeons and anesthesia providers, in a deafeningly silent darkness. Holy HIPAA violation, Batman!!!* My benign post regarding that silly piece of software certainly seemed to pale in comparison. I was never offered an audience with the hospital's administration, nor was I provided with information on exactly which surgeon had registered the complaint, although I suspect it was the one from the scenario described above. It was all so conspicuously one-sided, and worst of all, I had absolutely no recourse. Like the poor bastards in "Deliverance", I was sodomized by rampant small-mindedness, so to speak. Hard as I'd tried, I never really fit in there. I was disposable. I resigned, agreeing to work the next 90 days with the exception of taking any more call. Bad things tend to happen on call, and I wasn't going to risk losing any more of my humility or my medical license for the "privilege" of continuing to work under a hostile administration. 
     My final, post-call shower wasn't just sacred, it was sacrosanct. Every blessed rivulet of water converging across my body anointed me with radiant visions of a new-old me: passionate, creative, spontaneous, vibrant, carefree, happy. As I toweled myself dry, a wild idea erupted: "I'm going to start writing a blog today." Laptop in hand, I crawled into bed, wrote my first post, and then spent a good hour-and-a-half, struggling over what to call it. I was so tired, I think I was actually hallucinating. In a fleeting moment of beatific clarity, I was overcome with an intense awareness; I could feel my father, who was also a physician, sitting right next to me on the bed. It was as if I'd been channeling him, and he came to me. Just like that, Channeling Hippocrates, the single best thing I've ever done for myself, was born. And with it, so was I.

*HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. In the above context, HIPAA refers to the protection of sensitive patient data.
   

18 comments:

  1. WHOA. That whole thing with Facebook? That sounds so unfair and, frankly, not above board. I'm so glad you bounced back -- and started writing your blog, as well! I love to read your posts. As to sacred showers? I get it. I still remember being a young mother when showers weren't always easy to come by. Some days I just couldn't fit one in. How I loved popping into the shower when my husband finally came home.

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    1. Janene, I'm so glad we've found each other on BC; your posts always make me laugh! I fondly remember those hasty, but oh-so-decadent showers from mommyhood...aaahhh!

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  2. You are lucky to remember why you started your blog. You had alot going on at that time it would appear and you took it, channeled it, and made a great blog of it. I always enjoy reading it.

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  3. Your descriptions are so clear and fascinating. I look forward to reading more.

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  4. You are lucky Kris, you can remember the where's and whys and detsils of the birth of you4 blog. I am glad you started writing it because I always enjoy reading it. Always great! And it was great to "meet" you thru BC!

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  5. You are lucky to remember why you started your blog. You had alot going on at that time it would appear and you took it, channeled it, and made a great blog of it. I always enjoy reading it.

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  6. Wow, Kris, dismissed just like that in a phone call (not even face-to-face!) because of one comic-relief Facebook post and one anonymous doctor’s complaint with no opportunity to get an audience with the hospital administration?! Pathetic, inexcusable behavior on their part. “Sodomized by rampant small-mindedness” sure sums it up. But on the positive side (and because you are such a passionate and creative individual!) you began blogging and I am glad you did! I loved learning how you came to name your blog after feeling your physician father’s presence. Thank you for sharing this. Yes, sometimes there is nothing better than a hot shower to feel alive again. I’m going to click the link and read your first post too. :)

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    1. Madilyn, It's hard to believe it all really happened this way, but it sure did. That's life in a small, conservative town, I suppose. If anything, this episode provided the impetus for my creative juices to flow again, so in a way, I'm thankful to have been "dismissed."

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  7. I think most of us would suffer overdose of work at any stage of life. The fact is that anything can get repetitive and this can drag anyone down. Hope this debriefing is working for you. However, the post about electronic record from facebook on your anesthesia work is quite concerning. Seriously, that is modern technology gone wrong.

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    1. Yes, Big Brother is watching, right?

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    2. Scary thought to really think of the privacy we have hardly exists these days.

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  8. Kris, the enormous pleasure I get from reading your posts and the even greater pleasure of having made your acquaintance here in cyberspace almost prompts me to send your former employees a note of thanks for releasing you from their bondage. What at first seems injustice or loss often turns out to be liberation.

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    1. Marty, your comment literally brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. The pleasure is mutual. And, you're right, I do feel liberated.

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  9. I agree with NP. Their loss, our gain! :)

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  10. You can still sue them for wrongful dismissal. All they should have done was to tell you to delete the post on FB and not to talk about work again. That should have been the end of it.

    Just y opinion. but on the other hand, Like my friend Willie Jolley says, "A Setback Is A Setup For A Comeback". It's his second book. This happening was probably the best thing ,,, albeit abrupt, but a golden opportunity to cease the day! Many blessings Kris!

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    1. GA is a "fire and hire at will" state...I actually did discuss this with my attorney, but decided not to pursue matters any further. It's clear that the administration didn't like me for whatever reason, and used the FB post and surgeon's complaint to fulfill its pre-determined agenda. I like your friend's comment, Theresa...so true.

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