The year was 2000, place was University of Massachusetts Medical center and yours truly was learning again to be a medical doctor which was a change from radiology training which I received earlier, now that is a whole new story I have to blog some other time. When you are an intern, you are really at the bottom of the barrel.
It seems during that time the moment you walk in the hospital someone slaps a bull’s eye on your face. Hierarchy plays a major role in academic institutions, unfortunately as an intern you rank at the bottom. Patients worry because even they have heard of July syndrome. Nurses are on your case; after all they eagerly wait for one year to implement their new devices of torture. Residents, who just get promoted from being interns, suffer from an early God syndrome. They want to create you “in their own image”. Attendings don’t suffer from God syndrome… they are Gods. They are eager to teach you with reminders at the top of every hour that this generation of interns is basically lazy. Gone are the days when they used to work days at length before they could get a day off. Well maybe those of us who are not physicians can understand why you are really scrapping the barrel to survive. This festival of Spanish torture is celebrated annually.
So getting back to where I started. After working as an intern for few weeks I entered a patient room. I saw an 80 something year old man who suffered from cardiomyopathy, lying on the bed with his eyes closed. Using my intern instincts I inferred that he must belong to that subclass of nursing home patients which is non verbal, demented and usually sent from nursing homes when their staff is low with made up mundane reasons, or on the other hand there could be a simple reason that he could be sleeping. I proceeded to examine the patient as he would not open his eyes after I yelled his name a couple of times. As I was about to place my stethoscope on his chest he suddenly opened his eyes and blurted out” Hi Doc, sorry didn’t know you were here, I am partially deaf”. Frustrating….. my intern sense was failing me on many levels. But I carried on as I had already figured all that out.
After talking for a little bit I said “very well Mr. G lets have a look”. I again tried to steer my listening device towards his heart. He whispered “I must warn you that I have a singing heart”. I thought ah haa so I was not wrong he is delirious a little bit. But at the same time I began to second guess myself. The new intern syndrome started to dawn on me. I thought maybe he has a combination of different kind of murmurs that I don’t remember; maybe he has a rare murmur… I mean very very rare. I also entertained the notion if there could be a machinery murmur then why could there not be a singing murmur. Puzzled and mystified I advanced and placed my stethoscope on his chest. All of a sudden this 80 year old with already wrong diagnosis of dementia with a very bad heart started to hum “Singin’ in the rain….I am singin’ in the rain … ” He stopped briefly and spoke very softly “didn’t I tell you that I have a singing heart”. Both of us burst out laughing. It was truly a glorious feeling.
That particular day was a good day, July didn’t look so bad, nurses were ready to share their expertise, residents appeared prudent and friendly and attendings showed wisdom which I lacked. By the way they did work much longer hours during their training as compared to us.
I learned some thing very valuable that day.
- You are what you make of your self.
- You can choose to be effected by negative feedback or learn to be proactive.
- You have the power to brighten someone’s day.
- No one should be put in a situation where they hate coming to work.
- And in the end if you don’t have any good thing to say just don’t say anything at all.
Blog you later.
About the picture: Disclaimers. If my wife develops heart burn then she may not find her Zantacs tablets, if I develop knee pain I can still take my Motrins as the one above are hers! Special apology to my children if they develop cough I ran out of cherry cough syrup and there is no mention of chocolate syrup which represents cardiomyopathy. J