* * Anonymous Doc

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I can't even watch movies like a normal person anymore. I used my day off yesterday to go see the new Adam Sandler movie, Funny People. In the movie, Adam Sandler's character is diagnosed with AML (acute myelogenous leukemia) but somehow never seems sick. I spent most of the movie annoyed that they take the time to think of a real disease to afflict him with, but then they don't actually bother giving him any symptoms. He's supposed to be past the point of treatment-- too far gone for radiation or chemotherapy-- but they give him some "experimental treatment" and then magically (after one day he's shown sleeping late and feeling grouchy) he's all better. Healthy people seem sicker than he did. And what's this magical experiment if it's not radiation or chemotherapy? They gave him some pills. Great. Magic. And they had such detailed stats to back it up-- "8% of patients get better on this experimental regimen. 92% don't." What kind of study was this? I kept thinking he should get a second opinion (his doctor didn't seem particularly awesome), or, I don't know, maybe ask a couple questions about what the heck they're giving him. I know the point of the movie was not a realistic treatment of Adam Sandler's battle with AML, but come on, it was lazy.

Kind of ruined the film for me. Partly because even if they were accurate in the portrayal, what am I doing spending my day off thinking about sick people-- even fictional sick people? Why did I go to this stupid movie when I could have been doing something else-- anything else-- that didn't involve illness and death? I get enough illness and death the other six days of the week. And then I'm on overnight tonight and going to probably be sleepy enough at some point that I'm going to get reality and fiction mixed up and start looking for Adam Sandler in the CCU to see how his experimental treatment is going.

I didn't even have anyone to go to the movie with, because I couldn't see a movie at a normal time, because I had to go to sleep to get to the hospital at 7 AM on Sunday morning. So I saw a 5:00 movie, with fifteen elderly people in the theater who will probably be my patients this week anyway. I can't even see a movie at a normal time, or like a normal human being who doesn't spend the whole time wishing Adam Sandler would seem like an actual sick person. They needed a medical consultant. All that money to make this thing and they couldn't hire a doctor to tell them that people with terminal illnesses usually seem kind of sick. At least this was better the The Bucket List, where they gave Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson vague diagnoses of "imminent death" and then they went skydiving and on a safari in Africa, as if it's easy to go enjoy a vacation when your organ systems are shutting down.

I guess no one wants illness played real. No one wants to watch death on a movie screen, no one wants to see actual decline, actual suffering. No, we're too sensitive for that. Let's leave that to the doctors, they can take it. Hide it from everyone else, pretend illness doesn't exist. We want it packaged in a palatable way so we don't have to come to terms with the truth that we will all die, and many of us will die in very unpleasant, painful, drawn-out, terrible ways. It's like chicken nuggets-- we turn chicken into chicken nuggets, bearing no resemblance to the actual animal killed for the food, so that we can pretend it wasn't an animal at all. Let's dress death up to look like Adam Sandler performing stand-up comedy but taking a vitamin pill afterwards to make it all better, and then we can ignore the reality. Okay, maybe this analogy sucks. Maybe I'm exhausted and grumpy and not even thinking like a normal person anymore. Maybe I'm losing my mind.

But this is what the system is making me into. This is what overnight call followed by a new shift at 7AM the next morning does to someone. Irregular sleep schedule, irregular meals, vending machine garbage for dinner because we're not allowed to leave the hospital and I don't have time to buy ingredients to make myself something to bring, not that there's a refrigerator I'm allowed to keep it in. And we're expected to be empathetic, patient, caring physicians too. A patient complained the other day and said he only got 3 hours of sleep. Well, so did I. I told him. And he looked at me like I'd just said something out of line. What, you're the only one allowed to complain? I'm a person too, just the same. We're doing the best we can, we're trying to heal him, we're employing the best of modern medicine-- but we're not robots.

1 comment:

  1. you mirror Holden Caulfield in some ways