"I need to get out of here," one of my patients begged the other day. "I have tickets to Coachella."
I am lame enough that I had to look up Coachella on my iPhone to see what it is. It's weird in one sense to deal with older patients, where I'm basically in a reverse parent-child position, I'm supposed to be the grown-up and explain to them what's going on. But it's weird in an entirely different sense when the patient is the same age as I am, but we live such different lives. I've had patients my age (or younger) who are living lives I see as so much more adult than mine-- two kids, a family, a career they're not still in training for. And then I have patients my age who aren't yet adults, and who see me as "the doctor" as if I'm some important person-- when I could just as well have gone to high school with them. I'm young enough that I would feel a little weird to go to a doctor who's my age, to see a doctor who I could have gone to school with. I want my doctor to seem like an adult, to seem old, wise, experienced. And if I feel that way at this age, I can't imagine how the older patients feel when they see someone like me.
It's just crazy to think that this patient who was hoping to go to Coachella-- in an alternate universe, that could have been me. I could be the guy who goes to music festivals and sleeps in a tent instead of an intern in a hospital, working 28-hour shifts and sleeping on a cot. Okay, maybe it's not that different, I don't know. I have friends who have lives they're still trying to figure out, I have friends who seem middle-aged already-- at some point I assume everyone catches up, everyone gets to the same place. You don't (often) see 50-year-olds who seem like teenagers. An adult is an adult. No? Yes? I used to think we reach a point where we feel like adults, where we know the answers, where every decision isn't so hard, where we don't have to worry so much. And then I see my patients-- who don't know the answers any more than I do. There's a family I'm watching as they struggle to decide whether to withdraw care for their wife and mother and daughter, a woman my age, in an accident, being kept alive by machines-- they don't know the "right" thing to do. They don't have any answers. They also don't have medical insurance, so their decision matrix is kind of insane.
There's an illness going around among the staff. Three of my colleagues vomited on the ward today-- these are doctors throwing up, in between patient visits. Which is disgusting and hazardous to patient health, but we literally do not get sick days-- you need to make up any day you miss, and so you end up losing a weekend down the road-- so you need to be dying to not come to work. So people come to work, and vomit. I am hoping against hope that I don't get this illness too. I think I used a gallon of hand sanitizer today.