After a productive but exhausting two weeks, I wrapped things up by making dinner for my team of medical students, internal medicine residents, and hematology-oncology fellows. Most of them are continuing on for the remainder of the month, before switching to another rotation in the hospital. That’s one of the quirks – and necessities – of an academic (i.e., teaching) hospital – no one is on the same hospital floor, on the same service, for more than a month or so.
We did good work during those two weeks that I served as the attending. We held hands with our patients. We listened to their stories. We did all we could to relieve our patients’ pain, their suffering. We gave people cancer diagnoses, and we treated their cancer. We helped people die comfortably, in peace and with dignity.
My team did all of this, while I mostly just had to supervise.
I thanked them with dinner.
When I was an internal medicine intern, my very first rotation in the hospital was on the gastroenterology service. I worked much longer hours back then, hours that make me cringe when I think about them now. That first month flew by, mostly in a sleep-deprived and adrenaline-fueled blur, but I came away from it with a couple of vivid memories.
My mornings start early, rising before anyone else in the house is awake. If I’m lucky, and feeling motivated, I start the day with a pre-dawn run. I call it running, but it’s really more of a lurching jog. Whatever. It gets the calories burned, and it’s good for my soul.
On the way to the school in the mornings, the kids and I watch the sun rise. As I drive, the sun – glowing orange, but not yet so bright that we have to look away – slowly emerges into the rosy sky guiding its path. The kids guess which direction we’re headed based on where sun sits on the horizon.
We listen to the latest pop songs on the radio, and my daughter sings along. Maddie belts out the words to “Call Me Maybe” as if she is on stage, microphone in hand, and Oliver mumbles his own version of the song. Sometimes they even sing in sync with each other. I smile to myself as I drive, not wanting to interrupt for fear they will stop if they know I am listening.
It’s been just a few weeks since we traveled to the beaches of Seaside. My memories of those moments spent lounging on the beach or playing with the kids in the sand seem distant, as if they happened years ago and not just earlier this month. I had hoped the restorative properties of that vacation would still be lingering into the end of August and beyond. Instead, the vacation’s effects dissipated quickly, like wisps of steam rising from the hot pavement after one of our sudden, late-afternoon storms.
In between activities with the kids last weekend, I found myself researching potential trips we could take over spring break next year. I scoured travel magazines, hoping for inspiration and bookmarking pages to return to. I spent too much time on various airlines’ websites, searching for exciting destinations that we can reach with only a flight or two. I crowd-sourced ideas from my Facebook friends, looking for potential places to take the kids to see snow for the first time, to go skiing or snow-shoeing or sleigh-riding. I daydreamed of sipping hot cocoa by a fireplace while the kids make snow angels outside our cabin. I imagined how refreshing the turquoise waters of the Caribbean would feel on my ankles.