Saturday, April 22, 2006

Throat afire

Listen carefully, and you might just hear billions of virus particles propogating their semi-living existence on my tonsils and pharyngeal mucosa.


Being sick forces one to realize the unusual nature of medical work. If you work at a bank, in contrast, you can just call in and say, "I'm really in sad shape today, I can't make it." And so your boss shrugs and tells you to get well and come in tomorrow, and perhaps the bank doesn't open as many accounts that day. But if you're a surgical resident, acquiring an illness means nothing but more misery for yourself. Staying home is simply not an option. With work hours restrictions cramming an increasingly large amount of work into smaller periods of time, the limited staffing of residents at academic medical centers find themselves already burdened by a tremendous rush to stay afloat amidst the daily responsibilities of patient care. Add to that the absence of a colleague, and suddenly all that work that the sick resident would have performed must merely be absorbed by the remaining few. To me, it would be unconscionable to burden my co-residents with the additional workload. With a virus like the one that causes my present (additional) suffering, I must proceed with work as usual, the only exception being that I have to wash my already-chafed hands even more frequently and wear a mask and gloves for patient care. But it has to be done. In any case, here is a sample list of acceptable reasons to miss work in residency:

1) Being under anesthesia, having surgery actively performed upon oneself
2) Being in the midst of the five or six requisite hours of recovery following the above-mentioned anesthesia
3) Carrying a disease that is so communicable as to jeopardize patient safety, i.e. tuberculosis or ebola
4) Coma
5) Abduction, by aliens or otherwise
6) Having been drawn and quartered
7) Being a quad apotemnophiliac who has fulfilled his/her lifelong dream (look it up)
8) Being homogenized by a giant blender as an unfortunate consequence of a visit to a smoothie factory

...Well, I guess I can't really think of any more. So that's probably about it. Some well established excuses that are NOT legitimate reasons to miss work:

1) Having an IV catheter in your arm (you can always cart the IV pole along with you during rounds)
2) Protrusion of some/all bowel contents, so long as they can be reduced manually and have their proper location maintained by the use of duct tape
3) A nail in the head (see image below)
4) Being the victim of a criminal penectomy -- i.e. Johh Bobbitt, were he a resident, would have been required to appear at work that day with adequate gauze bandages in place to prevent drippage of blood onto charts and mayo stands
5) Foreign objects in the rectum, no matter how large (you should know better)
6) Being a hemi apotemnophiliac who has recently fulfilled his/her lifelong dream

Phew! That was enough work for me today. Fortunately I'm not due back at the hospital until tomorrow at 6:00 am. Meanwhile the immunologic battle will rage on.


At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha, good one with the apotemnophiliac bit. Was wondering what was the difference between being a quad and and hemi till I saw the definition.


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