Christmas 2016 on call


When it comes to Christmases all,

I’ll consistently take all the call

The 25th of December

Is a time to remember

Saving lives in a hospital’s hall

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, traveled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I went back to adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system I can get along with. Assignments in Nome, Alaska, rural Iowa, and suburban Pennsylvania stretched into fall 2015. Since last winter I’ve worked in Alaska and western Nebraska, and taken time to deal with my wife’s (benign) brain tumor. After a moose hunt in Canada, and a couple of assignments in western Iowa, I’m back in Alaska. Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission.

I take call for the Christmas holiday; with two exceptions I’ve worked every December 25th since 1973.

Friday night we had company for supper. I got called to ER, but took care of the patient and the paperwork and made it back to the apartment in time.

As a village with a maritime orientation, the town has a tradition of decorating boats for Christmas, and Friday launched an aquatic parade, complete with fireworks when the night got good and dark. We enjoy the seasonal lights, and the spectacle moved across the water, bringing a new appreciation, punctuated by occasional fireworks.  As we watched, I thought to myself that where people have seasonal recreation, injuries will follow, and I wondered what I’d seen in the ER.

If I had thought hard, I might have predicted the hurt that brought me back to the clinic a few hours later. As with most trauma, I advised the RICE protocol:  rest, ice, compression, and elevation.  But I also did a good deal of therapeutic listening.

In the run up to the holiday I read my posts from previous Decembers, and thought back to other Christmases working.

The urge to talk about the bad calls tempts me, but I’ll have more energy at the end of the post if I don’t. One of my patients asked me how many lives I’d saved on Christmas.  I hadn’t thought about it till she asked, but, in fact, I’ve saved a lot.

And I saw really interesting pathology, stuff I’ve not seen before or since (I can list the diagnoses without designating time or place). Q fever.  Duodenal atresia.  Leiomyosarcoma.  Dermatomyositis.  Plague.  Hypernephroma.

In the early morning hours today I took care of a patient for problems that had nothing to do with his recent survival of being in a plane struck by lightning.

Right after that I took care of another Christmas-related injury.

For both those patients, I carried on wonderful conversations with the people who accompanied them. I exchanged views on firearms and deer hunting.  I bragged about missing a deer at 6 yards with my bow.  And  I showed off my knowledge of chiles: if you want the hottest pepper possible, restrict the water supply in an area with cool nights, and, after roasting and peeling, freeze and thaw the chile.

 

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