Sunday, February 19, 2006

At Least I Brought Donuts

I was sorely, sorely tested this weekend.

Please note that I said I "will do my best to be as positive, helpful, and ungrumpy as I can be" — whole lotta wiggle room there. And wiggle I did, because man oh man, did I get it from every angle. Some highlights:

  • Page at 9 pm, while at a party, with HellBoy clinging to my leg and weeping: "My husband saw Dr. Z the other day for a cough and stuffy head and a low-grade fever, and I'm not sure he's getting better as fast as he should ... he coughs a little more at night but also during the day and his temperature is 99.8 and his nose is stuffy, not clogged stuffy but hard to breathe a little but it's a little better if he takes decongestant but not all the way better and his throat hurt but it doesn't anymore and ..." I finally got her to stop and told her it sounded like they were doing all the right things, and she says, "That's what Dr. Z said too — here, I'll have him tell you!" Before I could say "Oh, I don't think that's necessary!" her husband got on and said, "I saw Dr. Z the other day for a cough and stuffy head and a low-grade fever, and I'm not sure I'm getting better as fast as I should ... I cough a little more at night but also during the day and my temperature is 99.8 and my nose is stuffy, not clogged stuffy but hard to breathe a little but it's a little better if I takes decongestant but not all the way better and my throat hurt but it doesn't anymore and ..." At which point I cracked and said, "I'm sorry, but I have a crying baby here and I'll have to go, sounds like you're doing ALL THE RIGHT THINGS! BYE NOW!"
  • Page at 9:30 pm, still at the party,* HB now with his dad in the other room howling "Mama! Mama!": "I'm a patient of Dr. C's, and he told me I shouldn't go to the emergency room anymore, because I could just pick up an infection there. But tonight I have a headache. Do you think I should go to the ER?"
  • Page at 10 pm: "I just took a shower? And I'm itching? You know, down there? It's the same soap I always use and I don't notice any discharge? And ..." I closed my eyes, remembered my resolution, and sweetly suggested she go the drugstore to get something over the counter.
  • Page at 10:30 pm: "I'm here in the drugstore? And I notice that it says on the box to ask your doctor if you're pregnant? And I'm not pregnant, but we're trying? And ..." I admit I was much less sweet on the second call.
  • Page at 4 am: "I've been having pain in my shoulder for weeks and I saw the doctor and all she gave me was 20 Perc0cets. Now how am I supposed to deal with pain like this if they only give me 20 Perc0cets? I went to the ER and they gave me ibuprofen. That's like taking nothing. I want you to do something about this pain." "Well, I'm just the doctor on call for emergencies, and I'm afraid I can't do much for you because I'm HOME IN BED." Which is always the wrong thing to say. She said, "Well, I'm sorry I woke you up, but I'm awake too, because I'm IN PAIN." When I told her I wouldn't prescribe narcotics over the phone at night she said, "Well you doctors just all stick together, don't you?" and slammed down the phone.

Then I got twice the usual number of patients dumped on me to cover at the hospital, which wouldn't have been too awful except that the damn pager Would. Not. Stop. Beeping. I think every nursing home resident in the state slid out of their wheelchair this past weekend, and the staff was required to report every single one to me. The poor house staff got essentially no help from me, and heard a lot of bitching and moaning.

But they did get donuts.

*Yes, we tried to go to a party while I was on call, and we took HB with us, and kept him up past his bedtime. I know, what was I thinking? Well, what I was thinking was, god dammit, I never get a chance to go to parties, and I don't want to leave HB with a babysitter when I won't see him during the day the whole weekend. He did take a late nap, which we figured would hold him over. And in fact it did — he refused to go to sleep until midnight. It was a fun party, or so TrophyHusband told me later. I spent most of it on the phone.


Lisa C. said...

Seriously, do people not have limits? I have never NEVER contacted a doctor outside normal business hours. I have used nurse help lines, but they're already there (although they've been decidedly unhelpful the last couple of times "Just go to the doctor" THAT'S NOT WHY I CALLED, ack).

Calling you for a cold? Itchiness? From the drugstore? Christ. Yet another reason I'm happy I'm not a doctor.

Lisa C. said...

Actually, I just remembered the one time I did call an on call doctor. It was after I had my wisdom teeth out and I had swelling, was in horrible pain, AND a fever three days after surgery. It was a Saturday morning and he told me it was no big deal (it was quite clear I'd gotten him off the golf course). When I told him about the excruciating pain, he DID prescribe narcotics over the phone to get me through until Monday. I spent the whole weekend in a drug-induced haze, raced to the office of the guy who'd done the surgery on Monday morning, where it was determined that they'd left some gauze in my jaw from the surgery and it had festered over the previous six days.

I have never called an on call again.

Anonymous said...

Have I told you lately that I love you? No, seriously I LOVE YOU!!! If you weren't married and I was a lesbian I'd be all over you!

Who the bloody hell calls their doctor (PA) in the middle of the freaking weekend because they've been coughing for, oh 2 hours and had a tickle in their throat. Or they've got a little bit of a headache and they NEVER get headaches so it's GOT to be something life threatening, and, oh yes, I hurt my back (shoulder, knee, etc) 3 weeks ago but I'm starting to worry because it's not better yet, what should I do????

Ummm, take 2 shots of tequila and come see me Monday? But my dog ate all my percocet and, well, my cramps are really bad, and, and, I haven't pooped in 12 hours so I might explode before morning.

BLAH, done ranting, but still LOVE YOU!!!!

Orange said...

Damn, you're making me feel bad about every single time I ever called my internist, the perinatologist, or my kid's pediatrician in the evening. I swear the calls about myself were warranted (mostly). The pediatrician, not so much. I was a worrywart.

One time, my grandma had an incredibly itchy crotch late at night. She was thisclose to pressing her Lifeline button to summon an ambulance, but my cousin talked her out of it. Can you imagine how appreciative the EMTs would have been, rushing to her aid with a little Monistat?

DoctorMama said...

Anyone with a truly serious illness gets a free pass, as does anyone over the age of 80 (it would have made a good story, though, if your grandma had pulled the trigger on the Lifeline, orange!). And pediatricians know the deal — the first-time parents clog the lines nightly, no offense taken. (In fact, our peds office has a computerized system, and when HB, who had just started scooting around, found and dispatched into his gullet an open bottle of infant Tylenol that the cat had knocked to the floor, the person on the call line said in a shocked tone, "He's five months old? And you haven't used our system yet?!!")

Thanks christie — though I think I'm going to get some interesting search engine hits to the site now — hot married lesbians play doctor, or something.

lisa — I always feel like a weinie when I tell someone to go to the ER — it's kind of like saying "go to the doctor."

Laura said...

donuts for the residents and for the nurses????
Seriously, it was a hellish weekend in healthcare land, wasn't it?
I tried hard to blame the moon but maybe that holiday weekend might be the reason...I know in our house a bone gets broken or someone is incredibly sick or my frequent flier boy has g tube issues or his chronic lung disease rears its ugly head...always on the holiday weekends.
Work-wise, I was in hospital hell. The ER was packed to the gills when I left this evening...thank God I was LEAVING!
I still want to know what love did you give the nurses? I always have your back if you show me some love.
Hope this week is better than the weekend.

Anonymous said...

Oh God, I'm so sorry Dr. Mama! It's like when my students have a paper due and I get crazy phone calls in the morning that wake me up about their computer dying/car breaking down/imminent family emergency, etc. I'm just like: I don't care! Automatic A to anyone who lets me go back to sleep!

We do call the pediatrician for the kid because something bizarre is always happening--she hit her head hard and now she's vomiting over and over; she swollowed piece of dental floss/coin/something I don't know what it was; her temperature is x; she threw up eleventy-million times and now it's kind of scary looking, etc.

The doctor does not call us back. The nurse calls us.

Once we learn what we are supposed to do in such a case, obviously, we do not call again. We made it through the last horrifying rotovirus or whatever it was without any assistance based on the info from last time.

But you've definitely made me think twice about calling!

Anonymous said...

I can feel your pain in a roundabout way--my husband is a lawyer, and the calls he gets at off-hours sometimes amaze me. What exactly do you think he's going to be able to do about cleaning up your driving record from an accident 3 years ago on a FRIDAY NIGHT AT 10 P.M.???

I'm sure your residents were very grateful for the doughnuts, though. As are my students--I couldn't stop thinking about doughnuts after your last post, so I brought some to my class the other day. That way they ate most of them and I only had 1.

Orange said...

You want a good story from my grandma? Here's a recent one. She's got diverticulitis, so she's not supposed to eat too much fiber. She'd just gotten out of a lengthy rehab stay (PT, etc., after a hospital stay decrepitized her) at a nursing home, and she had her Polish caregiver make her some oatmeal for breakfast. She figured it would be OK since it was a different brand of oatmeal. Sure enough, she ended up with a crapload of diarrhea. Several craploads, really. To prevent any "accidents" when I drove her to a check-up, she popped a couple Imodium. (My car seats were grateful for this.) But the Imodium stopped her up, and she now lives in fear that any and all bowel straining will cause her pessary to pop out. So she wanted to eliminate the constipation, but didn't have any stool softener in the house. Her caregiver came up with the brilliant idea of walking a few blocks to Wal-mart to buy some Colace. No, wait, that wasn't her brilliant idea. Her idea was to administer a fels naphtha soap enema. Well, what do you know? That sure did the trick. In fact, it gave my grandma so much diarrhea, her caregiver had to cut her out of her nightgown to clean her up. After a long day and night of that, she did activate the Lifeline so the ambulance could take her to the ER. Where, presumably, they bitch-slapped her for stuffing caustic soap up her ass, and then sent her home.

Fels naphtha enema vs. itchy-crotch ambulance call—which one wins? I think they're both winners.

Now, aren't you glad my grandma didn't call you over the weekend?

Mignon said...

I'm sorry about your hell on-call weekend, but I love that thing you did with the font. That was cool!

When I was a working mom we brought our daughter everywhere, including parties, nice restaurants, book signings (Paul Theroux is kind of an ass), etc. I don't regret it, because like you, I didn't get to spend enough time with my child and did not want to lose 1 minute.

E. said...

I second mignon's props on the excellent font trick. As a fledgling blogger, I am quite impressed.

I also think it's cool to bring your kid places where maybe other people think kids shouldn't be. 1st of all, kids have to learn how to act at parties, restaurants, etc. and how the hell else are they going to learn? 2nd of all, kids are people too (God that's such a cliche, but...) and just because some people don't like them doesn't mean they shouldn't be present. I don't like self-satisfied, over-educated adults who think they're God's gift to conversation, but occasionally I have to put up with one.

(Full disclosure: I'm over-educated, too. Self-satisfied? Well, I try not to be. Self-righteous? Um...)

B.E.C.K. said...

I think the only on-call doctor I've ever called was my son's pediatrician, when the kiddo had an extremely high temp. and was listless and not eating/drinking. That was scary. But I'm guessing the underlying problem with the people who called you after hours was basic anxiety and a need to be heard. Someone could probably make a buncha money if they started a "mom hotline." Folks could call it and the moms could answer and give out basic advice, say things like "There, there, you'll be okay," and everyone would feel better. ;^)

Anonymous said...

Ah, sorry if you become a frequent stop for the folks looking for hot lesbians playing doctor.... But, well, you might make new friends that way?

Babies and elderly folks get a free pass on the call thing, it's the 20 year old's that have had the sniffle's for 20 minutes, or the 40 year old that threw up once, 12 hours ago, and just ate pizza with extra everything, and now is a little queasy.... Old ladies itchy crotches I can handle.

Anonymous said...

BUT you don't have to not be an asshole when people are being IDIOTS!

It's only being an asshole when people are just being a people that is a bad thing.

Most of those people who called you deserved to be treated like idiots.

DoctorMama said...

nnn — Actually, I DO have to not be an asshole when people are being idiots, and I don't think the folks who called deserved to be treated disrespectfully. I don't have to take it if patients are being abusive assholes themselves, but everything else, I signed up for. Being sick and afraid makes most people act a little stupid, I think — it certainly can make me do so. And I'd much rather err on the side of being comforting to someone who's abusing the system than risk being surly to someone who's just uninformed and worried.

beck — I love the idea of the Mom hotline. Maybe you should start it up as a business on the side! (Just make sure not to hire operators who are the "You went swimming after eating? Oh my god you're going to DIE!" type of mother.)

mignon and e — re: the fonts — I know, right? I was a little proud of it. It expresses visually the feeling I get when listening to these folks go on and on.

erin — I am so pleased that I was responsible for people getting donuts! Truly.

laura — of COURSE for the nurses as well!

ozma — don't think twice. If you're worried, call. Just talk fast.

mwdb & orange — excellent stories both.

bihari — did I say I was going to hell? I'm going to hell, aren't I?!!

Anonymous said...

Your patience is admirable. This just makes me soooooo glad I didn't decide to become a doctor.

Anonymous said...

HB was SCOOTING at five months??? Geez. My older two were still working on rolling over at that age, sad to say. Little Child is now five months old, and seems to have big plans for mobility, but we're not supposed to lay him flat so he spends all of his time secured in an upright position, flailing impotently and "talking" about how frustrating it is. Love the font thing--VERY cool trick. That's one reason why I love blogging as opposed to writing for little mags, etc.--anything goes.

Ozma--you give your students your HOME NUMBER? The colleges where I teach don't pay me enough for that--they get my email address and if something really dire comes up they can call the department and the department calls me. One time some idjit at the department gave a student my home number, and they called while there were multiple children screaming and I had something on the stove, and I was HORRIFIED.

Orange--OH MY's probably wrong to be laughing so hard at your poor grandma, but...OH MY GOD

I tend not to call on-call docs unless there is some sort of really dire emergency (preterm labor, child in need of IV hydration, high fever, etc.) where I need to know which hospital to go to. Otherwise I kind of figure they can't do much for me. Funnily enough, this is the second time I've typed this comment--the first time I was right in the middle, then got up to give the baby his carafate (he is with the sitter and I am supposed to be working, but...) and accidentally MAYBE gave him his post-op day 2 brother's capital w/codeine instead...I'm still not sure. They're both amber pharmacy bottles full of pink syrup. So I ended up yanking the plug on the computer to free up the phone line and calling the pediatrician, and she said it wouldn't hurt him and probably he'd sleep for the rest of the day if I did give him the wrong one. Oy. Now she's probably having a gooooood laugh at my expense with the rest of the office. Oh well.

DoctorMama said...

Oh no, I don't want to mislead anyone — I must confess, I have NO idea whether HB was creeping at five months. In fact I don't know the exact timing of any of his milestones, with the exception of his first real smile to me and the day he really walked well. I know that in general he was within the normal range for everything, not particularly early. Since we're physicians, we strenuously avoid taking too much notice of any of this stuff, so as not to drive ourselves or anyone else crazy. Plus I find it irritating when people are watching him for signs of being smart. (Mostly this is only my MIL.)

Anonymous said...

I have never called an on-call doctor, I suppose because the only two times I would have (blindingly painful migraines w/ aphasia and all manner of horribleness) I was in too much pain to dial the phone properly and instead I merely reclined on the bathroom floor and resigned myself to death.
It sounds like you did exactly what you promised, which was to "do your *best* to be as positive, etc." You didn't promise results. It sounds like you did excellently, under the circumstances. And the donuts definitely count for something

Orange said...

mfa mama, you're supposed to laugh at my grandma stories. Her loving descendants have no choice but to seek the humor in these situations—like the one time my cousin took her to the doctor and inadvertently witnessed a rectal exam...complete with a popped-out prolapsed uterus. We laugh, because otherwise we'd cry.

Anonymous said...

OMG Orange!!! Did your cousin go home and splash acid in his/her eyes in an attempt to erase the image? I love grandma, but please, oh lord please, I don't want to see that....

Anonymous said...

Orange, forget your cousin's ACTUAL eyes, I'm gouging my MIND'S eye out over here. EEUUUUUUGGGGGHHHH!!! I'll go you one better though--MY (great-) grandma died tragically in an S&M accident. Swear. And I am the only person in my family who even remotely loves that as much as we ALL should :-)

DM--aren't you just thrilled with your commenters? Don't you wish someone would just fucking commiserate with you over your stressful party experience? There, there. Go and gouge your mind's eye out. Now isn't that better?

DoctorMama said...

An S&M accident? That is awesome.

I AM thrilled — I prefer a gory but entertaining story over pity just about any day.

Peter Raser said...

I've served as a Chaplain at a large downtown hospital and can commiserate with you. Of course, one might expect a Chaplain to be less of a selfish Asshole, but I assure you, that is not always the case ... particularly when the $#!* pager keeps going off at 3 and 4 am for the most inane reasons.

One thing I have noticed, however: whenever I decide to have a better attitude about things, that's invariably the time things go wacko.

And donuts do cover a variety of sins ;-)

Orange said...

Yeah, mfa mama—tell us about Nana's fatal S&M adventures. Good lord, you've got to put an end to our overactive imaginations before we concoct something far worse than reality. I'm thinking internal bleeding and/or erotic asphyxiation while she was completely covered in latex—please, won't you tell us something milder?

My cousin did not scourge her eyes or brain with acid. She has to live with the memory of seeing the womb a-dangling beside the ol' rectum. Gaaaah! If you want to feel some of that horror, check out the Google image search. If you're not ready for horror, DO NOT LOOK.