Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
As the intern year has gone on, compassion has been harder to feel, and later, even to fake. Patients mean work, and when your work is this draining and frustrating, the real people behind the mountains of paperwork become frustrating.
All this was put into perspective last night. I was on call, shambling back and forth with as much celerity as I could muster at 2am, when the overhead intercom burst forth with "Attention in the hospital, code blue, labor and delivery, room 9."
Codes are never easy to deal with, but with most of the geriatric medicine codes I've seen, there is a sense of resignation despite the furious efforts. After all, there are very few 85 year olds who will make anything like a full recovery after two minutes of CPR. A code on L&D is a different matter entirely.
When I arrived, the anesthesia and surgery teams who work on the same floor had unsurprisingly beaten my two-floors-of-stairs-sprint to the scene. I stayed just long enough to get a general idea of what had happened from one of the residents, and then I turned to go back to my work. The patient had HELLP syndrome, a rare but not unheard of complication of pregnancy, and had coded shortly after a crash c-section.
Walking out through the waiting room, I ran into the woman's husband. He was scared, worried, and completely in the dark. His first question was "how is Susan?" His second was "what does code blue mean?" Realizing his need, I started talking to him, answering what questions I could, both as a physician and as someone who genuinely cared.
And that was the shock. I realized, despite the bitterness, despite the pain, despite everything that over the last few months has brought so many undesirable characteristics to the fore in my personality, I did care. I'm not sure anyone who hasn't gone through a similar situation can fully understand this. The point of it was, I really did care, I do care, and though I am saddened to know it took something so extreme to remind me of it, I am enheartened that I have been reminded.
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.