I arrived last Saturday at the other campus for an on-call shift, my first in three weeks. The departing chaplain was Monica, the person in my group in the first half of the year with whom I had the most difficulties. (We are in different groups now.) I arrived quite early and told her she should feel free to run along, but she ended up staying until the end of her shift and we had a good talk.
Later she sent me a nice email saying she had enjoyed our talk and thanking me for my honesty and willingness to discuss interpersonal issues. Before she left work, she wished me a peaceful on-call shift, and I considered saying, “Please say, ‘May your on-call be just what you need,’” but I decided just to accept her wish, which was a big mistake, if you’re superstitious in the way that I now definitely am.
I considered not doing rounds, since no one was there to see whether I did it or not—some of our supervisors expect us to do this; others don’t care—but then decided to do what I would do if someone were watching, and visited the nine units we’re supposed to visit. I was not requested to see any patient, and I got in bed at about 9:15.
An hour later, there was a Code Blue, so I got up and got dressed and made my way to the unit where an adult patient was being resuscitated. From my spot outside his door, I could see his bare leg and a beefy doctor forcefully doing CPR, which caused the patient to make a horrible noise with each compression. After a while, I could see the patient’s face and it occurred to me that he was not unlike my father in appearance: slender, with white hair and a neatly trimmed white beard.
I had felt quite exhausted ever since getting out of bed, and after I made the connection with my father, I had to sit down immediately. I wrote here previously about sometimes finding it extremely difficult to listen to a patient’s medical tale. This has not happened in the past couple of months, so maybe I have gotten past that difficulty and maybe what happened Saturday night was the next challenge. Fortunately, there was a chair nearby in the hallway, so I drifted over to it in a serene, chaplain-like manner and sat down as if I just happened to be sitting down rather than as if I were going to collapse if I didn’t. Every time I stood up, I felt extremely weak and shaky and had to sit down again.
Eventually, they transferred the patient to the ICU, and since his wife hadn’t come in, I decided to return to bed. As I walked back to the on-call room, I wondered where the adult ICU even is, and then I realized it is actually right next to the on-call room. It’s a sleepy unit that often has no patients at all, or maybe one or two, with a couple of nurses sitting quietly around. Quite a contrast from my own campus, where there are six ICUs with 16 beds apiece, usually with every bed occupied and numerous personnel undertaking considerable activity. Since it was right there, I stopped by the patient’s room. He was still being worked on, but by fewer people, and his wife still wasn’t there, so then I did go to bed.