Sunday, April 5, 2009

Work worth doing

I have often been asked if I keep track of all the babies that I have delivered. The answer is no. When I was a third year medical student in the largest county hospital obstetrical unit in the country I preformed forty deliveries by myself in just under four weeks. This may sound like bragging and I am. I also use that figure to illustrate that the motto of the obstetrical service "see one, do one, teach one" was not far from the truth.

At the end of my medical school rotation in obstetrics I decided to stop counting deliveries. Each delivery is very special. I found that I enjoyed remembering them individually and not as the collective whole their sum would represent.

However, I do count in short intervals. I vividly remember the day I did six term vaginal deliveries when I myself was nine months pregnant pregnant. I hauled my big pregnant belly up and down the back stairs to my office that day just expecting to be in labor myself at any moment. I was even grumpy when I delivered a patient due two weeks hence as she and I had both anticipated that my baby would arrive before hers.

I remember the night that I did three surgeries in a row for ectopic pregnancies. Since things seem to arrive in threes I slept like a log after the final one was in the recovery room. It was three AM when I crawled into bed and I felt that there could not possibly be another patient with an ectopic pregnancy out there with my phone number. Fortunately there was not.

Today my record will be dead babies. Intrauterine fetal demise or IFDs as the residents call them. The first was just after 7 this morning. My hospitalist shift began at 7 and I arrived a bit early due to anxiety at what might await me. Sure enough there were two IFDs in labor and delivery when I arrived. I have never had two in one day before. Thinking about this and waiting for board checkout (the procedure for passing off the patients present to the new on call physician) I was called to the emergency room when another obstetrical patient who had just arrived and was delivering. Her baby was dead also.

I remember what I was told in medical school. "If it were easy, then anybody could be a doctor." This is true. The work here is hard not only physically but emotionally as well. These people make me realize how easy my life has been. And that hard work is worth doing.
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