Tag Archives: residency

My Story: Part 3- Residency Continued

Although I was glad to be able to finish residency, it was not easy. There were days when the pain in my knees would be so bad I would be limping from room to room. The fatigue had gotten better with the high dose of steroids sending me into a state of jittery high, but after I had spent all my energy, I would crash hard.

I remember one overnight call, where it was an especially busy night. I was stuck in the ER doing admissions. The floors were also busy with critical patients, and nonstop codes. Perhaps it was a full moon. I kept finishing one task, hoping to be able to sneak off to the call room , eat something, and take my meds, but only to have another urgent task awaiting me. I watched the clock, 10 o’clock, 11:30, midnight.

I eventually caught fifteen minutes to eat, but after that it was back to the grind. The work seemed endless, my body ached, and I could barely keep my eyes open.  I remember finishing up my admissions, and as I was walking out the ER at 4 AM, the ER attending tells me he’ll have another patient ready for admission in another hour. I went to lay down for the hour, and prayed that would be the last one before sign out.

There was also the time when my left eye vision became blurry. I was in the middle of interviewing a patient in the ER, and I didn’t want the patient to feel I was incompetent, so I finished the interview, squinting to write my notes. Twenty minutes later, after I finished the admission, I ran to the clinic to speak with my attending. She didn’t know what was wrong, and told me to call my rheumatologist.

I went to the ER at a different hospital, and after a neurology consult and MRI, it was determined that I was having migraine auras. It turns out the constant lack of sleep and stress was causing me to have these painless migraines. I left grateful that it wasn’t any serious problems with the blood vessels in my eyes, which is what my rheumatologist had feared.

There were several other incidents here and there, and sometimes I had to be seen in the ER I worked at. Many times, I’d lay in that ER bed, embarrassed as my colleagues and other attendings would walk past, catch a glimpse of me in a hospital gown, then ask what was wrong. I never looked sick, and I always feared they would think I was just trying to get out of work.

It was a tough journey, but I made it through with lots of prayers and the support of loved ones.

My Story:Part 3- Residency

During this initial diagnosis period, I hadn’t taken any time off. I was lucky that my Rheumatologist had evening office hours. But now the time came to tell my supervisors and colleagues. I expected to be met with sympathy and support, but instead I received a jumble of mixed emotions.

During residency training, you work so closely with the other residents. You spend countless hours in the day with the same people- working as a team, eating most of your meals together, and sleeping in the same call room. Even when you’re not working, you’re spending time together, because after alienating all your other friends with your crazy work schedule, these people are the only friends you have. You go through weddings, births, divorces, deaths in the family, licensing board failures, career change considerations, and suicide contemplations together. It’s being a part of a family.

But some of my family let me down. At the end of the year, I had considered becoming co-chiefs with another resident for the third year. It’s a lot of responsibility with planning schedules and arranging lectures, but it meant no on-call and it looked awesome on resumes. When I realized I would not be able to handle the added stress, I stepped away from the idea. The new chief, who had been one of my best friends in the residency, turned against me. She went to the Director of Medical Education, and stated that I should to take a medical leave of absence because I would become a liability. She explained that I was not capable of running, and climbing stairs fast enough to make it to the codes. Apparently, you need to be an athlete to practice medicine. Also, what if I had an emergency, or needed to leave for an appointment or test? Who would cover me? This coming from the woman I drove to work and covered for multiple times when she left early. I suppose her points were somewhat valid, but she lacked any empathy.

Luckily, the director was far more kind. He allowed me to continue working so I wouldn’t fall behind in my training. He had me placed on an easier rotation in the clinic instead of the hospital floors since I had already met my medical wards requirements. There was only one month left in second year, and he asked my fellow second year residents if they each would volunteer to cover one overnight call for me. They all obliged with the exception of the soon-to-be chief. Since chiefs don’t take call, I’d never be able to repay her. So, I only had one more overnight call in the second year, and after that I’d only have one call a month.

Although, this was a trying experience, it taught me a valuable lesson on trust and being too open. I have learned to keep my disease a secret from my employers to avoid discrimination. I hope one day that can change.