Tipping the scales
By Dr. David Keegan
We have all had a hard spring, with many peoples in our communities and throughout the world with even harder, perhaps horrible Springs. The oppression, liberation and then instability in Iraq; the SARS outbreak and the fears it has caused; the late coming of warm weather. All of these things, and so many more, have made for a difficult time of serious thought and intense frustration, for so, so many.
Here I was after two very long and very tough non-stop shifts at St. Joe's Emergency in london,Ontario, frankly pitying myself a bit. The last two nights were among the hardest most difficult nights I've ever put in as a doctor. Adding to its intensity were all of the SARS precautions we've been dealing with and living through. The heat you feel inside the yellow gowns, the breathlessness you feel when you have to repeat your words from inside the mask, the gloves, bonnets and now faceshields. Their novelty having worn thin after the first five minutes, this series of precautions we're doing are, while necessary, a constant sore. We're all starting to wonder when we will be able to practice caring, patient-centered medicine with our faces and grins visible to all. Perhaps never, we now are beginning to fear.
So, here I was, on this absolutely beautiful Sunday, having inexplicably woken after just six hours sleep. I've got a 12-hour night shift ahead, and for me to be able to work the way I like sharp, focused, precise, clever, caring, efficient, and good I know I need more sleep before the day is out. But when you're awake in the middle of the day, it's hard not to hear the sounds of kids playing outside, the occasional rattle of the blinds and the chirping of the birds. And it's hard not to pay attention to the shoved aside worries, like my this, my overdue submission to MUNMED.
I got up, thinking if I finally put pen to paper on this article that had been derailed due to extra SARS administrative work I've been called into doing, that this would quell one more worry, knowing I've lived up to my part of the editor/writer bargain. But, I didn't like the words that flowed as I began my reflective piece on living in medicine in the SARS era. As I kept going, they seemed just down and frustrated. As, I guess, I was probably thinking and feeling. So I turned to open this card that's been sitting on my desk for a few days, no moments available to open it. And on this card from a man with worries enough of his own, a very sick sister among them, were those beautiful words. Of hope and inspiration for us all, that we can take and bring about in our own actions, every minute of every day.
Refreshed, yet still tired, but no longer frustrated, I'm about to head off to bed again. And I know that I will sleep. And if it happens that tonight is busy again, with people who have damaged hearts, damaged souls, broken skin, or broken bones, well, I'll keep going and do my part to tip the scales in the favour of hope.