I was out of work for three months. My neck hurt so much that I was on muscle relaxantants, anti-inflammatory medications, and pain medicines. It was polypharmacy at its best, or worst, I'm not sure which. My neck was contorted so that the muscles were stiff and inflamed, and I just wanted to stay in cervical traction forever. I had a bag to fill with water, hang over the doorway, and pull my neck upwards to relieve the pain. I went to an experienced, senior chiropractor who improved my pain on the Pain Scale, from a "9" to a "7". That was enough to alleviate my feelings of hopelessness and despair.
I laid down on a picnic blanket to watch my son's soccer games. I sat on the sidelines resting my neck, trying to tell myself that I was a good mother for being there. I could not run, jump, cheer, or do much of anything else. But I was there. I was physically present for his games and that was the best that I could do. I could only hope that he would remember it some day, somewhere in the future when he wasn't sure about me, and he would remember that I was there for him.
At 32 years of age, I was making $2.67 an hour, working 100 hours/week. I had no Child Support, and no Alimony. I had Full Custody of my son. There was nothing more important to me than being a Mother.
On the General Surgery Rotation, I arrived to pre-round on my surgical patients at 4:00 a.m. We were in the O.R. by 6:30 a.m., getting the patient ready for a 0700 incision. While the senior residents and Attending were operating, I had to go back and forth from the O.R. to the Ward. I had to make sure that everyone was tucked in. Draw the labs myself, get x-ray forms back to the 2nd floor for approval, and take the Chemistry tubes of blood to the Chemistry lab, the Clotting tubes to the Clotting lab, and the Blood Count tubes to the Hematology lab. Etc., etc. etc. After a while, I could not do it any more.
I went from doctor to doctor, seeking relief. An orthopedic surgeon thought I was fabricating my complaints. It was unbelievable for me to think that someone would even consider me to be pretending. Who wouldn't want to finish a year of Internship to get their license to practice medicine? Another orthopedic surgeon wanted to operate on my neck.
A neurologist came in to examine me on the morning I was scheduled for surgery on my neck. He cancelled the surgery, saying it would not help. I was grateful. There was no guarantee that if they did the surgery, that it would help at all. With those statistics, it was clear that if I had had the surgery, I would have been at risk of having a "failed back syndrome". Whoosh. That was a save.
When I went back to complete my Internship, I had 15 patients on 4 different patient Wards at LAC-USC. I had to use the huge stairwells, because the elevators were too slow. Every time I stopped at the stairwell, I just looked at the ominous steel door that was in my way. I had to get through the door to get to the stairs. By 3 pm, I could no longer open the door. It was too heavy. So I talked to the Internship Coordinator, and I had my doctor write me a note. The note requested that I be placed on "one ward" rotations, to better equip me for success. The Program agreed. So, my stint in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) began the next month, and I was later destined to be an ICU doctor. I did one ward rotations in Cardiology, Oncology, the ICU, and Triage. I did it while wearing my cervical collar, but I did it.
On the one hand, I was sitting in a room wearing my cervical collar, instead of being in the white coat talking to the patient wearing the collar. Or wait. On the other hand, I was the doctor, wearing a surgical collar and interviewing my patients. I can see now, in retrospect, that I was a physician who was also a patient. And I was a patient who was also a physician. The lines were blurred.
After Internship, I started my Residency in Anesthesiology. I was On Call every third night. I was up all night in the Operating Room, doing case after case of trauma, orthopedic surgery, general surgery with mostly appendectomies, and more trauma. The patients at LAC-USC would come into the ER, "Bat-Phone" it into the CT Scan (I had installed the "Bat-Phone" when I was Vice President of the HOA), and within sometimes as small a time period of 12 minutes, they were in the OR as a "RB". An "RB" was a "Red Blanket", usually full of blood dripping on our shoes. All systems were "go" as we worked together to get the patient asleep, "lined up" with an arterial line, a central line, and a Foley Catheter before the drapes went up for incision. We would call for an ICU bed before we thought we would need it, to avoid waiting for an ICU bed with that patient in the OR.