And there's a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o' thine!
And we'll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.
It was the very last night of a difficult two-month rotation early in my residency. I was On Call. Exhausted. Burned out. Going-through-the-motions. Not having a good time.
I was sitting at the intensive care unit console writing notes in the charts of two of the patients I was following.
One young woman had taken a fistful of pills and then hanged herself. Her beleaguered family had tried very hard to help her over the years and now they were spending their holidays in the hospital standing vigil at her bedside. After this one final attempt to kill herself, the family hoped she might bring light to someone else’s life with an organ donation. My task was to keep her alive long enough for her body to clear the toxic levels of the medications she had ingested. I flipped through her chart and wrote my note. Family members walked numbly past me.
In another bed lay a young mother who had been getting ready to go out for a New Year’s Eve dinner party. Her husband found her unconscious in the bathroom after having heard her collapse. After being rushed to the hospital, the scans confirmed that she had experienced a massive, certainly fatal brain hemorrhage. She was completely unresponsive and spiraling downhill rapidly. The family, dressed for an evening out, sat disconsolately at her bedside. I dutifully recorded my findings in her chart.
As I sat writing, a song came on a radio nearby. I never really knew the lyrics but I recognized Dan Fogelberg’s voice. The song is a first-person account of running into an old friend.
We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.
We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another 'auld lang syne'...
Then the strains of “Auld Lang Syne” filled the air. I checked my watch. It was midnight. I put down my pen and called home, wanting to talk to Kathi.
“Hi, sweetie,” I said. “Did I wake you?”
She had been dozing. “Guess so. Hi, yourself. How are things going?”
I scanned the patients in front of me. I looked at the family members moving in and out of the rooms. I looked down at the chart notes I had written. I thought for a second.
“Not well. It has been quite a day. I love you.”
“Love you, too. See you in a few hours?”
“Yeah. Can’t wait to get home. Happy New Year.”
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As always, a well-written post. Thanks again for sharing!
This story really hit home as I am dating someone who works in an ICU. There have recently been a couple rough nights after which he has had to emotionally unload in order to get past things.
I have had the unfortunate experience of having to sit two torturous nights in the same ICU prior to losing my (late) husband. I am proud to call him an organ donor.
Luckily, even though my sweetheart worked this past new years eve, it was a quiet night and was able to leave at 3:00am instead of 7:00am.
We appreciated the cherished time together. I know the value of quality time.
- Karen Farra