04 March 2011

Being with Brent

Now that the book has hit shelves, I've found that people pop out of the most unlikely corners of my past and (generally speaking) take the time to say kind and supportive things. A high school friend named Matt, who was Frederick to my Mabel in a stunning performance of Pirates of Penzance in which the only set was a row of bleachers with cardboard rocks taped on the front and in which I wore a nightgown for the whole of the second act, took the time to come to the reading and signing at the Brookline Booksmith earlier in the week. Thanks, Matt!

Others have sent emails to let me know they are enjoying the book, or sent texts with pictures of the book in various stores in their towns. I'm assembling quite a collection, so keep them coming.

One friend and colleague took the time to write a review of the book on Amazon. "There is a lot to love here," he writes. Well, there's also a lot to love about Brent. 

Not everything I wrote about my three years of residency made it into the book. Not everything I experienced got written about. There was a natural culling to each day and month and year, from which I attempted to distill the formative moments, the ones that for me became the things I most wanted to remember (or worried I'd forget). 

Here are some others:

I was more than halfway through internship when I did a month on what was then Gen Peds B, the service on 7W (and other floors) that took care of children with cystic fibrosis, kidney diseases, and the adolescents with eating disorders. Brent was my senior resident. He was frightening. Now I should qualify that and say that it is possible within pediatrics, even in an environment as competitive as the one I was in, to be bit spoiled. So Brent was not surgery resident I-hate-my-life-so-much-I-will-make-you-cry frightening. He was just very, very smart and a little bit more blunt than the average pediatrician. Based upon this reputation, I did not necessarily expect us to get along.

Our first call together, 3am, I am still writing my notes and he is hanging out, checking emails or watching youtube videos, but has obviously finished all the work he has to do. What I want is for him to leave the work room. If he goes to his call room, then I can go to mine as well just as soon I my own work is done. Interns aren't allowed to lie down before their seniors do. That's not written down anywhere, but that doesn't make it any less true. Brent, however, is clearly in no hurry. Eventually (as I am putting the finishing touches on one last note) he does make a move to stand and leave. He checks to make sure I don't have any more questions on the last of the patients we admitted that night, a little girl who by then is long asleep. I tell him I'm fine.

"Well then," he says as he heads to the door, "call me for anything."

It is the standard parting shot of all supervising residents. It is one I would use myself more times than I can remember.

"OK. I will," I reassure him.

"No, really," he protests as if he doesn't believe me. "Call me. I'll be awake."

There is a dramatic pause during which he gears up and then says the thing that I immediately realize means we can never, ever be friends.

"I don't come to this hospital to sleep."

He exits, his sneakers padding quietly down the deserted hall. And I think, "F*%#. This month is going to suck the big one."

Let me be clear. No one comes to the hospital to sleep, except maybe pregnant ENT consult residents (it was great to see you last night, by the way). But neither is it healthy to not sleep when you can. Agreed?

A week goes by. A particularly nasty attending tries to make me confront a particularly nasty father ("I know how these things work. It's your name on the discharge summary, so it's your medical license I'm coming after.") with the fact that his son will be sent home from the hospital regardless of the fact that dad does not have a babysitter arranged for the next day.

"My intern is not going back in there," Brent says to him over the phone. "You can talk to the father yourself."

So Brent was a little bit my hero, even with the weird no sleeping thing. The attending did go talk to the father and, though I was not in the room, I'm told it went a little bit like this: "Your son is no longer on my service. The hospital costs $2000 a day. You can pay that out of pocket, or you can get a babysitter."

Wow. I don't think I will ever be able to say anything like that. I'm not sure I'd want to. But yet, I have to admit it was a little bit awesome.

Another night on call with Brent. Vassilios had given me several packets of sour gummy worms earlier in the afternoon and I somehow thought it was a good idea to eat all of them while on call. I realize, reluctantly, that it is becoming rather essential that I go to a bathroom and throw up. I tell Brent. He asks if I'm pregnant. I tell him that he's an ass and that, no, unless you can be pregnant with a sour gummy worm belly then I am not. I move to leave the work room and a nurse comes in with a question on a patient. I stop. I try to listen. I try to care. I wonder what my vomit will look like on the nurse's red patent leather Danskos. 

Even in the uneven fluorescent lights it must have been clear to Brent that I was green.

"Go," he said. "I'll handle this."

My hero. Again.

Finally, on a night that (unless I'm confusing things) he introduced me to William Shatner's "Common People" he asked, without any lead up, "What's your record?"

I had no idea what he was talking about.

"My what?" I replied.

"Your record," Brent said. "What's your record for sleep?"

I thought. There had been a night in the NICU at BMC when no babies were born and the preemies weren't sick and I slept maybe 6 hours in my thirty-hour shift pieced together like patchwork here and there. I thought that was pretty good. I told him.

"My record's thirteen," Brent said then, "at MetroWest."

I may not have gotten the number right. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that I had Brent all wrong. He did not come to Children's to sleep. He didn't need to. He got all the sleep he needed out at MetroWest.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Meghan! Can't wait to read the book. And I know exactly who you are talking about...