My Ecology

You died. You bloody died! You weren’t supposed to die. You were supposed to be the part of the story where I learn the true magic of modern medicine, the Saving Lives dream come true. But you died.

My history of you begins with the bat phone. It’s really called that. Loud important noises go off, the two way radio gets picked up, the story begins. An electronically transmitted ECG appears on the screen. It’s bad. It’s real bad. My registrar tells me to go to the resus bay and I busy myself setting up stuff to put a line in and get blood. Needles, tubes, alcohol wipes. And then you’re there on a stretcher, eyes wide open, scared. You’re barely moving. You’re talking two words at a time. People are everywhere, fussing with breathing gear, setting up for an ECG, attaching you to monitors. The boss is shouting orders. I shout back that I’ll get a line in. My reg leans in and says “are you sure can do it fast?”. I nod yes. It’s automatic. Immediately I doubt myself, I’ve only tried one line this large before and it was such a horrible painful failure that I never tried again. But this time it’s different. The line goes in immediately.

We push in fluids, the cardiology team arrives, time for you to go upstairs. Upstairs. The magic life saving place that is the cath lab, where truly broken hearts get fixed and where you’re supposed to live. You’re only young. Your wife and daughter appear as you’re being wheeled away. The boss stops the bed moving for a minute so they can have a moment. An eternal moment. I watch from a distance as your wife sinks into a chair and your teenage daughter stands there blankly. And then you’re wheeled away. Wow, I think. Wow. To be a cardiologist must be so amazing, because they’re going to fix that.

We go back to our other patients. Five minutes later the sound of emergency pagers ring out, reaching a collective crescendo. The team leader nurse is already halfway out the door with the portable defibrillator. She shouts at the medical student, the only one free to push the cart. He’s only just started on clinical rotations None of us doctors can help, we’re too busy with the other patients. I watch him obediently follow her up stairs.

We go back to work. Later the team leader appears. “He arrested. He’s tubed now. They’re pushing on with the angio”. Everyone agrees to find out what happened in the morning, it’s time to go home, now past midnight.

I’m at work today. I have a few patients I’m sorting out, mainly elderly people with elderly person problems. I see the cardiology registrar. I ask him. The registrar shrugs and says “oh that guy died”, and walks off.

You weren’t supposed to die.

I go back to work. The wind is out of my sails. For a minute a small voice tells me I want to cry. Another tells me it’s not my journey. Another tells me to get back to work which sounds sensible so I do. Another says nothing and just observes.

“You’ve got to learn to be more lazy”. I look up, and an intern is standing there, handing me a coffee. It’s late. It’s nearly time to go home. “you’ve seen so many patients” she says, “way too many!”

She’s right in a way. I’m not getting out on time. There’s a lot of paperwork left to do but I don’t really mind. I used to mind. I stay back and finish it. I lament my lack of thoroughness for seeing so many. I call consultants to get the patients admitted and give half baked stories but it’s late and they just want to sleep so they accept them.

I get my handbag and walk back to my car. Driving home I notice the other cars on the highway, some big, some small. Lights passing through the night.

You weren’t supposed to die.

It’s the little things

This rotation I’m working 11 hour shifts. On your feet, no holds barred workworkwork 11 hour shifts. The boss cracks the whip, tells us to go faster, get people through, I swear some days I wonder if the apocalypse is here – it might as well be a scene from Outbreak out there.

It doesn’t leave much room for anything. Not much reading time, I don’t want to even contemplate exercise – just enough time to eat some food and collapse on the couch or bed, whatever’s closest. No one gives a crap about how healthy or unhealthy their doctor is. They just want to get fixed and go the hell home. Me too!

So you find small, stupid ways to live a life around it. You buy a gift box of chocolates and eat the whole box and it’s GREAT and you do so with no guilt because you’ve worked your ass off all day. And not at a computer, literally not sat all day, constantly moved around for 12. hours. Your feet feel like crazy angry people who scream at you and your back is like a prison.

Hot baths. A chocolate bar at lunch time. A roll of eyes shared between residents. The nurses finding a chair without you even asking and commanding you sit down or you’ll stuff up your back like they did theirs. You feel like a cross between a mechanic and a waitress. More chocolate. The boss saying good job. The Internet, bless the Internet which provides hours of immovable entertainment. The people on the Internet. Your blogs.

You stop sweating the small stuff. Daily slap becomes a bit of powder and a brow pencil. If you’re more awake maybe some gloss. Eating shit because the smallest of scrubs hide ALL sins. You stop worrying about being fat/thin/pretty/ugly/smart/stupid/too much/too little. It doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really matter when a crazy guy has just shit in the waiting room or someone has a cardiac arrest in the way back from the toilet. It really really doesn’t matter. You just want to eat the chocolate, read the Internet and hope you’re not too tired for a run on the weekend, you cross your fingers that you’re moving enough to counter the bad food behaviour. You don’t care about getting fat, you fear glycemic toxicity, cardiovascular disease, impaired immunity.

But mostly you appreciate the little things. Most people blur into one. The nice ones stick out. You forget about the rest. You love chocolate and baths and chairs and the Internet and a kind word. Your family, scented anything, acts of kindness from yourself or otherwise.

The rest just does not matter.


Lately I’m on a work-clothes buying craze, which in some ways is pointless when you’re dealing with sick people because there’s always something that’s going to get spilt on you.  Like projectile vomit on my favourite pink cardigan.  Blood on my shoes.  Abdominal proteinaceous fluid on pants in spite of wearing a gown.  I could go on, but for your sake I wont.  In spite of this, I continue to buy myself nice stuff because a lot of the time, my job isn’t nice.  You’ve got to find ways to take the edge off.

So first I bought these:

Pour La Victoire Bre Flats

I’m having a huge thing for Pour La Victoire at the moment, the sizing is small but they’re so well made.  These look fabulous with everything.

I’m a huge menswear fan, with flashes of girliness from time to time but at work it’s all business.

Bop Basics Boyfriend Shirt

I admit, I bought it entirely for the sleeves.  I love them!  Anyone know where to find some ultra low-slung workpants I can tuck this into?

And I don’t mind a little bit of lace either – but just a little.

Club Monaco Clara Shirt

I think this one’s going to be a staple.  I have no idea who Club Monaco are but they make some nice stuff.  And I probably shouldn’t be buying silk in my job, but you only live once.

And what do you do when you think the Equipment Signature Blouse is just way too much money?  You buy a Madewell one instead.

Madewell Charlotte shirt

That should keep me out of trouble at work for a while!

Embracing monochrome (+ a whinge)

After a good ten years of swearing off black and it’s counterparts, for some reason this winter I have headed full ball into this monochrome utilitarian urban-cool thing not seen in my neck of the woods since the late 90s.  You know, when Stussy (the second coming), Mooks and M-1-11 all had their heyday, well before their shitty warehouse sales and cheap fabrics.  They used to be good.  Am I showing my age?

Anyway, Mr G bought me this for birthday earlier in the year – I love it to death but only take it out to places where it’s in full sight all the time, i.e. it can’t get pinched.

My work doesn’t have lockers.  The nurses have lockers.  The cleaning staff have lockers.  The junior doctors don’t get lockers so I daren’t take my bag.  But I digress.  The inside of the bag is clever too:

I bought myself this coat after freezing my way to and from nightshift.  It was a bit of a gamble but it paid off – it’s really thick and has impressive looking hardware on it.  Bluefly have done a terrible job photographing it.

I was never really interested in Kenneth Cole as a brand before but I am interested in being warm – and now I can’t stop wearing this all the time.  With the above bag.  And a great big scarf.

Then on another fortnight I did so much overtime I could barely see straight (one of those weeks had 70 hours in it by Saturday) and with the resulting double-time I bought the Marc Jacobs Mouse shoes.  I still remember when the original brown-and-cream pony hair variety came out something like 5 years ago, and I wanted them so badly.  I couldn’t afford them on my student budget for such a long time – these seemed like a nice reward.  They’re the Marc by Marc Jacobs variety and not as high end as the originals, but good god I love looking at my feet!

They’re a cute and cheeky offset to the utilitarianism – I never take clothes too seriously.

In all honesty, I’d much prefer not to have bought them and to have had the free time and less money.  Junior doctors can’t really complain about their jobs – the minute you do, the newspapers will go and post a picture of a fat neurosurgeon next to his three Mercedes and the public goes ape and calls all doctors greedy charlatans who are mind-controlled by the pharmaceutical industry.

The sad truth is that junior doctors earn the Australian average (which is still good, no complaints there), and any money you make on top of that comes with the sacrifice of your free time, family, and friends.   It’s not worth it.  It’s not worth standing bleary eyed at the 16th hour of your double shift because some other exhausted person called in sick, trying to work out if someone’s chest pain is a heart attack or a muscle spasm.  It’s not worth the fear involved when you walk out of the hospital at the 20 hour mark crossing your fingers and praying up at the sky that you didn’t, in all your fog, make a decision that could harm someone.  The system is designed to prevent that from happening but things slip through sometimes.  The put-up-and-shut-up mentality perpetuated by the upper echelons of the field seems so outdated – they come from a time when there was no computers, no CT scanners, and a body of knowledge a tenth of what it is now.  In this environment, with this much knowledge and this many options at our fingertips for treatment, we shouldn’t be working this much.  The margin for error frightens me.

But you know, I’m just a lazy greedy fatcat doctor* who is going to drive home in her Mercedes and have dinner and her next holiday paid for by a pharmaceutical** company 😉

*translation:  a hardworking and mostly starving doctor who is driving home in her Toyota Echo to a dinner of whatever I cooked and froze last week, with her next holiday paid for with a fatigued credit card.

**pharmacetuical company:  something the media talks about brainwashing me but I’ve never even come across so much as a pen this year.  Let alone dinner.  And as far as natural therapy and vitamin companies go…I’m not sure that with the prices they charge,  they have your health and wellbeing at the forefront of their minds 😉