DECEMBER 24, 2007
Driving by the OHSU emergency room today, I thought back to three years ago, when I shadowed an OHSU ER doc on Christmas Eve. Being in a hospital during the holidays is a very unique and interesting experience. The hospital staff seems to work together a little better, and those who have to give up their holidays with their families to roam the wards seem to understand the sacrifices each other had to make in order to care for patients. There's a certain soldier mentality to it, and the bond between staff seems to be a little more palpable around Christmas time. And inevitably, the holidays are some of the busiest days of the year.
During my shadowing experience, I saw a gunshot victim do into v-fib (ventricular fibrillation), bleed out and die on the table. I saw the doc have to tell a diabetic that they would have to amputate his legs. I saw countless people come in trying to score their pill of choice. Difficult experiences in medicine are always difficult, but seem to hit a little closer to home in the holidays. It's not coincidence that suicide rate is at its highest around Christmas. Christmas, for all its warm and fuzzy intentions, can often be an isolating time for those who don't have the family and friends to share it with that most of us do. Tragedy on Christmas has the unfortunate effect of bringing us back to reality, and a hospital around Christmas time is full of tragedy. To put a bit of an exclamation on the sights I saw, I left OHSU that Christmas eve three years ago and went directly to another hospital, where a friend's mother was in intensive care after having a stroke behind the wheel of her car. No one thinks they would ever have to spend Christmas in a hospital - until they do.
Be safe this year everyone. Take a moment and really appreciate the blessings you have. And have a merry Christmas!