On-call again


I’m on call again tonight. Seems like I’m on call more often than not. What’s up with that?

Got a call tonight at about 10pm. Patient’s wife told me that he just didn’t look good – and maybe it was her imagination – but she couldn’t feel a pulse.

“Is he responsive to you?” I ask.

“Yes,” she replied.

I said I’d be out there in just a few minutes.

I was.

I walked in and from the door way I could tell this was not going to be a good night for anyone in the house. He was as white as the sheet on his bed. I walked over and reached for his hand and his skin was ice cold and clammy wet. His eyes sunken….his lips blue. He was responsive, though.

“Put the washcloth on my head…I’m hot”

“Take it off now…I’m cold”

“Water..I’m thirsty”

On and on — I complied with all the demands. The wife was talking to me during these tasks..explaining how he had changed. This is not a patient of mine – so this is the first time I’ve met him, and his family – – so I’m trying to get a bit of a history on him while I’m taking the washcloth on and off his forehead. He’s very restless – – wanting to change this position and that. Head of the bed up….now head of the be down. Wife rambling in one ear…. daughter in the other ear explaining how things had changed in the last few hours and what should they do?

And then….it was quiet. I looked down at him and he fixed himself in one position – – the demands stopped…. eyes closed…repetitive movements ceased and he turned gray and his breathing became very shallow.

I looked over to his wife and put my hand on her arm to silence her … then explained that Harry probably would not be with us, come morning. I asked her if she wanted me to stay for a while….or if she just wanted to be alone with him? I was explaining that if she wanted me to leave – – that she could just pick up the phone at anytime throughout the night and call me if things changed.

As I was speaking – I glanced down at Harry. Just then, his head rolled towards me and his eyes opened and his pupils were as big as saucers and fixed. I interrupted myself and told his wife that I would be staying…that it wasn’t going to be but a few more minutes and that she should probably come over and take my place in the chair at his bedside.

She couldn’t believe it – – he had been up today. Talking, sharing, laughing, demanding – – she just isn’t ready for this today. She wasn’t expecting it. I gently placed my arm around her shoulders and tried to quiet her anxiety and urged her to say her goodbyes to Harry, her second husband.

Leukemia is like that. When it decides to take you – – it wastes no time at all. A humane disease, if you think about it. One minute here….one minute gone.

Jan was twice widowed tonight. I held her hand and listened until the funeral home arrived to take Harry away. I gave my condolences.. Wrapped up the details…gave hugs and well wishes and was on my way.

I got into my car. noticed it was raining…flipped on the wipers and wondered to myself if I get home without another page – – would I be lucky enough to get some sleep before the next page comes through?

Then realized that Jan probably wouldn’t sleeping tonight — then considered myself lucky, for the moment. Odd how things like this can be so easily compartmentalized for people like me. I’m driving away from a woman’s house who is now going through a tremendous life altering event…her life will never be the same – – and I’m worried about getting enough sleep before someone else needs help with their life altering event.

I just spend my night flitting from one life-altering event to the next – – stopping at Starbuck’s in between…catching some shut eye when possible. An oddly cold life, isn’t it?

Don’t dwell on it, Lisa – – sleepy time…nite nite.

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2 thoughts on “On-call again”

  1. I don’t think I’d describe it as cold. It takes a great deal of strength to do what you do, but in order to be good at your job, you have to be the opposite of cold. You have to radiate the warmth of human kindness, and it sounds like you do a pretty good job of that.

  2. Thanks, Cam. I swear I post these stories and my feelings about them just so I get to hear a word or two of encouragement from my favorite radio talk show host (whom I’ve never actually heard on my radio….*cough* WEBCAST!)

    Have a great Wednesday!

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