On my husband's first day of his second year of residency last week, the department chair had a social at her home for the group. After mingling a bit, she requested that everyone stand up and introduce themselves, including spouses and friends, and share the most meaningful and memorable experience they had during their intern year. Since my husband had made known during that day that we have four children (the entire room let out a unanimous gasp when it was announced), I was determined to think of something to share. So, although I was the LAST one to introduce myself and share an experience, and thus had a lot of time to think about it, what actually came out of my mouth was something totally incoherent. BUT, this is what I meant to say:
The most meaningful memory for me of my husband's intern year was after a night of call, when, for the first time, a patient died under his care. He seemed heavy with grief and described to me all that had happened: how he had been unable to sleep afterward, even though there were hours that he could have, but instead laid awake in his hospital bed replaying in his head every minute detail of all that had happened, over and over again. I was surprised by my inability to respond to his thoughtful expressions of grief and help him deal with this event in his life. I felt helpless in trying to understand what he was going through.
A few days later, we ran into a friend of my husband who was also an intern. This friend is always smiling, and a super goofy, happy and funny guy. My husband told his friend that he had lost his first patient under his watch. His friend's smile disappeared immediately and in the most serious voice I ever heard him use, he said, "Are you okay?"
At that moment, I felt a world apart from my husband. While my husband was in medical school, I studied for my masters in public health. I felt we were experiencing a lot of similar experiences (minus the cadaver - yikes) and critical thinking. But, at that moment, I saw clearly how separate our fields of study were. I was so grateful that my husband could find sympathy with another intern, who seemed to understand completely all of the feelings he had experienced that night.
I also realized during that moment how unique of a profession medicine really is. People talk about how doctors are in school for so many years, or how they make a lot of money and don't know how to save any of it; but often missed are the very personal, very powerful moments they constantly experience that deal directly with life and death. I just cannot even begin to imagine what that would be like. every day.