Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Second Circle: Tuesday

“Doctor? I’m sorry; did you hear what Mrs. Smith just said?”

I regarded the Neurology resident who had just ordered Percocet for Annie. I had just spent 2 hours with a group of 1st year Orthopaedic residents, trying to convince them of the importance of tracking outcomes for orthobiologic implants, and my head hurt. “She said that Percocet is ineffective on her pain. Codeine-based pain relievers don’t work for her. She needs a Morphine base, like Vicodin. She also just told you she’s been throwing up all day. She needs an injectible.”

He looked up from his chart, “Are you a nurse?”

“No, but I play one on TV.”

He looked back down, “Well, let’s see how this works out.”

“Doctor, I hope you understand that our next stop is the ombudsman office for a pain management consult.” I gave him the look – the one I normally give my daughter when what I want to convey is, “Go ahead. Push me just a little farther.”

“Doctor, Mrs. Smith is a cancer survivor and has been in this facility before for this same issue. She knows all the floor nurses here by name. Give her a little credit for knowing what will work with her body and what won’t.”

For a few moments, we sized each other up. It appears that my best “I’m ten years your senior and not a woman to be trifled with” look finally prevailed. He spoke over his shoulder to the nurse, “Fine; give her 2 of Valium, IV,” and walked away.

I smiled. “Thank you.”

I’d only been in Annie’s room for about 10 minutes, on my way back from class. She’d just been released from Neurology ICU and looked significantly better than she had 12 hours earlier. A quick assessment of the room told me Rick hadn’t been by to drop off her overnight bag or her cell phone charger.

“You need me to run by your house?”

She looked up for a second. “Sarah will stop by later on today. Don’t worry.” I was skeptical, but decided to drop it for now.

My pager went off.

The Boss wants you in his office at 2:00. BTOIYA.

My assistant, Carolyn, had included the abbreviation for “Be There or It’s Your Ass.” We both are fans of Allison Pearson.

I knew that Dr. M, my direct boss, was out of the office. I responded.

Bruce Springsteen is in town?

Her reply came swiftly. God, no! THE Boss. Don’t be an idiot!


For the last six years, I had carefully worked to ensure that the hospital CEO had no idea who I was. A man whose first public act, upon assuming the mantle of Chief Among Hospital Dictators, was to paint every single wall in all nineteen buildings white, he had replaced the rich collection of 17th century Asian pottery in his office with a large glass bowl, filled with perfectly sharpened #2 pencils. He also was known for firing nurses and other personnel on the spot for wardrobe infractions. His was a gaze I carefully avoided fixing on me.

However, the day before, I had contacted his administrator. We were planning a short public reception for an important visitor, and on the advice of our government relations group, I had requested he say a few words to open the ceremony.

BTOIYA. This did not bode well.

“I gotta go, Sis. Call me if you need anything.” I kissed Annie quickly on the head and started back to my own campus.

As soon as I left the hospital building, my cell phone went off.

You have 4 new voicemails

Bean, it’s me. My dad fell and it sounds like he’s punched a big hole in his arm. I just called 911. Call me!

Bean, I need you to call me. Dad fell. He’s cut his arm to the bone. We’re going to meet the ambulance at the hospital.

Beth, it’s Carolyn. S is trying to get hold of you. Sounds like your father in law fell and hurt himself.
It was accompanied by a text message with her cell phone number and the message 911.

Beth, its Julie. What the Eff is going on with Dr. C’s office? He just torpedoed the entire reception on the 25th! Said it was a total waste of time! Call me!

I looked at my watch. It was 1:45.



Mr. H, the Senior VP of External Affairs, was waiting for me outside the CEO’s office.

“Sir? Can you tell me what’s happening?” My relationship with Mr. H is an odd one. A distinguished man in his mid-50’s, he insists that people call him by his nickname, “Pudge”. I have always found myself unable to address anyone over the age of twelve by a nickname like “Pudge”. Besides, the man wears suits that cost more than my monthly mortgage payment on a 5-bedroom house. I call him “Sir.” He regards it as a charming affectation of mine and I’m happy to leave it at that.

“It’s 1:58. I was hoping we’d have a few minutes to brief before we went in. Didn’t your assistant find you?”

“I was in a clinical care area, Sir. Long story. Just got the message a few minutes ago.”

“Never mind. Just don’t say anything.”

“You can count on it, Sir.”


I had to hand it to Pudge. They don’t call him The Master for nothing. Turns out there was a breach of etiquette in the approach of the Boss – apparently, depending on the type of thing being requested, it needs to come through one of the VP’s or it gets crushed like a Styrofoam cup. The conversation was left with “Go ahead with your little event, but keep it spare.” Spare. Got it.

I called my husband.

“Where the hell have you been? We’ve been trying to reach you for two hours! Don’t you ever check messages?!”

“Long story. How’s your dad?”

“Well it’s a good thing he wasn’t having a heart attack or anything. I think he’s OK. Sliced the hell out of his arm, but they’re gonna stitch him up and release him. I swear, Bean, it’s getting harder and harder to rely on you for things.”

Arriving home and entering the house, I slipped in a huge puddle of urine, soaking the suit I’d planned to wear on Wednesday’s business trip.

The message light was flashing on the home phone.

Hey, hon? The dogs need walked when you get home.


winter said...

Jeebus, but that's a sucky day. *hug*

Good thing your friend has someone like you in her corner to keep the docs from ignoring her.

xoomn (v) - tearing through life at a breakneck pace with consummate grace, compassion, and style. ;)

Ellie Creek Ellis said...


did you major in "juggling horrid issues" in college?

Anonymous said...

Yowza. It just gets worse, dunnit? You are a good friend to Annie. And her husband can suck it.

pvhrok (interj.) - an expletive one might use after slipping and falling into a puddle of dog urine.

ptooey said...

There are so many things that I'd like to say in response to these last two entries, but the only thing I can dredge up is HOLY CRAP YOU CAN WRITE.

rebecca said...

still catching up and i'm obviously doing it backwards.

my god. you need a vacation and would it help if i came there and stole your cell for you??