Whatever you are, be a good one – Abraham Lincoln.
Oh my God! It’s 6am already. I dashed off, had a quick shower, hopped into my clothes, mumbled a few words of prayer and scurried off with a snack, for what should pass for breakfast, munching as I passed through the back gate. “Gosh! It’s either my alarm clock’s batteries burnt out or my response to the blare is weakening”, I thought to myself, “but what did I expect anyway, having battled with CPR for a patient in A and E till 3am, straight from working a 17-hour stretch, thus getting barely three hours of sleep”. Despite my alarm clock being an hour late, it should be awarded… Well let’s leave bygones.
Emerging from the tunnel that leads into the hospital from the back, and stepping onto the junction between the path to the left, that leads to P-ward, and that to the right, that leads to the laboratories, I could not help but feel the rush of adrenaline, just like a player in the Champions League emerging from the tunnel in Allianz Arena or Camp Nou onto the field. Whether I was prepared for it or not, it was game time – the day had started.
6.45am: I took the right to the laboratories – I had some results I needed to retrieve before ward round began at 7.00am. I scanned through the results available, but the result I was looking for was not there. I skimmed through the roster, and yet again it was not entered in.”Oga, wetin dey happen na? I send sample around ten minutes past four yesterday evening”, I asked the man at the reception. “Why the result never come out na?”, I added. “You don check the roster?”, he asked. “Yes na. I don check am, e no dey”, I replied. ”You no bring am na”, he retorted, almost carefree. I was caught between feelings of sadness and anger, but I was too busy to stir up issues with a receptionist on a Monday morning. For all it was worth, I had a round to catch up to. Between the two evils, I would definitely prefer not to be late for rounds. Besides, as I thought, I would return. I dashed off to the ward and I was at the patient’s bedside at 6.55am.
7.00am: As though the Big Ben had struck over the hospital’s gate, the registrar walked in. “Dr, where is the E and U for this patient?” The reply hung in my mouth, like one who had bitten off more than he could chew. “I took the sample yesterday but the result is not ready”, I replied. “How can you say that?” he fumed. “I will go back to collect it”, I added. The next ten minutes before the rest of the crew joined was filled with all manner of barrage, no explanations sufficed. If only he was willing to understand that the delay was not my fault. I only got away with the promise of making sure the results were available by mid-day. Afterwards, rounds continued, with over forty patients to be seen. It finally ended at 11.00am; we had a clinic to run and for me, ward work to do – a list of patients to be transfused, drugs to be given at different times, blood samples to collect, results to retrieve and the clinic to run, the day only go busier.
I returned to the laboratory and found the result I had sought earlier. I discovered then, that the sample was erroneously added to routine samples as a backlog from that day’s work. The only price I had to pay for their mistake was patience: the results were going to be released at 3.00pm. I had no option, so I waited.
The two successive beeps from my phone alerted me to two text messages, one from my Mum, “Eva, have you forgotten me? It’s been two weeks and not even a ‘flash’ from you”. “Heeeey”, I screamed, the ten fingers of my two hands interlaced, supporting my occiput. My Mum had called and I had told her to hang up, that I would return her call when I was less busy – that was two weeks earlier. I felt a pang of guilt but I rescheduled the call again.
I went over the next text, it was a salary alert. I pored over the figures, did a mental calculation of my tithes and looked at the calendar: my next free weekend was three weeks away. Wow! That’s when I would most likely make it to church service again. I could count my attendance to church meetings with the fingers of one hand alone. I usually plan to attend, but call duties and contingencies keep creeping up; “It is well”, I muttered to myself. I went over the figures of the salary, drew a budget, and the entire cash was gone in minutes.
‘Iyiemwen’, a scream as loud as the sound of a descending airplane startled me out of my reverie. I folded the paper with the drawn budget and slipped it into the left pocket of my ward coat. Well, the game, they say, continues; I had patients to attend to. Indeed, the full-year internship programme can be quite a handful. The idea of learning medicine experientially with the masters can be more demanding than it seems. However, like in life, the secret lies in effective management of your time, resources and relationships. If you can gain mastery of these, you will still keep your head, which is very important.
If I must say, please, in all of your busyness, do not lose yourself. The first casualties are your relationships, with God especially and then man. As much as you can, do your best to guard them jealously. Every day, remind yourself of the essence of the programme. Remember, whatever you do, by all means, learn something; for goodness’ sake, that is the whole idea. It certainly would not get easier, but you will only get stronger and wiser. On a final note, paraphrasing the words of Abraham Lincoln, when you become a house officer, please be a good one.
DR. TOM, EVAARE O. (MBBch UNICAL)
UBTH HOUSE OFFICER, JUNE 2013-JUNE 2014.
Whatever you are, be a good one – Abraham Lincoln.