Call for the Third Year Medical Student


Yet another night stolen from your personal life,
spent roaming these hospital halls in the wee hours
or hoarding sleep
or growing cranky with the ER.
It’s a strange phenomenon, to be on call.
The resident, virtually a stranger, sees your sleepy eyes when you both get up at three a.m. to tend to a new admission.
The linens, when you finally do lie down, are stiff with a strange smell that only hospitals can create.
Sometimes, it si quiet.  No action all night.  Seven hours of sleep and no commute in the morning.
Sometimes, it is disjointed.  Islands of drowsiness interrupted by visitors to the ER whose symptoms threten justified admission into your service.
And sometimes, if your mind is (relatively) clear and present…
you can feel the hospital come alive, a living, breathing entity all its own,
the collective pains and fears of all its inhabitants – including you.
In the night, with the city outside falling asleep,
with all its inhabitants falling to sleep,
the hospital comes alive, has a million stories to tell…
And you are privy to these tales.
There is the febrile baby with the worrisome parents.
“Please let this not be meningitis,” they repeat into the night.
There is the intelligent lady with schizophrenia;
she can speak quite articulately about jazz in America, will notice if you change your hairstyle,
and yet, without her meds, she becomes a monster, angry at you with every word.
There is the elderly gentleman with newly diagnosed prostate cancer,
unable to sleep because surgery is tomorrow and he is afraid
and what does it all mean, really?
There is the friendly intern, talking to you, imparting to you morsels of wisdom
acquired in teh two years that spearate you academically.
Transudate vs. exudate.  Which Senior residents really care about teaching. Why do Peds over Ob/Gyn.  How different ENT is from General Surgery.  How cerebral Medicine is – but whatever works for you.
As you take call, you become witness to these words spoken, and you begin to know the bearers of these tales.
These people take a place within your world.
And you take a place within theirs.
The hospital breathes and you breathe with it.
Get some sleep – it’s quiet for now.

Miriam Yabut, Class of 2001