Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Last Night in Bethlehem

The following is an unpublished essay from medical school I've always liked. I don't know why I never made it public before, but here it is. I hope you like it.

To my final evening of night shift, I say hasta la vista, baby, with mixed feelings. I'm looking forward to walking my dog at sunset and I'm sure he is, too, but all the same, I'll miss a few things. For one, there's nothing like a hospital at night. I've always loved walking the hallways when lights have dimmed and patients gone to sleep. The entire place feels like a warm blanket. Even the obstetrics unit can be like that, though not so much lately. Certainly not this morning around 4.00 AM when all the unborn babies suddenly woke up in their respective wombs and cried with a single voice, "Let me outta here!"

Yeah. It got kinda busy. Fast. The doctors were in surgery and I was on the unit keeping watch over my flock of one, a shepherd mimicking a memorable night in Bethlehem. I was on my way to her room, checking in once again, when the head nurse raced past, calling back over her shoulder, "20 is giving birth -- now -- and I have no doctors!" I waved the cloud of dust she left behind away from my face and tried to quell the wave of panic rising in my gut. A medical student who's only assisted in vaginal births is more hindrance than help at a time like this, so if s/he has a lick of sense, they attend to their patient. And that's what I did. One of the residents scrubbed out and came to the rescue.

A baby's cry and a few minutes later, she was finished in one birthing suite in time to join us in another. My patient was at ten centimeters and it was time to push. She and I held hands and breathed through the contractions together. When her baby finally slipped out, we smiled wearily and gave each other a thumbs-up. Heading back to the residents' lounge, I had the feeling I imagine all doctors must have at times like this: no matter how numerous are my faults, once in my life I did something good.

Mother and daughter will be gone by the time I show up Monday morning, like all the parents and newborns I've gotten to know this week. It's a privilege -- being allowed to share in a dream come true. The woman with whom I held hands through labor and delivery was a stranger when I walked onto the unit. She was alone with the exception of her mother who was in and out of the room. By the time the night was over, we were much more than strangers.

All on my last night in Bethlehem.

(Public Domain image of Bethlehem, 1882, via Wikipedia)
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