August 31, the big day of 2012 when I turned the almighty 24. For the past 23 years, my birthday has not been that spectacular or worthy of shows like My Super Sweet Sixteen. But his year’s birthday was like none other I’ve experienced yet.
I just started my Ob/Gyn rotation at Winthrop University Hospital this week. Lucky me, I kicked off my first week on Night Float, status post Surgery rotation and grueling shelf exam. It was a rough transition. This entire week, I was floating on Labor and Delivery and seeing lots of babies come out of vaginas. I was fortunate to have a great intern, Cheryl, take me under her fledgling wings as we floated from triage to the ER to laboring rooms. For a change, I really felt like I was part of a team; she taught me well and I adapted to the field quickly. I took histories from women getting admitted for labor pains and put on my catcher’s mitt for the babies and placentas. I was given the opportunity to help with the ER consults and observe vaginal exams. It was a productive and fun week because I enjoy performing procedures and just doing something, despite the long, tiring hours.
I showed up for sign-in at 5pm. At first, I had birds and stars spinning around my head from all the abbreviations rapidly tossed about. I was in a complete whirlwind from how fast the residents were talking about patients and the squiggles on the computer commonly known as fetal heart tracings and how slow I was writing notes I could barely fathom. Thank God for Google for carrying me back from the sea of OB/Gyn lingo. From 6pm-6am, a full 12 hours, I would be attached to the intern’s hip as I traversed the floors and ER whenever she was beeped. Nights were slow and quiet, but when deliveries or emergencies happened, you had your hands full. And I liked it that way.
Early in the week, I was not adjusted to the night hours. I have a tendency require heavy doses of sleep, with bouts of narcoleptic moments by day; otherwise, I crank up the crank-o-meter. It was 5am and the floor was quiet. I was so sleepy and cold that I wrapped myself in a warm blanket like a burrito and plopped on the bed in the resident call room. Before I knew it, I curled up into fetal position and dozed off. Next moment, I shook awake and shuffled out of the room. Who knew that within 30 minutes, I would miss out on two births… TWO BIRTHS!!! Two births I was waiting for ALL FREAKING NIGHT!! Gone in the minutes I drifted into the clouds… I learned a couple of lessons that morning:
1) Do not venture into resident territory and sleep on their turf
2) Do not sleep on your shift, especially as a medical student; I was not aboard a 24-hour shift and it just makes you look like a bum
3) If you do feel sleepy, sit in a chair, turn your back to your audience, tilt your head down as if you’re concentrating on a paper, and then doze off. Just don’t fall off your chair, because that’ll make you look like a fool.
By 7am, I was a zombie by day. It was odd, walking through the hospital as people drifted in to start their day and I was off to bed. By day, I was sleeping in the tiny, boxy, and gray call room in the basement, designated just for the medical students. You may ask, why the hell would you stay in this box when you could go across the street to your apartment and sleep under your own snuggly blankets? People did not get me, but here’s why.
1) I’m Asian. I don’t sleep in my own bed unless I’m washed and clean. I was so tired by 7am, I did not have the energy to shower. That was how sleepy I was. I would rather stay in the call room and sleep in a clean bed there than get my personal bed dirty. After all, I am working in a hospital…
2) Even if I showered back at my apartment across the street, I did not want to wait for my hair to dry. I did not have the energy to dig out my hair dryer and use it and I did not have the patience to let my hair dry naturally. It’s an Asian thing: you simply do not go to bed with your hair wet or else you’ll ‘catch a cold’ and have some negative energy about you. Honestly, I’ve broken that rule many times in the past, and you know what I did? I would sleep on my tummy, face buried in the pillow. Times I did roll onto my back with my hair wet, I would end up with bad headaches.
In that gray box I slept in for a week, I did not know day from night, rain from sunshine. I would roll out of bed and gather my stuff to head back to my apartment and be blinded by the sun. Around 2-3 pm, I’d head back to take a refreshing shower, watch some TV, grab some food, and start my shift all over again. This schedule was set on repeat six times this week. Good thing it was only a week, because the residents do it for a month at a time. Poor gals.
Let’s get to the highlight of my week. How awesome is it to catch babies (and placentas) on your birthday?! How cool is it to say to the parents, “Dude, congratulations… your baby and I share the same special birthday. We’ll be forever connected!” A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the joy of a new baby and a birthday spent on night float in the hospital. Unfortunately, I missed the early hours just after midnight on Friday because I had to catch some sleep for my lectures. And of course, I missed most of the daytime because of lectures. Needless to say, I missed some births I was anticipating to happen since my Thursday night shift. It only left me 7 hours on Friday evening to physically catch a baby.
There were two families I made that special connection with. One family, the Demartinos, were just plain awesome. I met them on Wednesday night when Carol, a very sweet Filipino lady, was admitted for observation for high blood pressures. Her 24-hour urine turned up positive for protein, which suggested preeclampsia. The baby was close to term and she was induced for labor. Too bad I missed her C-section, since I followed her labor from beginning to end and had long chat sessions to occupy my time and their stay. But I did manage to visit them on the maternity ward and say hello to their baby boy, Stefano. They were a pleasant couple with an adorable bundle of joy! They were very excited to hear their son shared the same birthday as the medical student who followed them for the past 3 days.
The other family, the Connollys, were just as funny and incredible. I met them in the beginning of the week for a labor check. They were scheduled to come in Saturday (today) for an induction of labor. I did think I would be that memorable, but I was surprised they remembered me still today. I also must add, my positive experience with them was partly due to their awesomely charming obstetrician, Dr. Lazarou. I must admit, I had a crush on the doc; he had the hunky looks (it’s the Greekiness), the personality (chill, chatty, and charming), and the brains (he attended NYU, my alma mater, for a few years). Anyway, Mrs. Connolly apparently told him over the phone that she met a very pleasant medical student and her birthday’s coming up on Friday, so he better be nice to me. Come the end of the week, both doctor and patient were still crystal clear who I was =D
Unfortunately, baby and me did not end up sharing a birthday; it was darn close. It was the night of September 1, just a few hours after midnight, the Connollys welcomed a baby boy to the world, and I experienced the mirth with them and Dr. Lazarou. Baby boy and me were not birthday twins, but close enough!
There you go, the celebratory culmination of my otherwise tiring, tough week on nights! I met some amazing families and their babies, who will happen to be my birthday twins. They won’t remember, but I certainly will. When their parents tell them the story of how they came into the world, I will be forever tied in and a part of their family.