Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mistaken Youth

I could feel the burn arise from my throat. I had been talking for hours.  My first day back after a short trip to give grand rounds at the Carolinas Medical Center, I was overwhelmed.  Only gone for two days, I was feeling a week behind.  My calves ached and my shoulders were heavy.

I knew I was coming down with something.  Likely a virus of some sort or another.  I packed up the computer, and gathered my papers to rush off to the nursing home.  The administrator had a four alarm fire that had been building in my absence.  It had to be put out.

My secretary caught me just as I was slipping on my jacket to leave.

Mr Preston's daughter was wondering if you had a moment for her.

I glanced up at the clock and nodded in assent.  It was a hard decision to to take Mr. Preston off life support, one steeped in years of conversations and familiarity between father and daughter, patient and doctor.  It was anything but easy. 

She wanted to thank me for caring for her father.  She found great value in the speed I returned phone calls, and the direct manner in which I explained difficult situations.  She hoped that time would not erase my sensitive nature.

I almost laughed at the unspoken assumption that I was new to doctoring. She must have thought that I was a recent graduate at great risk for losing my idealism.  I decided not to correct her, and basked in the glory of being mistaken for someone more youthful.  I thanked her profusely as she left the office. 

Moments later, I was bounding down the stairs to my car parked at the far end of the lot.  My lungs constricted, my nose clogged, and my ears plugged.

I could feel the last ten years surge through me like pints of blood coursing through thirsty vessels.  Not quite forty, I'd become keenly aware of the foibles of the aging human body.

A decade after graduating residency, I felt old.

Physically and emotionally.

No comments: