1. You could sleep while standing.
2. You feel numb. Well, that means you can’t really feel. Just seeing things around but not responding appropriately, or sometimes not at all.
3. Euphoria. That initial nice feeling when you see the sun rising, shining on to the hospital corridors, and then seeing your colleagues come in one by one, saving you from the wrath of the call. Sipping that small cup of vending machine mocha (which is surprisingly nice) while watching a dear friend walk into the building.
4. Extreme cheerfulness. When everything sounds so funny, or when you can crack jokes at almost everything. When you go around asking “can you speak French?” to ALL the foreigners who can’t speak your own language, wondering how you’d respond if they said, “Oui.” You know you don’t speak that language.
5. Giddiness. The floor seemed to rock up and down.
6. Hungry, like you could eat a horse, or that’s what they say. You wake up from that short nap looking for the best roti telur and kari kambing hefore starting the morning rounds. Or spend the whole day thinking of that burger daging special (beef pâte wrapped with omelette slathered with chilli sauce and mayonnaise with cabbage and toasted fluffy buns), or lasagne from Delicious, or anything cheesy, in fact. Comfort food is the term for it.
7. Wanna get cosy, like having a huge piece of moist chocolate cake with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream with your loved one, talking about nothing and then fall asleep on his shoulder.
8. Like you could still do all sorts of things in this whole wide world: go shopping, gym, visit the sick, watch movie, go out for a late night drink. Especially if you’re young.
9. Headache. Pure headache.
10. As if you’re pregnant. With the headache and nausea and abdominal discomfort and bloatedness, good appetite but can’t eat much, giddy, irritable, sensitive. Oh, and body aches too.
11. Able to see and hear but unable to register. When you could see the car in front of you braking, the brake lights are shining, and your mind would just go “la la la” until it’s too near, or even asking itself, “why is that car slowing down…?”
12. Sitting in the car at the end of the day, praying that the 40-minute drive home would be safe and smooth.
* * *
I have felt all of the above. At different times and place. Depending on how hectic was the call, the total uninterrupted sleep I had, the condition I was in before the call, how much fluid I managed to drink the whole day (the more fluids, the better the outcome is, sometimes only feeling slightly tired), my health or even time of the month.
One thing for sure, the older one gets, the more tiring it becomes.
* * *
On call system is not shift system. When a doctor is on call, he’d be working from 8am the day he’s on call, up to 5pm the day after, or even longer. That means 33 hours of working, with no or very little sleep in between. Some departments allow the doctors to go home after 24 hours working, some may need to stay up to lunch time the next day, and the rest, up to 5pm.
I don’t have kids so I can’t imagine how ladies with kids do it, when they have to wake up every few hours at night even when they were on call the night before.
* * *
For all the doctors out there, let’s keep up the hard work and make it all worth it! 🙂