I feel like telling stories tonight.
It’s been seven years since I finished housemanship. I did not have house officers (HOs) to help me out in more than half of that seven years. I know some people are never happy with their HOs, some even call them names. But I have to admit, I had fun working with them. Not all, but many.
As with other people, there are HOs more memorable than others.
I’m not talking about work, at least in most of these stories.
The names and details of the stories were changed to protect privacy.
* * *
It was past midnight. I was exhausted running between two wards and a high dependency unit. The HO saw me and had just eaten what was probably her dinner.
“Boss, come drink this watermelon juice,” she said, showing me an unopened bag of cold red juice.
“Thanks, but it’s ok, I’ll get my own drinks,” I told her.
“Please take it. I bought extra,” she said.
So I did, with a lot of thanks.
* * *
I was on call, it was around 6.30am, two patients in different wards needed intubation, so I had to run between the two wards (with the help of anaesthetic colleagues, of course). I walked into the ward again, and there she was, running towards me.
“Boss! Boss! Boss! Boss! Boss!!!” she called.
I was too tired, I only raised my eyebrows.
“The patient we intubated, her heart stopped and I did CPR on her! After 10 minutes she revived!”
I walked faster, I was impressed.
* * *
Both of us rotated to different departments. One day she referred a case to me, so I went to her ward. Before I met her, I bumped into another HO, who immediately brightened up (from a flustered appearence), saying, “Oh! Medical people! Nice to see you!”
I was a little surprised, but I smiled and walked away.
She came to see me when I was done seeing the patient.
“It’s not as nice here as it is in medical..” she said with a pout.
“Why would you say that? Weren’t you much busier back then?” I asked.
“Well, over here the gap between us and the seniors is so distant. They wouldn’t sit and chat with us the way you did with us all this while,” she complained.
I could not find any words for consolation. So we spoke about other things.
* * *
We did not meet each other for many months. By the time I met her again, she’s a senior HO finishing her final posting. She put on a lot of make up for my liking; she doesn’t need it because she’s a pretty girl already.
“Boss, have you found a boyfriend yet?” she asked.
“No. What about you?”
“Me neither..I don’t know..” she sighed.
That was the last time I spoke to her. I had in mind that I wanted to suggest maybe she could put less makeup because she’s a nice, sweet girl, but I never met her again.
The last I heard, she married a cardiologist.
A cardiologist who doesn’t like even a single layer of powder.
“Clowns,” he used to say.
I knew about it because he’s my ex.
Life goes on.
* * *
I was having lunch with my colleagues after our teaching session one Wednesday afternoon. I was on call. My phone rang.
“Hello, is this Miss Maria?” the male voice asked.
“Hi. I’m from Pizza **t. I’m sending you some pizzas,” he said.
“But I did not order any,” I told him.
“I know. Someone ordered this for you,” he said convincingly.
I wondered who that person would be, and the fact that I have almost finished my food.
“Boss, this is Abu. Dr Abu. HO from your previous ward,” said the “pizza boy”. He then chuckled.
“I need to refer a patient to you…” he went on.
Oh dear…and he dared to do this!!
* * *
I was doing some paperwork on the nursing counter when Abu came and sat in front of me.
“Boss, may I ask you something?” he asked.
I had a feeling that it is not about work. “What is it?” I asked.
“Are you married?” he asked.
“No,” I answered.
“Oh. Then I won’t ask you my second question.”
I looked at him and raised my eyebrows. He got scared, so he blurted out, “It wasn’t me. Syarifah asked me to ask you.”
I was not convinced.
“She asked me to ask you whether you’re pregnant,” he said, almost cowering.
So I laughed. I laughed at him, and at the question.
“You know, you’re not the first person to ask me this question within this week,” I told him.
* * *
A few days ago, my nurse asked me, “Weren’t you pregnant 8 months ago?”
Again, I laughed. “I don’t even have a husband.”
My HO in front of me showed a surprised look.
“Don’t worry. This is not the first time. I don’t know what is it about me, my BMI is good. Maybe I glow, or maybe I look too tired all the time,” I said to them.
“Why are you not married yet? Are you choo…” he blurted out but stopped in his track.
I laughed again. “What were you going to say? Choosy? Well, I need to be choosy, right?”
He just smiled.
“I had a bad experience. That’s all,” I told them, got up and left.
* * *
I was upset about the difficulty of obtaining clinic appointments for our patients. Our specialist pushed for it and I fully understood her concerns. It was 4pm. In the end she asked this HO to get the appointment himself from the clinic counter.
He went there, did not manage to get the staff to help, and called me from there. All I told him was how upset I was about the whole system.
It took him a while to get back to the ward (our hospital is huge).
When he reappeared, he said, “I got it for you anyway, boss. You sounded upset so I tried to get the appointment date again. I knocked the locked clinic door because I knew they were in. I waited and knocked and waited and knocked. In the end they opened the door and set the appointment. Here you are.”
Oh, thank you…!!!
* * *
I was on the phone with my former boss on the hospital corridors one evening. A female HO who worked with me a year ago walked by.
She showed a big smile, came closer and gave me a hug, and walked away.
That felt good.
* * *
There was a HO who, when he smiled, he could “light up this whole town.”
When I heard him speak, I knew he could sing very well. Turned out I was right.
When I looked at him back then, I knew he’s going to be a physician. He’s currently on his way there.
I had a feeling he’d want to be a cardiologist. Turns out he really does.
I pray for the best for him.
* * *
I don’t like to tell stories beginning with “When I was a house officer…” because it annoys a lot of people, and I don’t think it’s fair.
But today I want to begin some sentences with that.
When I was a HO, I had nice, cool and super cool seniors who taught me a lot of stuff.
When I was a HO, we would sometimes have tea with our senior or the surgeon and talk about life.
When I was a HO, I spent the nights in OT with my senior, sometimes the whole night, sometimes only partially. One of them would ask for nice songs to be played from the radio while operating. He never brought along his own CDs though.
So by the end of that posting, I compiled a list of songs that I thought he might like, and put them in a CD. However it seemed that the CD player could not read it.
When I was a HO, I extended my stay in surgical posting because I had so much fun.
During that rotation, I had to go for an emergency surgery, so I was on medical leave for two weeks, cutting my posting short.
One day the department clerk called me and said it’s ok to leave as scheduled because I did not take those days off for fun.
I told her, I want that two weeks back.
So I stayed an extra two weeks.
I would have been a surgeon now if I could stand cold temperatures in long duration. But obviously I’m not.
When I was a HO, I missed my brother’s birthday dinner, because we finished work at 10pm on that particular day.
* * *
This song was played on radios a lot when I have just started working: Aku Bukan Milikmu by Rossa. It was on air when my consultant was giving me a briefing, while we were in the operation theatre, in the ward while we were doing our paperwork, at night in the cold and otherwise quiet OT.
This song marked the beginning of my working life.
Dahulu kau mencintaiku
Dahulu kau menginginkanku
Meskipun tak pernah ada jawabku
Tak berniat kau tinggalkan aku
Sekarang kau pergi menjauh
Sekarang kau tinggalkan aku
Di saat ku mulai mengharapkanmu
Dan ku mohon maafkan aku
Aku menyesal tlah membuatmu menangis
Dan biarkan memilih yang lain
Tapi jangan pernah kau dustai takdirmu
Pasti itu terbaik untukmu
Janganlah lagi kau mengingatku kembali
Aku bukanlah untukmu
Meskiku memohon dan meminta hadirmu
Jangan pernah tinggalkan dirinya untuk diriku