Wednesday, May 11, 2016

If it gets any worse

I am awoken from a feverish dream regarding field hockey and a girl I worked with at camp two years ago whose photos I was stalking on Facebook the other day. The pager is unconcerned, it BEEP BEEP BEEPs with cheery insistence while I blink my scratchy eyes and read the text: She's thirty-nine weeks pregnant and wants to talk about some cramping she's having. I sigh a little internally, but note with relief that the migraine I've been nursing all day has retreated to a dull roar by my nap, which has also left me with damp cheeks and sweaty hair stuck to the side of my face. It's gotta be eighty degrees in here with the sun peeking under the shade, I think. I gulp water while I pull up the patient's chart and dial her number.
She answers, breathless and tells me about having cramps "a few times an hour" for the past few hours and she doesn't know what that means, and it feels different than the cramps she was having the other day, and she doesn't think her water has broken, and most importantly - what should she do?!

I speak slowly and calmly and we talk about all the things that are reassuring about her situation - about how she's not bleeding, and her bag of water is almost certainly intact, and it can be very, very normal to have some cramping and some contractions at thirty-nine weeks pregnant and the best thing she can do is drink fluids, and maybe take a bath, try to sleep, and wait for real labor to start.'re telling me to just...wait? Wait for things to get worse? She asks me, a little incredulous.
Yes, I tell her gently. You can call me back at any point if you feel worse or if you have questions. I'll be here all night.

*  *  *

She hangs up and immediately my phone rings and it's my mom, telling me that the worst I had feared is true, that my dad's infection is not getting better, it's actually getting worse and that he's going to be admitted to the hospital for stronger antibiotics and so they can try to figure out what's going on.

 I was just there, I drove fourteen hours round-trip for a two day visit and it was worth every second and yet now I sit, three hundred miles away, feeling utterly helpless and missing them both so much that a lump rises in my throat even as I tell myself - calmly and rationally - that it's just a UTI gone haywire and ceftriaxone is a wonderful and effective drug and that the chances of him being fine and the chances my patient is not in labor are roughly equal (i.e., approaching one hundred percent).

So...I just need to be here. And wait. Hopefully for things to get better, not worse, I tell myself, and I feel paralyzed. Stuck too far away from the people I love, but in a job I adore and a life that is starting to feel like a soft t-shirt that fits just right.

The words are easy, I've already said them once today, to my patient earlier, and now to my dear mama - I'll be here all night. Call me if it gets any worse.

It feels like the most useless thing I've ever said.