The first time it happened I was an intern. I was starting the first day of a week of vacation after a 6 month straight spell of no vacation and few full weekends. I had just finished one of our more demanding services and had been up until 1am finishing up notes. I woke up late Monday morning - after the sun was up - and got in the shower. It was a bright, beautiful sunny day! Then, about 5 minutes into this glorious long shower I started BAWLING!!!! Just the day before I heard about a patient that I’d taken care of off and on all year - she had died in hospice earlier that week. She was a patient who I got to know well. I got to know her family. I was devastated but never really felt it because I was just way to busy. Well, five minutes into my vacation shower I started to feel it. I started to think of all the patients who had died - oncology patients who fought hard to the end, sick kids in the PICU, bad trauma patients, EVERYTHING!!! I cried for like an hour! Then I got myself together, and went out for breakfast.
Well, this morning, I was driving to work. I had just dropped my super cute daughter off at daycare and I was having a good morning. Then, on npr there was a story about poet Dean Young who had just received a heart transplant. In the interview he talks about what it means to receive a heart from someone - in his case a 22 year old college student - and suddenly I start crying. A patient I took care of died over a year ago suddenly and very dramatically after being totally stable from his heart transplant. It was a heart I helped procure. He was one of the kindest patients I had ever had. He was young and so happy about the new life he was about to begin. I had a hard time with his death last year but I thought it was behind me. However, here I was, in my car, crying for this patient. I knew I needed to write about this, the thought of writing it out is part of what got me to stop crying so that I could get out of my car and go to work. How do we deal with the crushing losses we are a part of? How do we stay human and also stay sane?