I was in the carpool line at 7:30 this morning when my pager went off. I was happy sitting in the carpool line, since last Thursday and Friday I had to drop the kids off at 7:00 so I could make it to the Conway hospital to cover the OR. I watched the kids bound out of the car and then called transcription. "You are on standby for CT3 for a needle."
Standby can mean either five minutes or thirty minutes, depending on whether or not a tech remembered to call and give us a heads up, and also how long it takes the radiologist to guide the needle to the mass of interest in whatever organ is under investigation. I told her I would be there as soon as possible, and hastily trucked it down the interstate. Luckily I made it to the transcription area in about 10 minutes, right when they called to say they were ready for me. Unfortunately I simultaneously remembered that I had a record seven pending cases from Conway sitting on my dining room table. One was a medical liver that needed to be sent out for consult. Three were diagnostic cancer cases. Oh shit, I whined to a colleague. Headed to CT.
As I walked into CT3 I noticed that the tech, a sub, was placing the slide into alcohol for a modified Pap stain. I sighed and glanced at the radiologist. "You forgot I am a diff-quik girl." We all have our stain preferences, and they hadn't screwed mine up in a couple of years. He looked at me and said, "You want me to get you some more? I can get more. You haven't been around here in a while." It had been about six weeks since I covered EV cytology. I glanced at the CT monitor and saw that the needle was in a large mass in the lung. I told him I would give it a shot and see. Peered into the microscope and luckily it was a no brainer. I wandered back over to the radiologist. "Despite the fact that I feel like I am Alice in Wonderland, I think I can call this one. Positive for malignancy." I got the schedule from the tech and saw that there were many needles today - liver, lung, mediastinal mass, a couple of inpatients that needed to be worked in, but nothing for an hour.
I got coffee, got coverage, and booked it home to get Conway cases and bring them back to work. I was busy with cases and needles until noon. I got a call around 10:00 from one of the transcriptionists asking if I would do an outpatient referral FNA from an ENT in fast-track ED at 1:00. "Sure, I'm not going anywhere, thanks for asking." At noon I was hungry, but got paged for standby. I normally don't like to eat when I might get called out, but hell, I thought, I've got this lunch thing down to a ten minute fine art. Heat Morning Star spicy black bean burger in microwave 45 seconds. Prepare nuts and carbs of my choice. Add liberal honey and small amount of spicy mustard to heated burger. Eat quickly and chase with bottled water. Finish off with Take 5 for dessert. I managed to squeeze it in before I had to go to CT again.
At 1:00 the cytotech preparing the outpatient came into my office. "The patient is here but they can't get us a room for another hour in fast-track ED." I asked him how in the world did this happen, didn't the transcriptionists call ahead to reserve the room? We are supposed to call ahead if it is scheduled for after 11:00, ED gets busy in the afternoon. I was a little mad, we had been over all this months ago - it was supposed to be working smoothly by now. I went out and apologized to the luckily good natured gentleman with a facial mass. He had another appointment at 2:30, but said he would stick around until then in case a room opened up. It didn't. He said he would come back at 4:00.
I called the head transcriptionist into my office. "Can you please gently remind all the people that schedule needles that we have to call ahead to reserve a room after 11:00?" She told me the problem was that some of the people in ED told them they didn't have to call ahead, and it had become confusing. I told her, "Tell them to ignore those people, from now on. This is compromising the patient's time, and that is not fair." She agreed, and I decided that was enough for right now.
The week filled up all afternoon - fat pad aspirate on Thursday, special request from a breast radiologist for us to do and immediate on-site evaluation of a breast mass at the breast center at the end of the week, etc., etc., all requiring phone time and logistics. Cases got finished, needles got evaluated, and I even found time to fill out picture order forms for kids school pics and print out their menus for the next couple of weeks. The kind gentleman came back at 4:00. We chatted in between me sticking a needle in the side of his face. "That thing is pretty scary," he said. "Oh, you mean our gun?" He laughed. "You call that thing a gun?" I said, "Yes, isn't that funny - it is really only there to create negative pressure. I thought about using the French technique here, meaning I wouldn't use this gun to hold the needle and syringe, but the texture of the lesion requires this contraption, sorry."
I made it out the door in time to problem solve some phone issues at Verizon before heading home to relieve my after school help and start dinner for the kids. Cecelia had been to the orthodontist, her mouth was sore, so I suggested pasta for dinner and prepared elbow noodles, cheese tortellini, Parmesan, hard Romano, basil pesto, and spaghetti sauce - we had a sort of a pasta bar going on and everyone was happy. After 15 minutes of itouch time and 15 minutes of me demonstrating yoga poses (I started back last week after a 9 year hiatus) to the kids for copying, much to my son's amusement and my daughter's amazement, we started bedtime.
I hope tomorrow is a little bit lighter. Based on the last two weeks, I'm doubting it. Something about school starting and everyone, doctors and patients included, returning from vacation has made our lives much busier lately. Hard to complain about work, I guess. But there is something ominous about the pager going off in the carpool line. It sets a frenetic pace for the rest of the day.