Thursday, December 20, 2012


What do you even say on a national blog after last Friday?  How do you start over and talk about normal things again?  How do you pretend that Friday didn't happen, and chat on as usual?

Tonight my group interviewed a resident for a pathology position.  A first, since I've been there.  My colleague Brent and I (aka Dr. Woods - I named him this, as a golf enthusiast, before the Tiger scandal) were hired almost six years ago, and our work family is just now finding a need for new members, based on multifactorial reasons.  We had the resident meet and greet on our home turf for a couple of hours starting at 3:00 p.m, then about a quarter of us, spouses included - for those of us who have them ha ha not me - met him at a local country club two of my partners belong to for dinner.  

His spouse was stellar.  "Don't I know you?"  She said.  I must qualify a bit.  I was born in the same town I currently live in and the wonderful thing about that is that I have major roots.  I can go just about anywhere and bump into someone I know.  Ran to Walgreen's tonight before the dinner and saw a resident below me who now works at the Arkansas Crime Lab.  He relayed a colleague's, one I had met on my resident rotation, sudden and random death.  It was devastating.  I held back tears and apologized to him - not that any of it was my responsibility, but I remembered this man.  How energizing he was, and how he taught me an incredibly cool way to dissect a heart that made a hell of a lot more sense than anything I had been taught thus far.  I told Daniel, "I am so sorry.  My partners are like my family.  That must have been devastating for you."  He looked at me, clearly pleased I understood.  "It was.  We are interviewing too.  Because of the loss.  It's hard."

I did know the spouse of our interview candidate.  When I was taking pre-med courses, post college - I graduated at 20 with a failed attempt times two at Ph.D school for psychology - she was taking the same classes.  She and her husband, our candidate, have four children.  She is a pharmaceutical rep for a hospital.  She was so much fun to talk to.

I dined on lobster cakes and oyster salad.  Most of my colleagues had the fried chicken buffet.  As the evening was drawing to an end, and most of the party had exited to relieve sitters or pick up adult children from airports for the holidays, I addressed our interview candidate.  Told him I had bumped into the crime lab doc, and we commiserated over the death of a great attending.  I wondered aloud if he had gotten to know the head of the crime lab.  Told him he was quiet, and it was difficult but well worth the effort.  He had not.

I said, "He is great.  One of the best advocates I know for abused children.  He gets in there in the courtroom and fights those lame experts on the opposite side who make up stuff about bone disease when it is all really abuse.  No one fights for the toddlers who are whacked too hard by a baseball bat carried by the boyfriend of the mom who is working to make money to support her kids.  No one opposes the blue-haired lady on the jury who says, 'No way that guy, who looks like my grandson, could have possibly hurt that kid.'  Guess what, lady, he did."

Then I looked our interview candidate square in the eye.  "Were you affected by Friday's massacre?  I mean really affected?  Because that stuff happens every day in our country.  And most of it doesn't get this kind of attention.  This just might be a vehicle for change, you know?  Unnecessary, senseless, awful, but still.  Gun change, sure.  Child abuse, everyone's on board for that.  But mental illness in our society, it's so fragmented these days, you know?  Treatment is not available, and everyone advocates drugs, not help and talk therapy.  I know the killer shouldn't be the victim, but he is, in a way.  We are all responsible, especially as doctors."

He smiled back and agreed with me.  He's a candidate for an amazing job, what else is he going to do but agree with me?  We don't talk to candidates, however, without extensive vetting and he made it this far.  Which is pretty impressive - I've got a talented, smart as hell, picky group.  Looking for another family member.  Hoping we just met him tonight.  I think it will work out the way it is supposed to.  Things usually do.  

I try not to look at more than one article a day on the NYTimes, regarding last Friday.  Because it makes me cry.  And that hinders work.  But I think reading about it honors those involved.  I have written my children's teachers personal e-mails, because I think they are heroes.  Sad that it takes Friday to bring that to my frontal lobe/attention.  But it did.  My children's teachers are my, and even more so their heroes.  I wish them well, and hope desperately that they are finding sleep easily these days.  It's certainly eluding me.  Jess said it best, below.  A leaf should fall.  A world should pause.  And we should all hold and honor our children.


  1. Beautifully written. I love that you wrote your kids' teachers personal notes.

  2. Thanks Kelly. I worried that I was too rant-y - it was spontaneous and off the cuff, but wanted to get it out rather than hold and edit like I usually do. I also want to emphasize that I believe drugs are very important in psychiatry in some places, but the necessary adjunct - family, individual, and group therapy - has fallen by the wayside.

  3. In the South, we treasure traditions. Years ago, when a family member died, the clocks in the house would be stopped at the moment of death. I think this was a poignant way to represent the impact of such an event.

    This is how many of us feel about Friday's tragedy - as if time itself should pause, at least for a little while, in the face of such sorrow and loss. I don't know how the clocks can ever start again for those parents.

    W.H. Auden said it best in his poem "Funeral Blues."

    That said, best of luck with the interview process!

  4. That is a fantastic poem. I read "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion a few years back, and although I have never experienced profound grief in losing a child or partner, it made me understand for a moment what it must be like, even though I cannot and do not want to comprehend.

    The interview was really good. We'll see what happens and if we are a good match for each other.

  5. Nice post, Elizabeth, and good book.


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