Tug-of-War

During the process of applying to medical school, I was told that medicine can be a horrible mistress, and I have to agree that my job often requires far more of my time and attention than I ever thought possible. A list of sacrifices I have not made would be a shorter inventory than one comprising desires I have not surrendered in my pursuit of medical education.

For instance, yesterday a young man fell seven stories from his apartment building in Akron. With obvious deformities of his elbow and leg, he had multiple injuries. He yelled in pain, brought into the emergency department. At ten 'til five o'clock my shift had been over for nearly a half-an-hour, but with my replacement already intubating an unresponsive young man with an unknown overdose, the very sick trauma victim needed immediate attention. Although I was trying to tie up loose strings and leave work only a few minutes late for once (a usual shift often means an hour or more of time spent after your scheduled shift) I went to the head of the bed and began to assess the young man's airway, asking him to tell me his name and listening closely to his lungs. He needed a chest tube, central line, ultrasound, stabilization of his fractures, peritoneal lavage, and eventually I intubated the young man to make sure he would successfully be able to be taken to the operating room to determine if he had bleeding from his internal organs and to correct any damage to those organs. An hour later, we'd helped his low blood pressure, performed all of the above procedures, and rushed him to the operating room. I was now nearly an hour-an-a-half late for my shift, a shift I'd told my wife I'd try my best to be home from just a few minutes before my trauma victim entered the emergency department. With one patient left to discharge and one patient left to admit, it was nearly seven at night when I was able to go home.

It's too often that I sacrifice time with my wife, the things I enjoy, and faith. I want to have the integrity to keep my word to others and the oaths of service I've taken to care and help the sick and wounded. This tug-of-war leaves so many physicians tired, burned-out, and hostile towards the very same people for whom they've committed to care. Balance is elusive and to achieve it you must protect it jealously. It's important to me to protect the integrity of my marriage, relationship with my family, and interests outside of medicine. In the words of my more experienced attending physicians, "Life is more than medicine." I surely agree, and I want to be excellent at both, just not at the cost of one for another. Too many families have been torn apart, marriages shattered and lives lost from the stress and demands of the medical profession. Medicine is a poor substitute for a wife and children. I'd much prefer those I encounter to be more surprised that I'm a physician than the fact that I'm a writer, artist, man of faith, and husband. Aug '07.

Andrew Jacques ('05)