Friday, February 06, 2004

Lost Shower

I was fretting. I had been fretting all the evening before. I fell asleep fretting, and I woke to find the same fret still there, as if it had been nattering on without me all night.

The god of urgent care had been merciful to me on my return to work. Merciful until midweek of this week, my third week back. Then the floodgates opened. More patients, more elusive complaints, more tests, more paperwork, more snafus. Back to normal, in other words.

The case that occasioned my fret was not unusual. Late day patient, elderly, her own doctors all "in town," not terribly sick but with some worrisome features; fax snafus at the witching hour (5 PM, when offices go on answering service) preventing access to old EKGs; pages to other providers unanswered; abnormal labs back after hours; late phone calls to emphasize a return to the ER if things worsened before I could track down her own MDs in the morning.

Loose ends. A patient who was stable, but worrisome. Probably safe at home. No real signs of anything acute. But. But.

So I woke up fretting, imagining the heart wrenching scenes of catastrophe and death that might have transpired overnight.

I did the usual morning things: coffee, toast, Boston Globe, neck exercises. All while fretting. My head was buzzing with fret. Angst. Rumination. Obsession. A PET scan of my brain would have lit up neon red, pulsating.

Suddenly I came to.

I was blow drying my hair looking in the mirror.

I could not remember taking a shower. The only evidence that I'd taken a shower was my wet hair. I'd been swallowed up by a black-hole time warp of fret. I had discovered the antithesis of attention. The antithesis of being awake. Even the substance of the fret had been swallowed up. All that remained was a buzzing blankness. I'd been sinking in some awful hell realm quicksand of my own creation.

Talk about a wake-up call !

(Oh, yeah. The patient did fine.)


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