What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Part 1

After the third month of my neurology residency in Chicago, I took a trip out to New Mexico and never came back.

No one leaves medicine. It’s just not done. Or rarely. There was the guy in my medical school who was so twisted, that even after repeated reprimands for being inappropriate with female patients and colleagues, he couldn’t get it together. Though not by choice, he left. Or the anesthesiology resident found dead of an overdose in his call room, a surreptitious IV catheter still taped to his ankle. He left. These were the role models.

I had fantasized about leaving medicine for years. By my second year of med school, I had the feeling that I had boarded the wrong train, but I kept on clunking down the wrong track, hoping things would improve as I passed into each new stage of training. Things would be better when I was in the clinical years. Clunk. Clunk. When I get to my internship. Clunk Clunk. I couldn’t find the strength to leave something that seemed so successful, even noble. Anyway, the ticket had been so exorbitant, and soon so many miles had flown by that getting off was simply not an option.

Fortunately, I had developed an arsenal of healthy coping strategies that allowed me to endure the ride, the cornerstone of which, sitting alone on the roof of my building drinking orange jubilee mad dog, invariably left me sharp and focused for the following day’s challenges.

Then something happened. I met Hatbox Louie during my internship. She was in graduate school in Santa Fe. Love made me confident and hopeful and things began to look different.

Three months into my second year of residency I had a two-week vacation and flew out to New Mexico to spend time with Hatbox Louie. On a whim, after knowing each other just a few months, we were married in the town of Espanola: the low-rider capital of the world. The courthouse was also the jail and the community center. We waited in line behind a guy contesting his DUI charge. The judge and our witnesses — the bailiff and the court clerk — all had the same last name. Driving back to Santa Fe we were giddy. We ate popsicles. We were crazy. It was fantastic. Together we could do anything. And right then I knew I could get off the train. Everything had changed, just like that.

I called the head of my neurology program back in Chicago to say I would not be returning. He seemed concerned that I had slipped into a very dark and insane place. No matter. I felt better than I ever had. Hatbox Louie and I wandered Santa Fe’s meandering streets under huge fluffy snowflakes. I shut my eyes and gorged my senses on the wafting smoke of piñon and cedar hearth fires. I felt alive. I was free. I was in love. What could possibly go wrong?

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Published in: on November 26, 2006 at 4:39 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Tell me more! I hate medicine! I want to get out! I have wasted my twenties and am watching life pass me by. I want to breathe fresh air and write a novel and live my life!

  2. You will have to face it sooner or later. Don’t throw good money after bad. But… have a plan. That was my mistake. And read on to see how hard it is when you release from the moorings (it sounds like you might have to, though). All the best, Dr. Nostrum

  3. I can corroborate. I had a front row seat at the sufferings of Dr. Nostrum and unfortunately I bought my ticket from a scalper. I paid even more for my tram which has more transfers, a clogged toilet, and I seem to have run out of travel snacks. I jumped off the train to Willoughby for 4 months and got a taste of my own advice to Dr. Nostrum. A plan is key. Locums seems to be the final common pathway for retirees and deserters who are trying to get their plan together. Here’s to the last gasp of indentured servitude.
    “Et leur infernale clique au diable s’envolera.”

    Hamo

  4. And their infernal clicks with the devil will fly away. Et leur infernale clique au diable s’envolera. Yes indeed, Hamo my boy. A plan is delicious. Or so I’ve heard. Hang in there. As they say at the fundraisers, something’s got to give.
    Dr. Nostrum


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