Tuesday, February 10, 2009


It's one o'clock in the morning and I'm wide awake at work. The patients are resting, the ER is quiet and the whole hospital seems to have curled up and fallen asleep. At the computer terminal next to me, a resident is wrapping up the last of her admissions. We talk for a while as she jots down a few notes in the chart.

"My intern tonight used to be an orthopedic surgeon in India," I tell her.

"Wow," she says. "So what's he doing here?"

"He worked in England for a few years and then decided to move over because they wouldn't let him be an attending."

"So he's doing Pediatrics now?"

"Family practise, actually."

"Wow, it's amazing the things people do. He must be old?"

"I didn't ask how old he was," I tell her. "He's got a couple of children, though. The oldest is eleven, I think."

"Poor guy," she comments and returns to her notes.

It's been a tricky evening for me. Arun is much older than I am but because of the situation I'm senior over him. He doesn't have much experience with children and almost everything he does needs to be supervised. I hesitate when speaking to him, alternating between a casual use of his first name and the more respectful Dr. Rai. In different circumstances he would have been my teacher. Tonight he is my intern.

"This recession is hitting everyone hard," the resident comments.

"Fifteen thousand jobs a day, someone was telling me," I reply.

"We're lucky to have jobs at all."

"Absolutely. And to do something that we actually enjoy. How many people have that?"

"Hmm . . . ." she says, opening up the internet to check her mail.

My phone rings. A young asthmatic in the ER requires admission. I go down and evaluate the child. He looks good but needs to be admitted for steroids and some breathing treatment. I discuss the plan with the parents and tell them I'll see them upstairs.

"Dr Rai will be coming in to see the child once you're up on the Pediatric floor," I tell them.

"Who is that?" the mother asks.

"One of my colleagues. We work together."

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