The Brown Out

Ryan is on call about 7 times a month. He works a normal day, 7am-5pm then begins the night shift until 8 the next morning when they round on all the patients again to hand them off to the residents and attending doctors working that day, then he tries to get most of his notes and dictations done so he can go home to sleep hopefully by 2pm. His stories are hilarious when he wakes up in his sleep-deprived state of delerium.

I came home from work last night and woke Ryan up for dinner. He started telling me about his night on call – and about “The Brown Out” (que dramatic music: duu duuuu duuuuuuu…..)

From 4am to 6am there was a scheduled “Brown Out” at the hospital. All the electricity was turned off, except for the most vital equipment (ie; life support and whatnot) Ryan had a minute to grab some quick dinner at the cafeteria around 3am, then went back to work for another hour or so before the lights went off. There were generators that kicked on at 4am, so the halls and the main areas of the hospital had some lights, which was nice.

The trouble first began when Ryan entered the mens bathroom and realized it was so pitch black he could not see anything. He turned around and walked over to the nurses station and asked how long it would be until they turned the lights back on. He was thinking he could just hold it for another 15-20 minutes until the Brown Out was over. The nurses told him it would be “about 2 hours” so Ryan asked them for a flashlight.

Around 5am he had an hour to potentially grab some sleep, so he made his way over to the door of one of the call rooms and swiped his card. That’s when he realized that the key cards had been turned off for the Brown Out so he couldn’t get in. (this is the point where I would have slammed my own head purposefully into the door, which is just one more reason why I am not a doctor) By this time Ry had been awake for 22 hours. He turned from the door and went out in search of a janitor. Luckily, before too long he found one who used his key to get Ryan into the call room. Ryan was so happy! He could finally get some shut-eye before people started arriving at 6am.

The door shut behind him and as his head hit the pillow the troubles continued. He became uncomfortably aware that it was the most stuffy cave-of-a-room that he had ever been in. The air flow system had been turned off, you see, so there he was, stuck in a tiny call room with no air flow and no windows and all he could think about was the fact that he had to wake up in an hour and keep working.

Then he heard a sound.
Then 10 minutes later he heard it again.

The elevator shaft was just on the other side of the wall by his bed, and after a few more 10 minute cycles of the weird machine noise he realized that the elevators were trying to kick on, but couldn’t but they kept loudly trying and loudly trying every 10 minutes as the generator cycled.

So he did not sleep. His night was terrible stacked on top of horrible stacked on top of some poo.

Ryan is a great doctor and is becoming a better doctor everyday as he navigates the trials and tribulations of his first year of residency.

Thank you for sharing in his pain.


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