Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sleep-Deprivation: T-3 Days

Do you ever wonder what would happen to you if you got about 4 hours of sleep a night for twelve nights in a row?  Personally I think I would probably die.  Or at least have a really icky stomach starting on day two out of twelve, and feel horrible in every imaginable way.  Then on days 5 and 6 I would start refusing to do anything but sleep, and shouting at anyone who bothered me - no matter what was on the line.  If I lived to see day 8, I'd definitely die by day 10.  Well, so far, on day 9, my husband is still alive.  But last night it became apparent:  We're nearing the end of what even he can do.

He got home early, 8:30 p.m.  It felt like heaven.  Dinner was still warm from ME eating it, and he gobbled some down.  Then he got to work on the computer, writing notes or whatever he still had left from the day.

Around 9:30 p.m., he threw himself on my lap on the couch and told me to wake him up "in an hour."  I knew right then that if successful at waking him, it would be a painful experience for both of us - painful for me just watching his body cling as fast and hard as it could to more sleep while his mind struggled to rouse it.  Ouch.

Indeed this is what occurred.  I tried several times to wake him, to no avail.  He'd bolt straight up from the anxiety of sleeping with the awareness that he "shouldn't" be, and then collapse in a heap again.  Let me tell you, watching someone you love be physically tortured with sleep deprivation, while worrying what it's doing to their long-term health, is enough to make any spouse fantasize about storming through the hospital and yelling at anyone potentially contributing.  Whiny and demanding patients... "the system," generally... any first year residents ("interns") who aren't quite working as hard for my husband as he did for his JAR's last year... anyone.

This is why I encourage anyone involved with a resident to watch the ABC series "Boston Med."  You can watch online here.  It's basically an 8-episode documentary covering the Harvard-affiliated hospitals MGH (my husband's hospital - yes, he knows most of the physicians in it; it was filmed the year before we got here) and Brigham and Women's.  Even if you're not into the medical scene, I still cannot recommend it enough.  I think I cried several times an episode, and I know plenty of non-medical people who absolutely loved it.  But for a medical spouse, significant other, or family member, it gives you a window into what it is they're DOING all those hours away from home.  The stories of the patients will touch your hearts... it's so much easier to sacrifice for a cause you understand and can clearly picture.  And you'll appreciate that the series also covers the spouses and significant others - and children.  Their sacrifices and experiences made it to ABC 10/9 central and attracted 5.37 million viewers, nearly tying Dancing With The Stars.  Pat yourself on the back!

Anyway, Boston Med will help... but in the moment of watching your spouse suffer, you'll still be a less-than-happy camper.  Last night, by the way, was not even as sleep deprived as my husband has ever been.  Twice last summer he averaged two hours of sleep a night for three nights in a row, which I believe was even worse.  Or maybe just equally bad.  In any case, for the first time ever I was unable to rouse my husband to finish his work.  On the forth "jolt" he bolted all the way to our bed.  This morning at 4:40 a.m., after I finally convinced him to wake up (about twenty minutes after his alarm originally went off - he costs me more sleep than Matthew!) I asked him if he had work left from last night and he got confused and said he thought I "made him go to bed."  Sigh.  We'll have to set that one straight if I'm still up when he gets home tonight!

The Usual Scene
Why is it this way?  That would make this blog post too long.  Suffice it to say that my husband believes in this system of training, and thinks that attending physicians (doctors who are all done with residency) who lack experience and/or short physician shifts causing complex hospitalized patients to be assigned a brand new doctor every 16 hours... the type of which they're about to implement next year... are more dangerous than having a tired resident but an attending who has "seen it all" in their own rigorous training.  And let's not forget that if we had more money or lived in a less-expensive town, the commute could be a lot less (or nothing, like it was in STL) and that would add 2-3 hours every night for sleeping.  But here we are!

So here's to hoping he makes it through the next three wake-ups, so he can sleep plenty on his weekend off.  I bought a cinnamon roll for a surprise tomorrow morning... poor guy.


  1. I cannot even imagine that!! Poor Mark. :-(

  2. you're a great blogger. my sis and her hubby both made it through residency and with a baby. my sis is now doing her fellow at wash u and her pedi husband is alone with my niece a lot. it's a rough life. hang in there!