As it turns out…I’m tired. Just really, really tired. My partners and I are participating in a study to examine the physiologic toll that nights on call have on our bodies. We are all wearing these little wrist bands that track our heart rate and sleep. We check our apps every morning…the little wheels spin and spew forth numbers about our heart rate variability, our sleep quality, and our “recovery”. This data will be matched with our call schedules and we hope to understand better what it means to our bodies to push so hard for 12, 24, 36 hours at a time. This morning when I “woke up” from the 1.5 hour nap I snuck in from 4:30-6am while on call last night, my app boldly declared to me: “No sleep logged or detected. Without analyzing your sleep, we can’t provide Recovery data”. Even the little app knows what I have known for years…call is hard. Post call runs on fumes…post-post call is the ultimate exhaustion.
Physically, I have pushed the little band to sort out my first marathon, followed by a night on call and then an immediate departure for an international flight. I dipped my recovery score into the single digits. But the few precious days I spent in England with a dear friend did more than remind me how good it feels to walk the streets of a bustling city then settle in to bed early and read and fall asleep without the burden of a set alarm…I was reminded just how tired we let ourselves get. And how much it hurts us…in so many ways.
Midway through our trip, we awoke to hear the news of the Las Vegas shooting. We have lived through Columbine and 9/11; Sandy Hook, Fort Hood, and Dallas; Charlottesville, Charleston…but this was different. The vantage point foreign. On our last night, we grabbed drinks with a friend, a British surgeon, who expressed, “We simply can’t understand how shootings like that happen. It’s just so strange to us. We don’t have guns like that here.” The conversation ensued with all of the emotion and angst and sorrow that we, as trauma surgeons, process through every time we encounter another victim of gun violence.
Heartbroken, we traveled home. We kept tabs on our Twitter and Facebook feeds; we checked the standards…Fox and CNN and ABC…and now, BBC. And there, on the plane from London, is where I realized just how fatigued I really am. Yes, my body is tired. The little band reminds me everyday that I am over training, under sleeping, ignoring my physiology. But 36,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean is where I felt my heart and my soul groan, ever so weary, of the emotion of it all. We breathe, or sometimes scream, into the mirrored rooms of social media, and we hear the reverberations of our own anger…guns, violence, politics. Fueled by the volume of voices that assure me everyone is on my side, I become even more frustrated and empowered with bias and closed mindedness and indignation. But what I don’t consider is the emotional fatigue of the exasperation. What I don’t want to admit is the devastating psychological wounds from the constant barrage, 140 characters at a time, of the constant insults and rage. And perhaps the saddest piece of it all is our failure to engage in the midst of our rage. All of my energy is spent crafting snarky one-liners that my “followers” will like/tweet/retweet/repost/screen shot/quote/and otherwise admire.
I am so tired…so emotionally and physically and spiritually tired…so tired of not sleeping on call, so tired of answering emails, so tired of going to the grocery and picking up dirty socks from every corner of the house; so tired of defending my staunch beliefs and maintaining my presence…so tired of so much that means so little.
Last night…when I was so tired…in the midst of my call…my patient, hypotensive but alert; in pain, but composed…grabbed my hand…and he prayed out loud for me…for our entire team who was taking care of him. He was so tired. But he found the courage and the strength to do more, to say more, than to be angry at his position on the gurney in the trauma bay. He challenges me that being physically and emotionally tired, should never be an excuse for being spiritually tired. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 “…never grow tired of doing good.”
We are all tired. We are tired of arguing about guns and immigration and healthcare and politics in general; we are tired of Twitter wars and Facebook fails; we are tired because we have lost our focus by being angry instead of doing good. God, I am tired, but You are good; use my fatigue to focus me, to quiet me…to redirect my gall…to Your good.
Disclaimer: My viewpoints are not necessarily reflective of my employer, or any local, regional or national organization that I belong to. As a matter of fact, I pretty much just speak for myself. Please keep that in mind.