At the Still Point of the Turning World
Residency is over, NOW what? (While I'm waiting for the answer, I'll get some spinning done....)

Monday, March 17, 2003


Here at Natividad Medical Center, we're facing massive cutbacks due to a state budget shortfall. Everyone from janitors to CFOs are worried about their jobs and the consequences of job loss to their families. Most of us also worry about the consequences that cutbacks will have on our patients, most of whom are medically indigent and depend on the county hospital to take care of them. (If you're interested in reading more about our hospital's current troubles, and the work we do, click here.)

Despite these problems, we've managed to overcome our personal worries on a couple of occasions lately. Last week, a 12 year old boy collapsed at school and was brought to our ER. The staff worked on him for almost an hour until they prounounced his death. It was one of those sobering events that sits heavily on people's minds, makes them turn to prayer in an effort to convert despair into hope. Then--one of the nurse's daughters, who went to school with the dead boy, taped his photo to a cookie jar and started a collection on behalf of his family. It was amazing how fast that jar filled up with the loose bills out of everyone's wallets, chiefs of service to kitchen workers alike.

Then, this weekend, the loss struck even closer to home. One of our most beloved housekeepers died at home. She called a friend and coworker, complaining of bad chest pain. The coworker told her go to the hospital, but she said she'd "sleep it off." The next day, she didn't show up to work--for the first time in seventeen years. The friend went to her house and found her, long dead. She left a bunch of grandchildren and an entire hospital full of people who looked forward to her upbeat smile and words of encouragement. Again, collection boxes with her photo taped to them appeared on every unit today, and filled up with donations from everyone who knew her, no matter how slightly.

At a small county hospital, there are few anonymous deaths. It seems everyone who dies at our hospital is a friend or family member of one of the staff, and their deaths therefore seem to touch us more deeply than they might if they took place in a big hospital, where the housekeeper's name is a mystery, and the boy in the morgue is a stranger.