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Good Morning Doctor! - Chapter 47

Sleep

Sleep! That is one of the things a doctor often has to get along without.

During the influenza epidemic in 1918, when doctors worked day and night, one of my colleagues was called to see a patient. He knelt down by the bed and put his ear on the lady's chest to listen to her breathing. Utterly exhausted, that attitude of relaxation was too much for him and he actually fell asleep.

After some little time the patient stirred, startling the doctor out of his slumbers. "I'm sorry, Doctor," said she, "for I know you're worn out, but I'll have to ask you to move. I just must change my position."

I am happy to report that both the doctor and the patient recovered.

But all patients aren't that thoughtful. I remember one who visited me on a bitter cold night in the middle of winter. I hopped out of bed to answer the knock on my door, shuffling into my bedroom slippers and putting on my dressing gown. Opening the door, I saw a man wrapped up like an Eskimo in fur coat, felt boots, fur cap, heavy shawl, and bit mittens. "My wife's going to have a baby," he said, standing there. "Can you come out?"

It was only eighteen below that night and the wind whipped through that door chilling me to the marrow. "Won't you come in?" I shivered. At least I could get the directions to his place without freezing to death if I could shut the door. But with the most innocent and slightly startled look he replied in a slow drawl, "Never mind, I ain't cold."

And many times our sleep is broken needlessly. Take this case, for instance. I had seen a child one morning, had diagnosed his trouble as bowel complaint, and had suggested that he should not be nursed until the mother reported to me again.

About one o'clock that night the mother telephoned, saying that the child was crying and that she could do nothing to stop him. Learning that his temperature was normal, that the vomiting had ceased, and that the bowel had quieted down, I said that the child's trouble was probably only hunger and that he should be fed. Then I went back to bed.

An hour later again the telephone rang, jolting me out of a sound sleep. It was the same mother. "You were right, Doctor," she said sweetly. "He was hungry. He's asleep now."

I wonder if she thought I had been sitting there by the telephone waiting to find out if the baby was hungry or not!


  Version: World Wide Web Edition Copyright 1995 by Richard Rathe
 Location: http://gmd.rathe.org/chapt47.html
  Created: October 1, 1995   Modified: July 5, 1999

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