Friday evening exhaustion settles into the bones. Family from out of state are arriving late tonight, and we putter around the house, preparing beds and removing the stains and crumbs of the week.
Two of our patients died this week. One went home from surgery, and on the second day post-op began to vomit blood. Instead of calling the nurse on call, the family asked a neighbor, who said that the symptoms were normal. She was dead by morning.
Another patient, a sprightly sixty-year-old who was also quite involved at my wife Mary's nearby senior center as a volunteer, suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke and died several days later. A handful of women at the center combed the neighborhood, going door to door, asking for contributions for the family's funeral expenses. Here in this inner-city neighborhood, which may be the poorest in our state, more than six-hundred dollars was raised in twenty-four hours. The concept of community really means something here, especially when the going gets tough.
The mood in the office this afternoon was very busy, if not slightly slap-happy. Mary came to pick me up at 5:05 and there were at least six clinicians still on the phone, speaking with patients and hurriedly finishing notes. Most offices are dead by 5 on a Friday, but ours is often abuzz with last-minute necessities, critical labs, and eleventh hour calls for med refills. I had two no-shows late this afternoon, so I had the luxury of focusing on non-essential tasks, like reorganizing a crucial file cabinet where no one can find anything and minutes are wasted daily in frustration. The administrative staff does not seem to want to touch this disaster with a ten-foot pole, so I volunteered myself. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can really come in handy sometimes.
Working five days consumes one's week like a hungry animal. There seems to be so little time for anything else, and Friday evening is when the mind and body finally let down and allow the fatigue to truly come to the surface, at least if one is blessed---or perhaps cursed---with membership in the 9-5 club.
As Mary falls asleep next to me, I will sneak downstairs to await the late-night arrival of my brother and his family. Candles flicker in every room, and warm beds await us all.