“What the F**K are you doing, calling me at 2AM? You are a doctor, take care of the damn patient yourself.” I had steeled myself for the verbal onslaught. I knew it would come. It always did.
“With all due respect sir, this patient’s enzymes are climbing. He has an ST elevation on his EKG and active chest pain that is not responding to morphine or nitroglycerin. Now, as you know, I am just a family practice resident. You are the cardiologist on call. I am begging for your help here because I don’t know what else to do to for this man.” Sometimes meek supplication helped.
“God Damn it!” I held the phone receiver away from my head while he yelled that expletive and the several that followed after. The pain from the verbal attack on my tympanic membrane made me wince.
When the yelling had died down I put the phone back to my ear.
“So does that mean you are coming in?” I said cautiously, trying to keep all trace of emotion from my voice. (Do not show anger. Do not show hope. Do not show relief. Do not show fear.)
“No, I am not coming in, you f***er!”
“Then tell me what I need to do for him until 6AM so that I can document in the chart that I spoke to you and this is what you recommended in lieu of coming in yourself to cath him.”
“Fine. I’m coming. You goddamn better be there waiting for me…”
“Oh, yes SIR. I will be right here. Waiting. Tha-…” The phone was slammed down on the other end, cutting off my reply.
He did eventually show up.
Several hours later, as I was checking on the patient after his heart catheterization and the angioplasty that opened up his blood vessel, he and his wife gushed and gushed about how wonderful the cardiologist was that saved his life. They were so impressed with his bedside manner and his skillfulness as a physician.
Do you even know what it took to get that prima donna here to sully his hands for you?
I said nothing.
Patients deserve to believe their physicians are heroes. Because some actually are…