Not a week after he died, another patient in the same ICU room nearly bled to death post-op. Thankfully, we were able to get him back to the operating room and stop the bleeding. I'm pretty sure my heart rate didn't go below 110 until he woke up two days later. Once again, I felt a rush -- joy? relief? -- and that frightened me, because I wasn't relieved that he was alive. I was relieved that he was up, which meant he was not going to torture me the way the previous patient had.
Then came the night of my suicide attempt. I hadn't slept more than two hours in a row, or six hours in a night, for about three months. I'd been pretty much delirious 24/7. My wife worked more than 100 miles away, so she only spent a day or two a week with me, and this was one of them. I could have gone home at 8:30 p.m., after I'd stabilized my patients, to see my wife for an hour and a half before coming back to the hospital, but I didn't have the energy. Instead I was trying to get a couple of minutes of sleep before my 10:30 p.m. rounds. But a stubborn little blue light from a computer was boring into the back of my skull, keeping me awake, and leaving me with my thoughts -- of how the only satisfaction I ever felt nowadays was when the work stopped.
I had spent my entire life getting to this point. I'd decided I wanted to be a doctor after my grandfather had surgery when I was nine. Literally everything I had done for the past 22 years was to get here -- every extracurricular activity, every research project, every class in college, every rotation in medical school -- and I reached what should have been the light at the end of the tunnel. Instead it felt like a fucking black hole. I couldn't fathom switching careers. There was nothing else I'd even considered wanting to do for all these years. I had a sudden realization that instead of building a mountain for the past 22 years, I had been digging a hole, and when I finally looked up, I could no longer see the sky.