Pulling the extra call duty on weekends for my carelessness had one positive affect: more opportunities to take x-rays and, therefore, more chances to hone my technique. Fatigue began to set in when the weekend duty was combined with the regularly scheduled night call duty, though. I still needed to keep up with my homework, try to sleep enough and, of course, be ready to take an x-ray or two at any given moment from five P.M. - seven A.M. Usually this was not a problem because there had been nights when I was not called. I stayed in the lower bunk of the set placed in the on-call room, uniform at the ready in case of a call from the Emergency Room. There were those nights when it was my alarm clock, not the hospital operator, that woke me up after a full night’s sleep.
Naturally, when trying to work off the demerits, this was not the case. Perhaps it served to really burn the lesson deeply into my being? In any case, the ER had been so busy that I had not slept for four nights. I still had to be attentive to my usual daytime classroom and work duties. Even at nineteen years of age, this was a bit much to ask of my body. The funny thing is that I really thought I could do it if I just focused. Focus on what was being said by whoever was standing at the head of the classroom; don’t let the thoughts wander. Focus on every detail in positioning the patient on the x-ray table and every button on the control panel. It was a bit like functioning in slow motion but it had to be; I was focusing as hard as I could so I didn’t make a mistake.
Imagine my joy when the shoulder film I took of a soccer player during this intense time actually won the “Film of the Month” for the Department! Well, my focusing was paying off with some really good films being produced; but there was, definitely, some complaining about how long it took me to produce them! I did everything in relatively slow motion.
If I could just hold on for one more night call, I told myself on Thursday, I will have cleared all of my demerits and can sleep all weekend. Just one more night. It was not to be.
“Get over here, Sojourner. Climb up on this table. I want to show the upper-class students the technique needed for this new fluoroscopy we will be doing next week. I need a patient; you’re it.” I had been walking by on my way to the workroom when the chief’s command hit my ears. Slowly, of course, I turned towards him.
“Me? Are you talking to me?”
“Well, who else do you have in your pocket? Of course, I’m talking to you. Get up on this table. I need a patient.” I was so short that I had to pull a footstool over to get on to the fluoroscopy table. “C’mon, c’mon. We haven’t got all day, Sojourner. What’s the matter with you? Move it!” I just looked at the Chief and moved it to the center of the table.
As soon as I laid down, I knew I was in trouble. What could I focus on? No one was talking to me; they were talking over me. Focus, focus on what was being said, I told myself. It didn’t matter that I didn’t need to retain anything of what he was saying. It would be a long time before I would be working with the fluoroscopy unit. But, I needed to focus, focus, fo-o-o… cus.
“Sojourner! Hey, turn to your side. C’mon. Turn to your side and do it now!” So far away. I heard a rough, barking voice so far in the distance. It was my name but…? “Move and I mean NOW.” I felt arms turning me to the oblique position and just let myself be moved. The problem was that I could not maintain the position on my own, dropping back like a Raggedy Anne doll as soon as the arms let go of me. “Hey, stop fooling around now.”
“Sir, uh, I think you’ll need to find another patient. I think Sojourner is asleep, Sir.” Now, his annoyance turned to rage and then confusion.
“What do you mean, asleep? This isn’t the place to sleep!” The upper-class students began to chuckle.
“Well, I could not sleep on that hard table but, Sir, the ER has kept her hopping every night for four nights so, well, she hasn’t slept much more than a quick nap since Saturday night.”
“Yeah, maybe we should just turn out the light and let her sleep,” suggested the Senior student. “She’s on call tonight and looks like it would take a pretty big blast to wake her up anyway.”
“I’ll get someone else to take her call. Sojourner. hey Sojourner.” The Chief began shaking my shoulder In an attempt to rouse me from the deep sleep. “C’mon. Get up now and go home. This isn’t the place to sleep. Go home and come back tomorrow.”
“Ye-e-es sir-ir, “I slurred out as I flopped my half-asleep body off the x-ray table. “Good night, Sir.” He reached out to pull me to a standing position before I slumped back down on the floor.
“It’s the middle of the morning, Sojourner. Go home.” I nodded my head, slowly raised my hand to wave good-bye to the others and staggered out of the room.
I had no trouble finding the outside door behind the hospital. Once the cooler air hit me, I stirred to enough alertness to remember just where I was going. I found my room, without any trouble, and slipped on to the bed, fully clothed. When I woke in the morning, however, I was under the covers and properly clad so, at some point, I must have had a brief time of consciousness.
I was totally fine the next morning and had learned a valuable lesson: Focusing will not be enough to override the basic bodily need to sleep, even if one is only nineteen. When the body says “Enough,” it’s enough, period.
Guess that’s why the Lord put Ecclesiastes 3 in the Bible.
Verse 1: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
Okay, it doesn’t precisely say a time to sleep and a time to wake up. Maybe verse 7 could be squeezed in to fit?
Verse 7b: “A time to be silent and a time to speak….”
In any case, it is true, when it is time to sleep, God made our body’s to see that we do!
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