The Elusive Bed

I had been awake for more than 30 hours, having slept 4 hours the previous night- 4 hours snatched in 6 segments. Ask any surgical resident how operation theatre (OT) feels post a night duty - head heavy, back sore, legs dragging. I was so tired, desperately wanted to snatch a few minutes of sleep.

I requested the pre-op area nurse " sister pre- op trolley mein so jaoon....?" "Ok, doctor....I'll do the curtains" said the kind woman, god bless her heart. But the moment I lay down, an illogical thought came into my head. What if I'm wheeled off into the OT accidentally....who would like to lose a kidney for a few winks of sleep! Shudder....of course such things don't happen in good hospitals, but this thought got me jumping off the trolley and searching again.... For the elusive bed.

This incident is from 2008. My daughter was a year and a half. I was halfway through my senior residency. 7 months postpartum I had landed in ICU for an unusual disease - which later got diagnosed as vertiginous migraine and hemianopia, triggered due to lack of sleep. A small baby, a surgical residency, a young mom. Smoldering combination. Since then I have understood the importance of uninterrupted sleep.I give my patients a talking to, if they neglect their sleep. I even reprimand young fathers to allow their wives atleast 2 nights a week of undisturbed sleep while the baby is taken care of by the dad. A good night's sleep is a luxury for young parents, but add to it punishing careers with night duties- it can push even the most able bodies to the brink.

Came across the term "Inemuri"- the Japanese art of taking power naps at work and other unusual places including the subway. I recall we had a professor who would totally un-self-consciously roll up a gown and take a power nap on the corner of the OT floor.

There are immortal lines on sleep in Macbeth. Shakespeare put it so eloquently " Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast".

I promised myself that after 11 years of night duties I would not lose any more sleep. So I stopped taking emergency calls once I had an established practice.My phone is DND once I'm in bed. It's absolutely delightful.

My husband and I distinctly remember the night when both the kids dint wake up even once all night - after 6 years of being a parent, we could sleep!! Now ofcourse the kids are teenagers but I still cherish sleep so much.

I'm so glad I'm not an obstetrician- my friends are up most night delivering people's babies.

Indians should be ok with taking power naps too. Young parents especially should make sleep a priority. In my clinic I have a room where I could curl up for a wink even if I get the urge only once in a few months. But you know what, I don't care to be in a position when I'm searching for a bed, again.

Dr Sarika Verma
ENT Surgeon, Gurgaon