My eyes opened suddenly after a typical roller coaster night’s sleep, and I suddenly envisaged that it was exactly 7:30AM. Not expecting to be precisely on target, I turned my head toward the alarm clock that read 7:30. No longer shocked or surprised with this concordance, I am accustomed to predicting the exact time, or the time within a few minutes, an insignificant gift that some quirky force of nature has bestowed on me.
I only use an alarm clock when I have an important early morning event or when out of town experiencing a different time zone. It helps me sleep the night before knowing that I have a failsafe method of waking. The alarm almost never is allowed to bellow its bursts of squealing pulses. Indeed, I invariably wake at least an hour before any alarm clock even thinks of waking me. But “almost” always does not equate to “always”. So, I am surprised but ecstatic on the occasion when I am greeted by the shrieking cry of the clock, realizing that I was able to sleep the maximum hours and that I might even be rested to greet the day awake and alert. So often the case, waking before the clock beckons me - provides me more than enough time to prepare for the day in advance of need. But it often leaves me hanging with time to spare and an insidious fatigue that suddenly envelops my being, demanding that I return to bed for a few more minutes of sleep.
The truth is that my sleep has been permanently disrupted by years of medical on-call duty. How can you sleep when you are worried about a dying baby? Being called to rush to the infant’s bedside at any time, the call pierces through your deep sleep like a machete slicing through jungle brush. This has created a perpetual uncertainty and insecurity while sleeping or attempting to do so. When waked, you respond quickly and alertly. You cannot say or even think…., Give me a few minutes to wake up, relieve myself, sip some coffee or brush my teeth and comb my hair (ha ha). When you are called to the bedside, you shoot right out of bed, and run there expecting ready to act alert and be decisive, an act that may or may not save a baby’s life or send him/her further down the road toward death or disability.
And somehow this disruption in sleep that has remained long after my last on call day has passed still rules my day and night. Early life’s experience weighs heavily on the present and future and the scar will remain as an everlasting remembrance of my work and past life, when I cherished every moment in my honored role as a medical caregiver. Simply, this was the most meaningful phase of my life, and one that I will cherish for the rest of my days.