I am the wife of a sixth-year surgical resident. My husband is in a highly selective surgical subspecialty. In a field replete with top-notch members, my husband competes and succeeds. The price of his success has been the loss of a meaningful life outside the hospital milieu. The life-and-death events that my husband handles on a daily basis with skill, dedication, and empathy perhaps have served as catalysts in his change from a loving, caring husband and father to an exhausted, passive "boarder" who only occasionally arrives home during daylight hours.
The intensity of a surgeon's training has been tradition-bound to "break the man but not his mind." Eight years ago, when we married, my husband was a medical student. I listened to him, as class president, deliver his medical school's graduation speech, and I did so with a commitment to help him become the physician he dreamed of becoming--a healer; a surgeon ("The Goal"). As president of his medical school class, as a community leader in fund-raising, and as a Big Brother volunteer, my husband remained true to himself--a person whose humanistic ideals were embodied in the way he conducted his daily life.
During the first years of his surgery training, when I was teaching emotionally disturbed children and raising our daughter, I coped, only occasionally losing sight of The Goal. Coping involved emergency room visits to local hospitals when our daughter became ill (always, it seemed, at 3 a.m. on daddy's "on-call" nights), and one Christmas Eve ER trip that I still remember vividly. The miscarriage I was having was cleaned up without more than a small dose of Demerol and some handholding from a young nurse while my obstetrician complained that it would take too long for an anesthesiologist to arrive on this holiday night (and he wanted to get home).