I have been thinking about Doctor’s Day quite a bit today, my husband’s journey into this field, and the impact this job has on family. It is probably because as I write this, I have too much time to think, as he is doing what he is committed to doing, taking care of the people of this community.
Al’s education was 11 years in the making. I came into the picture in his 3rd year of reaching his goal. Being a doctor was on Al’s radar since he was young. When his baby sister was born, he asked his dad about his mom’s blood pressure. He never really veered into considering another field, except maybe while experiencing the stress of the first 2 years of medical school, but by then we were too far in to look back.
We married in August of 1989, 2 weeks before medical school started. To say that this time was stressful is an understatement. He was committed to studying in an area of our apartment. Being newly married, it was hard being in the next room and feeling like I couldn’t talk to him. I would try to keep myself occupied with cross-stitch, reading, exercising, or watching t.v. on a 13″ screen with no cable. I kept myself busy working 2 jobs. We had no money, a load of debt, no family, and few friends in town.
I remember one day about halfway through medical school, I was thinking about the responsibility of being the wife of a doctor. I was already struggling with all of the times I was by myself. I said to Al, “I don’t know if I can do this.” He looked at me fearfully and said, “But this is what I am going to be…” That was a wake-up moment for me. I loved this man more than anything. I knew I wanted to spend my life with him. And that meant I was going to have to learn to manage everything his career would entail.
The past years have included missed weddings, graduations, special occasions, and sporting events due to Al being on call. We have spent holidays eating as a family at the hospital cafeteria when he had to work. I have brought him dinner to KRHC when he was stuck at the hospital. I thought if he doesn’t have time to take care of himself, how can he take care of others? That was my responsibility to be there for him. (Although, honestly that isn’t a whole lot different than when we took dinner to Dad in the field.) I have taken my children for a break at the hospital when they were small and missed seeing him. He has had so many nights with little or no sleep over the years and worked the next day. I know that I am years ahead of him on sleep. And because of sleep deprivation, I have seen him fall asleep at Christmas and birthday gatherings with family, even as gifts were being opened. I hold my breath and pray whenever I hear an ambulance and I know that he is on call. He has missed pivotal moments in my children’s sporting careers while he assisted another participant who was injured. Fortunately, he had a wife who took pictures. If he says he’s going to be home at 6:00, I can guarantee you it will be 6:40 because someone asked another medical question.
Neither one of us would ask for sympathy. This is just the way it is. This is the life of a physician.
Now on the flip side…. I have had people come up to me and tell me how my husband has saved their life. He has held hands with a patient, having to relay to them that they are sick. He has comforted children who were getting their shots. He has assisted in bringing new life into this world. He has been present with families after the loss of a loved one. He has stitched, set broken bones, removed lesions, rounded on patients, and performed a multitude of other medical tasks. This job of his is truly a calling.
I signed up to support him with this career. Our children did not. But I believe… I hope… that they also learned some valuable lessons as they grew up. They have truly witnessed us for better and for worse, in sickness and in health. I know that on the day that each of them come home and say that they are getting married, the first question, even before the availability of the church, will be, “What’s my call schedule?” I believe that my kids have had a solid education regarding the sacrifices that are involved in supporting your husband or wife.
Today, I honor not just my husband, but all of the doctors who have contributed so much to our communities. May God continue to bless them in their professions!