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My Wake-Up Call

Are you the type of dedicated employee who hates to call in sick to work? Do you worry about the load it puts on others, what they may say in your absence, and the work you won’t get done when you stay home? Is it almost better to go tough it out at work while feeling ill, rather than worry about disappointing your boss, your co-workers, and your practice team?

The stress I feel when I have to miss work makes it doubly hard to take care of myself when needed. But recently I received a wake-up call, and it wasn’t from a hotel front desk! 

I developed a serious pain in my upper right abdominal region. After four hours of huffing and puffing on the couch (it hurt to breath deep) my partner finally said, “if this was Katie [our ten-year-old daughter], what would you do?” Without hesitation, I would take her to the ER. So off we went to the local hospital; of course it was a Sunday evening, emergencies never happen during regular hours!

When the admitting nurse asked her first question, “do you still have your gallbladder?” I knew the inevitable truth…it had to come out, particularly once they diagnosed gallstones the next morning on ultrasound.
That wasn’t the worst of it, though. In looking at my work schedule, I wouldn’t be at home for a solid two weeks until mid November. Okay, I found a week in October that might work. But when I asked the surgeon if he could provide more pain pills until I could get in, and told the surgeon when I was available, he sternly said, “you need to go home, look at your schedule, and decide what you can miss.”

His expression told me that he wasn’t messing around. The terrible realization that I could have more attacks on the road, in unfamiliar cities, far away from family, convinced me I had to cancel a very important trip to San Antonio. I was worried about letting people down, I still am—the students at the first module of Webster Management University for Referral Practice, the technicians at IVECCS who signed up for my compassion fatigue workshop, and VESPA which was going to have an exhibit table at the conference. Yet everyone was understanding, supportive even, and was kinder to me than even I have been to myself.

It’s hard to take care of ourselves when we know people depend on us. It’s difficult to factor in your well-being, not just that of your patients, your kids, your significant others, your pets. It’s easy to push yourself just as hard as you can for just as long as you can, never looking back at the damage you may be doing to your body or psyche.

But then there are other times when the wake-up call comes, and you have to answer the phone…


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