In October of 1995, I was, or so I thought, at the top of my game. I was in the third and final year of my Internal Medicine residency and considering a subspecialty. I had been asked by the Chairman of Medicine, a man I deeply admired and respected, to stay on an additional year to complete a Chief Residency. This was an honor, and I accepted it wholeheartedly. In August 1995, I met a wonderful man; he was the one I would someday marry, and we were falling in love. Life was seemingly perfect.
This set the stage for the life-changing events that ensued in the fall of 1995. It was the evening of October 11th, and I was working an overnight shift at the hospital. It was one of those legendary nights, when everything that could go wrong does, and you find yourself in sheer chaos. I was literally sprinting from the emergency room to the intensive care unit and back to the general ward all night. I remember thinking, as I stumbled through that busy night, how incredibly fatigued I felt, much more so than I could recall in the past. Somehow, I kept moving, completing each task with one sole thought in mind, “Get to your call room and sleep!” I think it was 3 am when I finally made it to the call room.
As soon as my head hit the pillow, it was lights out in a flash. Predictably, the pager went off shortly thereafter, with requests to address another urgent patient matter. When I lunged forward to answer the call, an extraordinary thing happened. Something had dramatically been altered during that brief nap, and it took my breath away. I couldn’t feel my legs.
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