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It’s 0348. I fell awake at 0234, such a pretty number. I recall residency, it was only a year ago…seeing funny times like that on the top of my consult sheets, praying for a stable floor and speedy 0730.

But I’m not on call. I want to sleep, but I can’t. The melatonin usually works, but it’s been failing of late. Why is that sodium so low? Did I give the right advice to that dad with his child’s fever? That lady with back pain had cancer ten years ago: when was her last mammogram? His cancer is progressing quickly: has he told his wife he wants medical assistance in dying?

So I decide to bite the bullet and get up. The dogs stir. Their tails wag a canine Morse code, "Another early morning walk," and they’re right. But of course, I can’t waste this potential learning opportunity. In go the earbuds and on goes the medicine podcast de jour. Because that’s just it, knowing a little about a lot but rarely knowing a lot about a little. Constantly balancing over and underdiagnosis. Always hypothesizing with an error rate that’s never quite good enough: an error rate that disturbs me now and reinforces my ever-present imposter syndrome.

The streets are deserted, and the dogs are happily off the leash, trotting from tree to fire hydrant, peeing blissfully on everything. I often envy the dogs. Their world of kibble and walks, of naps and sleep…ugh, sleep. 

We return to the apartment, my knowledge of serum protein electrophoresis incrementally better. The poodles assume their position on the chesterfield. My wife is still sleeping. Good thing, she’s on senior residency call in a few hours: a twenty-six-hour slog-fest of specialist call. And yet, she sleeps so soundly.

Benjamin Reitzel
Tamworth, Ontario