My Christmas in the ER

A few days ago, I treated a 6-year-old boy who had his first seizure on Christmas morning. In children a new-onset seizure is a pretty terrifying experience. It could be the start of a lifelong seizure disorder, or portend even more serious conditions, such as a brain tumor. The boy had an EEG, which suggested a possible seizure disorder. Ultimately, he was transferred to another hospital for further testing. 

The Christmas holiday is different for new ER docs, like myself, than it is for most people. At 4:30am on Christmas Day, I woke up, had a cup of coffee, and drove to the ER. I had heard some griping from some of my non-medical colleagues and friends who had to work. But it was not that way for me or anyone I work with. For me, working during the holidays is a chance to bring a compassion to my work when people need it most. No one wants to be sick or in the ER, least of all on Christmas.

Before the boy who had had a seizure was transferred, we made sure that he got to open some presents (His mom had brought his Christmas stocking with her). He also got as much candy, crackers, and soda as he wanted.

And so it went during my holiday shift. There was the gentleman who had a heart attack while preparing Christmas dinner (he made it to the cath lab and had a stent placed); the elderly woman with a devastating pneumonia, who we managed to stabilize before she went to intensive care; and many others.

All told, we saw nearly 300 people over Christmas Eve and Christmas day. We did our work with a smile on our faces, trying our best to serve all the needs of our patients. Throughout the two days I didn’t hear a single complaint from any physician, nurse, patient care technician, or any other staff member, whether it was the charge nurse in the merry reindeer covered scrub top, or the ER doc in a Santa Claus hat dispensing candy out of a big red bag to everyone he saw.

One of our core values is Compassion – and we certainly took that to heart over the holiday. That’s when people need it most.