The Interviews

Surgeon is about start PGY5. On top of being chief and the surgery scheduler (I am sure there is an official title for this, but so far, I’ve not caught on), he is now interviewing for fellowships.

Let me tell you something about these interviews: THEY ARE SO EXPENSIVE.

Numbers wise, an applicant to a Critical Care Surgery Program is expected to apply to at least 15 programs. This makes logical sense as most programs only have at most five openings. Some only add one a year. Surgeon applied to 20. Of these 20 programs, he has been offered interviews to 10 so far (if I am counting right).

This sounds good, right? The more interviews, the higher the chance of being accepted! Just go and interview and cross your fingers!

Oh gawd, if only it were that simple.

To schedule and prepare for one interview, it takes me about three hours total (if I don’t count the days in between of coordinating times and prices with Surgeon), and $500 on average.

Let’s take the interview he’s at today.

He got the interview two weeks ago. They offered him three dates and today seemed to be the best one for him. He signed up, they confirmed and I started searching every possible sale at every possible airline at every possible time. See, it’s not only a matter of finding a ticket at the best price… it’s also about making sure Surgeon has TIME to slip out of the hospital early enough to catch the flight. For him, a Friday afternoon may consist of an emergency case that he cannot slip out of. Technically, this too makes logical sense: would you rather make sure a patient doesn’t bleed out after a car accident or make the flight to your interview?  But it makes the entire preparation process a tangled web of what-if’s.

Adding to the struggle, hotels, I’m coming to learn, are straight-up money gobblers for situations like interviews. People who actually NEED shelter for a night and a place to keep their things for the day are where hotels make their profit. The hotel Surgeon stayed at last night, for instance, had no complimentary WiFi, no late check-outs, and cost us $198. Trust me, I looked around for cheaper options, but they would’ve required a rented car (another 95 bucks on top of the 100 bucks I’d be paying for the room).

Perhaps I am a little too conservative about money, but 500 bucks for 10 or more interviews… well, do the math!

But to top all of it off, it just kills me that the program Surgeon is in does not count interview days as work days. This means all interview and interview traveling days will be on his four days off during the month. This past week, Surgeon worked non-stop for two days straight (he left home at 5 AM on Wednesday and didn’t get home till 7 PM on Thursday) just to compromise  with having both Friday and Saturday off to accommodate his interview. And yes, he does have work tomorrow, regardless of the fact that he lands home late tonight. For the hospital, he has been “off” for two days after all.

This is how it’s going to be all summer long. Surgeon is going to be so exhausted and I fear for him. Being over-worked only makes YOUR surgeon worse…any healthcare system will admit this, but there are so very few changes being made to address the issue, especially in Surgeon’s generation of healthcare professionals.

It also means I won’t be seeing much of my husband. But thank god we are at this stage today and not twenty years ago. Texting, video chats, and other instant communication platforms have made this lifestyle a little easier to bear. For that, I am eternally grateful.


The Normality

I married Surgeon less than a month ago.

It was on a quiet, bright spring morning, a Monday, the first full day off for Surgeon after a hectic, call-filled two weeks. It was him and me, our hedgehog, an officiant and a hired photographer. I asked Surgeon to dress it up a little, and to my pleasant surprise, he didn’t argue. He wore the awkwardly tight, legging-like trousers I handed him, his face set in an annoyed scrunch until I pulled on the delicately bedazzled top coat of his outfit.

“Well, this looks fine.”

Yes, we did look fine.

It took me about two weeks to piece everything together. My mother mailed me my dress, I went and got henna done, I rented garden space, and I found a little boutique in the basement of a townhouse in the middle of a small town tucked into the woods to help me complete my ensemble with quaint jewelry. Oh, and a visit to the courthouse for papers.

Two weeks. $1167. That’s it.

It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Right afterwards, we went and saw Mad Max Fury Road. It was the best just-married activity I could’ve envisioned. Note: the last movie we saw in theaters together was the Lego Movie, over a year ago. Yes, he’s that busy/exhausted/fed-up.

But on that day, and for the two weeks of vacation that followed, it was as if we were a normal couple: sleeping in, taking a hike, staying up late, watching Clueless in bed, having a picnic dinner OUTSIDE, attending a friend’s wedding and keeping ours a secret until their day was over, and “not talking about that place unless absolutely necessary.” His words, not mine. Surgeon cannot stand that place most times: that place doesn’t give time back.

And so when I waved goodbye to him at the airport as he headed back to that place two weeks earlier than I would, the real normality settled in. His normality. My normality.

Our normality.

A Child’s Vow

I was seven.

Most people consider the age of seven as the age of reason: it’s when a child has developed a moral conscience and can be held accountable for his/her actions to a certain degree. Telling a lie at age three, for example, would be dismissed with a mother’s chuckle. By seven, a lie is usually punished with, in my case, a knowing, piercing glare and a stern rhetorical question.

Besides learning a little more about “right” and “wrong”, like most seven-year-old’s, I had my share of scraped knees and tomboyish foolery. Trees and rough bike rides were my best friends, and my sister (two years younger) was the epitome of everything I didn’t want to be. While she was meticulously fashioning her doll’s hair into elaborate braids, I was secretly debating if I should cut my doll’s hair shorter so it wouldn’t tangle so much. She dreamed of a house, a kitchen, and most of all, a husband. A smart husband. Maybe a doctor!

I remember scoffing at her. The reason in me was already growing against the word “marriage.” There was no way I, WS, would marry. And least of all, to a doctor. EVERYONE wants to marry a doctor. I wasn’t going to be everyone.

“Okay, make a promise!” my sister leered.

“I promise not to marry a doctor. Or anyone!” I jeered right back.

And for 20 years, that vow held fast. As a college student, I steered away from the pre-med men, and then in grad school, meeting someone with the term “medical school” attached to them was always a sort of shadow hanging over my conscience. The label scared me. The label it would add to ME scared me. My community was filled with young women being hitched to young doctors. It looked like a cult of women going on random cruises and beach side vacations with their “hubby”, sporting glistening rocks on their fingers and designer bags on their shoulders, and worst of all, seemed to call themselves “doctor’s wife” before ANYTHING else. Their identities were tied to their husband’s in a way that no other profession seems to these days (I mean, Amal Ramzi Clooney doesn’t say “I am an actor’s wife!” as an introduction. It simply isn’t said).

I, for one, wasn’t going to be that. I had a vow to keep, after all.

Until I met Surgeon.

It took nearly three years, but the vow slowly dissembled it self, dissolving with understanding, trust, and as clichéd as it sounds, a profound love for an individual who is so much more than a surgeon. For now, suffice it to say that my seven-year-old self is a little disappointed, but then laughs and whispers,

“At least he lets you climb trees!”

What more does a wife need?