Image from here
...or maybe they should be called night terrors. I have discovered that I am inexplicably prone to them. It got to a point where I would sit up in bed and start screaming... until Darling would manage to wake me up and quieten me down by reminding me that I was home in bed and not in the ward... and this has happened more than a dozen times.
There was the time I was with a patient in the ICU when the lights went out. I remember thinking, "thank goodness there is backup power and the machines still work" when the heart monitor started beeping and showed a flat trace... I rushed to the patient's side... and woke up. In front of me was a blank screen and beside me, a motionless body. I immediately reached for the carotid pulse and would have started CPR on Darling if he hadn't been woken up by my frantic checkings for signs of life. The blank screen turned out to be the laptop on powersaving mode.
Then there was the time I got out of bed and searched for the file of a patient who was desperately ill. I searched high and low, on my chest of drawers, on the dressing table and on the floor... muttering how treatment delays could kill. About 10 minutes of this and I realised that I was actually at home and not on call.
The there was the time where I was on call during a casualty. My ward at that time had no room for doctors. I didn't want to leave the ward at all, even to go to quarters. So the nurses screened off a tiny part of the corridor for me, I brought a folding bed from home and camped out*. And then my senior came to me, talked about an ill patient and outlined exactly how she was to be manged during the next 6 hours. I got out of my camp bed and went to the nurses station, inquiring about the patient. It was 2.40am.
Nurse : (blank look) there is no such patient...
Me : of course there is, I have to start specific treatment, which bed is she in?
Nurse : Dr. you have seen all the patients, there are no new admissions.
Me : (impatiently) look, Dr. R just told me about the patient, she is such and such a person, having this condition...
Nurse : Dr. are you ok? I promise you there is no one like that in the ward...
I spent the next 10 minutes or so, going to each and every one of the beds, looking at the patients, checking pulses and reading tickets before I satisfied myself that there was indeed no such patient and that I had been dreaming. By that time I had a splitting headache, and couldn't get back to sleep.
Then there was the time I was actually awake, and in a non-ward setting. A phone nearby was off the hook and started emiting a beeping noise. I swear, it was the same sound a cardiac monitor makes during ventricular fibrillation#. I had a mini panic attack... my entire body tensing to the adrenaline rush as I looked around for a cardiac monitor hooked to a dying patient. it took me sometime to realise that I was in an office, and that people were looking at me strangely. At least I was lucid enough to figure out what had happened.
And these are just a few examples...
My seniors were getting most concerned. Apart from the fact that I was, possibly, clinically depressed... there was also a risk (however slight) that I would in a semi-dreaming state order wrong medication / treatment**. I was asked to speak to a counselor. I did, not that it helped much, but the depression lifted gradually and without resorting to pills. I guess I will never learn to leave work at work... possibly because these are people we are talking about here.
So yeah... I sometimes kick myself when I remember that I voluntarily joined this field.
*During those few months I had my pillow case stolen twice, and bedsheets once.
#Also known as the rhythm of the dying heart, v'fib usually precedes cardiac arrest.
** It never happened.