Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas at Work

It feels odd that for the first time in a long time... four years to be exact... I will actually be able to attend all of our family's Christmas activities. No need to wake up after only 2 hours of sleep to drive myself to the hospital to go on duty. No need to suffer through a New Year's party bogged down by post-duty grogginess. No excuse to get out of the cooking because I was on-duty the previous day and would get home at the same time the guests are coming in. I've had to miss one get-together or another because of the perfectly reasonable excuse that my patients in the hospital just plain need me more.

It makes me realize just how my being a doctor-in-training has taken up a good chunk of my life. Our work as doctors simply does not leave much room for special occasions.

My family has gotten used to my chronic absenteeism over time, despite the fact that I have to explain to them every year that when I say I'm going on duty, it means I'm going to be stuck in the hospital for 24 hours and no, I cannot possibly find a way to get out of it. They have gotten used to the idea of my having to go to the hospital on weekends and holidays with very rare exceptions; of my having to forgo out of town trips because there is no way I'll be able to get home in time for my next duty. They are used to my having to hand-pick the occasions I will attend and actually swap duties for because no matter how good a friend you are with your batchmate, asking her to go on every-other-day duty for you is still asking for a huge favor.

Last night, while we were driving along Libis on our way to Noche Buena at our house, I was struck by the deserted feel of that otherwise bustling road. It felt more like it was 3am rather than 10pm given the paucity of vehicles on the road. Even the ever-busy Jollibee, usually open 24 hours, was eerily dark and silent as we passed. It was the night before Christmas and all through the town everyone was busily preparing for the midnight feasts inside their own homes.

Not so the doctors and nurses and other health care workers on duty, for whom life cannot stop on Christmas eve - because there will always be patients needing care and hospitals that must always be open to serve them.

I actually am one of the lucky ones whose family is here in Manila. Those among us who come from the provinces have not spent Christmas with their families for years. They are the ones who volunteer to go on duty on Christmas or New Year's to stave off the loneliness of being away by burying themselves in the immediate demands of work.

Nonetheless, those who have to be in the hospital during these occasions still get to celebrate Christmas on their own terms. Makeshift parties are thrown in callrooms throughout the hospital, with take-out pizza and lechong manok taking the place of the traditional ham and cheese, as those of us who cannot be home to spend Christmas eve with our families enjoy it with the substitute family we have found at work.

I know that this experience is not unique to those of us who work in the health professions. And what of the millions of Filipino workers abroad this Christmas, for whom a phone call or a chat session with their relatives in the Philippines will be the closest they will get to home?

So it is for all those of you who are spending Christmas at work that I wish especially hard today. May the blessings of peace and joy reach you whatever it is you do today, and may the love that the families and loved-ones you work for make itself be felt to you wherever you are. And may you all be kept safe in God's care until you can finally come home.

A Merry Christmas and a happy holiday to everyone!


Manggy said...

Merry Christmas Dra.! Lovely, touching post. Sometimes, all that stress of doing family crap is worth it, eh? :) I did not make Christmas dessert-- battling the deluge of prepackaged store-bought belly insults arriving day after day courtesy of my mom's friends who don't know any better. Pati Fibisco Choco Crunchies, nakain ko na. The faster I finish them, the faster I can bake (or should I say, start to shed the holiday pounds). I did make dozens of Red Velvet cupcakes 'cause my brother begged me to as he ran out of ideas of what to give some of his friends. Oh, I'll miss that when he/I move out. Pati ako na-e-empty nest syndrome.

I've never exchanged duties with a friend (they have with me, though, nakakaawa minsan eh). I've been relatively lucky with my duties, which have never fallen on a major holiday. Luck of the draw. I'm sure my parents would have been able to handle that: I wonder if amputating myself from the family by moving far, far away is easier than being just a few kilometers away but too busy to cook for them (short answer: NO! :).

dr_clairebear said...

hey, manggy! glad to hear you're enjoying Christmas. and i agree with you that it is easier on the heart to be here and too busy versus being far, far away. presence does count for a lot - even when your family has the tendency to stress you out. :)

i know i should start cutting down now and quit eating all these sinful things cold turkey, but... as they say the spirit is willing but the body is weak. erm... maybe that doesn't quite ring true - because my spirit is certainly NOT willing! :)

merry Christmas!

MegaMom said...

Great post Claire. Sent me hurtling back to more than 10 years ago when I was in training... Each and every Christmas I was working in the Peds ER.
Well said, and like you I wish those who are hard at work the very best this season.
Happy New Year to you and your family.
Let's get together soon. I missed you at the Phi party kila Maisa. Ako na pinakamatanda doon. Not that having you there would've changed things. :)

rayms said...

hey claire, felt the same way last christmas... it was also the first time that i was with my family after a long time. unfortunately, it was my sister's turn to be on duty during the holidays... hehehehe.