I sit in Starbucks and tap to you using beetroot-stained fingernails. Joe and I have been on a date today! For Christmas, his present from me was ’12 Dates of Christmas’, a box of 12 sealed envelopes, each named a month of the year corresponding to an appropriate date. On the first of every month, joe has a new card, a new date to open, and we plan when in the month we can go on it.
Today was reminiscent of our 2nd date; a trip to Aberdeen Museum and a trip to The Coffee House (best cake in town). On that date, joe hadn’t even moved to Aberdeen and I was a jittery and nervous wreck because here I was, a humble teacher in training explaining to an A&E doctor why certain paintings are sublime, surreal or terrible and walking him through the Scottish Art hall and my favourite paintings in the collection. I got butterflies when he asked me to explain Instagram to him and when he wrote a postcard to me, pictured with my favourite painting.
Our date that day had lasted hours. We couldn’t stop talking to each other. Today though, it was almost a speed date! We’ve eaten, pointed at our favourite paintings, huffed at the terrible modern exhibition and now, in starbucks, Joe is back to studying and I’m going to I’ll touch on how I experience being a Doctor’s partner.
We met online. Joe was charming, sensitive and inquisitive, and even online I thought he was truly wonderful. We sent long emails then met quickly. I felt to intimidated and remember phoning my mum and explaining Joe is an Anaesthetist (the airways guy) and works in A&E. I felt so inadequate. Yes, I had two degrees, interest in cycling, running, art and theatre, but Joe is a doctor! We met fairly quickly, kissed on our first date and we were pretty besotted by each other already! I fell in love with him for so many reasons: his extensive general knowledge, passion, ambition, his attention to detail and the way he asks questions about someone’s interests to really get to know them, his charisma, particularly in social groups and he tells great stories. Plus, he’s a vegetarian! What a bonus!
But whilst our first year was full of adventures, camping and holidays, Joe working in the hospital is difficult for both of us. Joe comes home after a 12 or 13 hour shift where he’s had to constantly make life saving and life changing decision, depending if he’s in surgery or Intensive Care Unit and he’s tired. After that, Joe comes home exhausted because the hospital is understaffed and has to study for a few hours before he can even think about relaxing before bed to start all over again tomorrow. This article summarises the kind of shift Joe has regularly.
It is lonely living with Joe. He can do this for 4 nights at a time or over the weekend and be expected to stay overtime if he’s needed for no extra pay. And I get upset because we’ve had to cancel going to the cinema or the dinner I made for him will be cold, again. Our relationship fits around work and study. Joe’s exam is on January 27th, so his free time is spent with his nose in all kinds of medicine books. Most doctors know what medicine does what, but anaesthetists are old fashioned and expect their doctors to know the why and how. Our relationship comes last at the moment.
He gets his rota of 6 weeks at a time, which means that even planning in advance is pretty non existent. I’ve signed us up for a run on Saturday 6 June but Joe has had remind me that he might be at Job Interviews that weekend. Of course, he might not. He might be on nights, weekend or the small possibility of actually being off! I say I’m okay with that, but, honestly I’m not. I have to go to family functions alone because of the irregular shift pattern and Aberdeen Royal Infirmary’s under-staffed department who rarely grant their doctors study leave, never mind time off for personal events.
So our lives are restricted by Joe’s job. Depending on how he does in his exam at the end of the month, we could be moving somewhere good, bad or not get a progressive job for next year. He’ll be ranked with all the other ITU Anaesthetists and the highest will get the most desirable jobs in the best location. We will have to move to somewhere with a teaching hospital – Dundee? Glasgow? Aberdeen? Edinburgh is out because Joe isn’t competitive enough (he’s not done as many projects and attended as many conferences as others). Or will we move to England? The system is different there and the NHS is plastered over the news, and not because it’s revelling in good light. But Aberdeen is a bad place to be. The doctors don’t get time off to study nor do they get teaching, both of which they are entitled to do.
It’s vital that partners of doctors have a strong support base around them. People often expect me to have a lavish lifestyle, attending balls, regular holidays but they don’t recognise the loneliness. Yes we’ve been to Vietnam, Madrid and Brighton last year and are going to Israel, but that is because Joe needs time off because work is stressful. To help, I ask about work. I get all the gruesome details because it’s important to me that Joe knows I understand work can be difficult. I have a friend whose boyfriend works with Joe so we can share how we’re feeling at particularly difficult times, such as not spending Christmas together.
But it’s not all bad. I can watch 24 Hours in A&E now without getting grossed out and I now know what is happening to my body when I feel asthmatic, why I swear and shake before being sick and all these doctor questions that you’d never waste your Doctor’s time with! When I was beginning to move in, I fell off the pavement as I tried to pack my car and cut my knee through tights. It was so sore and my lip was quivering as I drove the 10 minutes to his house. I had to peel off and unstick my tights from the wound. It was worse than I thought… There was flappy skin and a stone in it! I cried as I sat on the toilet and Joe cleaned my knee.
But for anything more serious, I get the old cracker, “Go to your Doctor” and no I don’t get prescriptions. It is a matter of professionalism.
As I mentioned yesterday, I’m wary of shin splints returning, so will be cross training for at least the next week. I went to Body Pump this morning. An hour of sweat dripping off my elbows and down my back as I pumped relatively heavy weights at high intensity intervals. I love Pump! I love squats! It’s the Les Mills 92nd release (I’m not sure how often each release lasts for) so new music and new choreography meant the instructor was a little off her usual high energy, powerful thighs and pumping lots of weights.
Admittedly, my hair is sitting nicely today because I wanted to look good for Joe. He’s a very kind man because he says he likes my hair “big” (frizzy – think of Loki’s ears!).