Thirty years ago, I was a wide-eyed naive intern starting my rotation on Ward 60A - General Surgery - at Cook County Hospital. I had chosen this residency because of the world famous trauma unit at the hospital.
After 6 years of residency (including a year of research), I decided to stay on as the Clinical Trauma Fellow. Upon finishing the fellowship, there was an opening on the attending staff which I accepted.
Long story short, I never left. I had never intended to stay at the County or in Chicago as long as I did. I looked elsewhere for fellowships and jobs, but nothing could compare to the World Famous Trauma Unit at Cook County Hospital.
I have worked in 3 Trauma Units in 2 hospitals - the original unit on the third floor of the old hospital followed by the "new" unit on the first floor of the old hospital - and, for the past 14 years, in the unit at the new hospital.
I have worked under three Trauma Directors, with several Trauma Attendings and Fellows, and innumerable nurses, clerks, pharmacists, therapists, etc.
I have helped train nearly 2500 residents and a similar number of medical students. I have watched some of those residents pursue their own careers in trauma and become leaders in the field.
I have treated thousands of patients over the years. In addition to resuscitating and admitting my share of the now over 6000 trauma activations per year, I have helped to care for many more while they were in the Trauma ICU and wards.
Now, after 30 years, it is time to move on. I have been reflecting on the past 30 years - more than half my life - spent at one of the country's busiest Trauma Units. There are many things I will not miss, but several that I will:
I will not miss:
- Hospital food - while the cafeteria in the new hospital is much better than the old "Cafe' Cloaca", it is still just hospital food.
- Fighting with a combative patient at 2 am who needs care because of an injury they sustained while drunk or high.
- Notifying families that their loved one is dead as a result of senseless violence, or drunk driving.
- Trying to sleep in the call room, knowing that I may be called to save a life at any minute.
- Not having the appropriate suture, dressing, or medication because a) the hospital is on credit hold with that company, b) someone forgot to reorder or restock that item, or c) nobody on night shift can access it.
- The morning drive to work. I live 20 miles away by mostly expressway. My morning commute has lengthened from 30 minutes to 90 minutes and it doesn't matter how early I leave.
I will miss:
- All of the staff I have worked with. Although we came from many walks of life, I believe that we all had the welfare of our patients in mind.
- Spending time with the residents on call - we bonded over shared experiences and take-out dinners.
- Seeing a patient who was once near the brink of death leave the hospital for rehab. Or even, better, seeing that patient come back weeks later to say "Thank you".
- Impromptu teaching during morning report, on call, and in the OR. While enjoyed giving lectures, my favorite type of educating was discussing the injury pattern, work-up and management of whatever patient happened to come in at the time.
Goodbye, Cook County Trauma Unit - you will always hold a special place in my heart.