I open my eyes and sit up in my car seat a little. A minute later, I start the engine and continue my drive home.
I’d just finished a busy night shift. Non-stop, constant running from ward to ward for most of the 12 hours. I’d come on the shift with more than 10 jobs already waiting for me. The F1 on call was apologetic as she handed over a few more. What can you do? Some days are just busier than others. Add that to the patient that was deteriorating before our eyes and it’s easy to see why there was a back log.
I spent a lot of my time on this patient, his blood pressure kept dropping despite giving him 4 L of fluid. By the end of the shift he was taken to HDU for more support.
When the day team arrived, I was relieved to shrug off all responsibility and head home. I couldn’t be happier to get into my car and hit the pedal.
The tiredness never hits me in the beginning. I’m usually fully awake and smiling as I head towards home. It’s towards the end when the monotony of driving in a straight line without having to change lanes or stop or think plus the steady soothing hum of the engine starts to gently carry me away. I’m on autopilot. Ever so slowly the road markings start to blur, it feels like I’m drifting a little bit to the left, my lids feel really heavy…
This doesn’t always happen; I can often make it home without stopping. But there have been times I’ve come off the motorway, stopped at the side of the road or once at a local Tesco, switched off the engine and just closed my eyes.
Time passes, I open my eyes, turn the key and away I go.
It’s scary what tiredness can do. I had a colleague tell me that she thought she’d nodded off on her way home and was jolted awake by a horn from the car whose lane she’d started to drift into. The fear and the adrenaline spike kept her awake all the way home.
It’s hard work that we do. It’s just scary to think about what the consequences could be.