It is a law of the universe that every once in a while you’ll have a day that is a complete disaster from beginning to end. A day that makes you think that you might have been better off not getting out of bed. A day that arouses in you the childish urge to pull the duvet over your head and demand a rematch.
Yesterday, I had just such a day.
It began when I left my travelcard on my desk, which meant £8.90 and a queue at the ticket office and led to the second disaster: jumping onto the train that was on the platform without checking to see that it was the right one. It wasn’t. It was a train that took me into the wrong train station, leaving less than fifteen minutes to dodge through the other commuters and run through town to the station that the connecting train leaves from. I had not planned to start my Tuesday with a half-mile jog across the city while wearing boots and a winter coat. On arrival at the hospital, I came to realise that I had an unexpected girl problem to take care of and this improved my mood not at all.
And so with these various disasters having already transpired to wreck my journey into work, the day began and I went to a meeting with my educational supervisor.
Do you know the difference between a perforated ulcer and a penetrated ulcer?
I had got it into my head that they were the same thing. I was presenting a case of a perforated duodenal ulcer. It went well until I started to talk about the emergency management of acute upper GI bleeds and the prognostic value of the Rockall score. My supervisor realised that I had gone very very wrong and proceeded to grill me on the blood supply to the alimentary tract, as all my anatomical knowledge fled from my brain and left me to sit there looking like an idiot.
The important things from that part of the story are: a) perforated ulcers cause peritonitis, b) penetrating ulcers cause haemorrhage, and c) blood vessels run behind the duodenum.
It is true that you learn more from looking like an idiot than you do from being right. Still, feeling desperately incompetent is never fun for anyone.
Today, a friend offered me a lift in and my commute became an hour of warmth and good conversation and Radio 4. I answered a question on the ward round. I spent some time with my F1, who made me a cup of tea and taught me how to prescribe vancomycin and gentamicin and warfarin. I passed my first nasogastric tube. I was complimented on my examination technique by a consultant surgeon.
And that’s the thing about bad days.