by C.J. Lyons -- guest blogger
(C.J. Lyons, whose first medical thriller has just been published by Berkley, is a physician trained in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide and Munchausen by Proxy. She has worked in numerous trauma centers as a crisis counselor and victim advocate, and as a flight physician for Life Flight. Publisher's Weekly proclaimed her debut novel, Lifelines, "a spot-on debut….a breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" and Romantic Times made it a Top Pick. Contact her at http://www.cjlyons.net.)
After spending 17+ years practicing pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine, the most often asked questions I get aren't about how many lives I've saved (I don't know), how often I've been sued (never), or even why I went into medicine (a long story).
No, the questions I get asked over and over are: Is it really like on TV? And have you met George Clooney?
My answers are: no (thank god!) and no, but I sure wouldn't mind!
What's strange is that people don't believe real world ER medicine isn't like TV.
Yet, they assume that my novel, Lifelines (just published, yeah!!)—which IS as close as you can get to the real world of emergency medicine and still be entertaining, or at least as close as I can make it—has no relation to reality because it's "fiction."
When did TV become more believable than the characters we pour our blood, sweat and tears into?
Why would people want to think that a xenophobic drug addict with anti-social personality disorder and poor diagnostic skills (he makes three wrong diagnoses for every one he gets right!) like House is the way doctors are in real life?
Or that it's commonplace for attending physicians to seduce their 25 year old interns—grounds for dismissal, sanctions, and lawsuits in the real world—and there are no consequences?
Maybe they like to believe that us doctors really are ignoring our patients in order to have sex in the call rooms…and linen closets…and OR's, stairwells, rooftops, exam rooms, and wherever else those frisky Grey's Anatomy surgeons have done it.
Come to think of it, that would be a great incentive to go to work, knowing that these guys were ready and waiting to fulfill my every sexual fantasy and that I wouldn't have to worry about a pesky little thing called patient care to get in the way of my fun….
Then there's the most insidious TV misperception of all, one that seemed universally held by every patient who came to my ER. It's what I call the Burger King mentality—and I blame ER for creating it.
On ER, a patient arrives with a tummy ache and whoosh….thirty seconds later he's in a room, examined (without removing any clothes, these docs have x-ray vision!!!), a surgeon is found and lays eyes on him, proclaims him an appy ready to burst, and voila! An OR complete with staff, anesthesiologists, and equipment is ready for him. Right here, right now!
Talk about raising consumer expectations to an impossible level. This "have it my way, right away" mentality has grown to epidemic proportions.
Don't get me started…
So, here's the real scoop. Yes, scrubs are comfortable but they do tend to smell after you've been running around for 36 hours or more. Probably why, no, we don't get to have sex in the call rooms, stairwells, ORs or wherever. Actually, when you're working 36 on-12 off, you don't get to have much sex at all…
Yes, it's "cool" to see all the strange and wonderful things people do to themselves, like why for some reason, men always seem to change light bulbs in the nude and somehow fall on them, impaling them you-know-where….
No, it's not at all "cool" to see the reality of what people are capable of: murder, torture, rape, neglect, sheer indifference. Or the damage that a body can sustain: gunshot wounds, motor vehicle collisions, falls, stabbings, etc.
And if we need to blow off steam with a little gallows humor, it's not because we actually think it's funny or because we're jaded or callous—it's because if we didn't laugh, we'd be shutting ourselves in the supply closet and breaking down in tears, which wouldn't do our other patients much good.
Yes, we sometimes make mistakes (like House does on every show). No, we don't typically allow physicians go around disrupting everyone while popping pills.
Yes, working in the ER is fun and crazy and stressful and just about every other adjective in the dictionary.
And no, I still haven't met George Clooney—but if you see him, slip him a copy of Lifelines (on sale now!) and tell him to give me a call. Anytime. Day or night. Seriously.
For him, I'll find a clean pair of scrubs that make me look as sexy as those chicks on Grey's Anatomy….
Thanks for reading!
PS: I'm at Left Coast Crime this week, so grab me and say Hi!