Here’s my ultimate “Careful what you wish for” story from medicine:

One night, when I was on call on the labor and delivery ward as a med student, my boyfriend “Mark,” who also worked at the county hospital as a biomed tech, kindly brought me dinner. There was a lull in the action on the ward, and I sat and ate dinner with him and raved about how exciting it was to see new lives beginning. I meant it: no matter how many births I see, it never gets old at all. So I was all enthusiasm, and he wistfully said, “I’d like to see a birth some time.”

We had a nice chat, I thanked him for dinner, and I went back to L&D on the third floor while he went back to the shop on the second floor. Bless his heart, he used to work a lot of unpaid overtime to get all the equipment fixed for people’s surgeries in a seriously understaffed, chronically cash-strapped public facility, so he was hanging out there alone.

An hour or two later, we heard an overhead page calling, “OB STAT TO SECOND FLOOR HALLWAY!”

We all charged down the stairs from the third floor labor ward to find a lady on the floor with a healthy baby boy she’d just delivered, cord still attached, and Mark holding himself up on the doorframe of the second floor biomed shop, white as a sheet.

It seemed that this poor mother had presented in labor and had been misdirected to the wrong floor of the hospital. It was late in the evening, so she couldn’t find anybody to ask for directions, and all the walking caused her to go into labor on the floor outside the biomed shop where my boyfriend (thank God) was working late. He’d heard commotion in the hallway and fortunately had the presence of mind to call for an overhead page to OB; good thing he was an Army vet who’d dealt with all kinds of buck wild situations.

And thank God the poor young mother was perfectly healthy and so was the child, and since it was her third baby the delivery went off without a hitch. We clamped and cut the cord, got her on a gurney to go up to L&D, and took care of everything from there, so there was no harm done.

I’ll just never forget the look on Mark’s face as he stared at us open mouthed, leaning on the doorframe but still staying vertical. His whole bearing communicated, “Say the word and I will SPRING, yes, SPRING into action… I just really, really hope you don’t say the word.”

And who can blame him for that?

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