Chapter 7: Rounds
And so the strange rotation began to take shape. We headed down the long old ward, the patient’s beds in groups of two. For those of you who never rounded in these days gone by, not corrupted by the mighty powers of Microsoft, it was an odd sight. A mass of physicians huddled around a chart rack. From this rack were pulled clipboards: long wood or plastic holders with strange colored papers barely held in place, waiting to fall out and flutter to the floor, their normal order destroyed. The rack was our lifeboat, our master, and our servant. We went from room to room to see patients, discuss them, make a diagnostic plan. Then the resident turned to the interns and began to grill them. And Lord help the student who could not withstand the devious pimpage.
Knight Starbuck was no exception to this rule. He would scour the physiology and pharmacologic depths of our souls between sips of Jamaican roast. When we did not know, he would turn to Flask or Stubb. Stubb would generally answer, his pen incessantly turning.
Something felt wrong about this service, though. Some foreboding. Some hint of disaster to come. I realized then we were a ship without a rudder, dismasted without our leader, our attending physician. We heard footsteps coming our way. I could not say precisely how, but the air seemed to become charged, as if before a storm.
Chapter 8: Enter Ahab
Dr. Ahab strode upon the ward. His whole broad form was bronzed from some strange ailment or weeks at the beach. A large scar ran along the anterior part of his neck, white against the dark skin. A mark of some desperate wound or endarterectomy. But it was not this that left me speechless in his presence; it was his great white coat.
Each of us, except Queequeg who rejected such formalities, wore a white coat. Mine was short (in measure to my educational rank), filled to the brim with anything I thought might be of value. I was not one to be found wanting when an item was needed. The residents wore longer versions, their pockets stuffed with their own totems of power.
But Ahab’s white coat was of another dimension entirely. To call it pristine would fall short of its purity: It was incandescent. A wrinkle would have expired of loneliness. It was starched and unbending, like Dr. Ahab himself. It went nearly to the floor, the tops of his wing tips barely visible beneath. It was his armor, his shield, it was Ahab.
“Do you know what I’m looking for team?” he asked each of us in turn, as the hair rose on the back of my neck. “It’s evidence I’m looking for. And not just any, but Grade A-1 that we’ll be seeking”
Chapter 9: The Chase for Evidence
And so rounds began again. Each patient in their turn was prodded and poked. The medicines were reviewed; the care plan discussed. With each case Ahab became more agitated. He demanded proof that our therapies were supported by the literature. He worshipfully spoke of articles and references like they had a life of their own, a hierarchy of existence.
As we came to the last patient, Ahab began to pace nervously. It was Stubb’s turn to present.