Time is Relative: I Have Time For You
October 8, 2020
Time has slowed down for me. Other than litter-picking and making home-made apple-cider vinegar, that is my new super power. Time has slowed down. Yesterday was an odd Wednesday. I usually work in the mornings and am “OFF” in the afternoon (but who is really OFF right?). But we had a “Diversity” Leadership Meeting that was virtual in the morning, and then I worked in the afternoon. I was incredibly upset after the Diversity Leadership meeting which had over 500 attendees. It was a corporate attempt to address racial justice in health care. Our HMO is light-years ahead of everyone, yet we are all so behind. I made some comments in the chat box about hiring more black doctors, but was dismissed as being too political by another physician leader. I know when to push and when to stand back plus I was one of 500 attendees. It was not the venue to waste efforts. So I just listened laying in bed.
So I had afternoon clinic yesterday instead of morning clinic, and it was actually very pleasant. I was the only one seeing well-child appointments. There were just the normal wednesday urgent care crew. It was nice. I usually leave on time these days because my mind is very sharp, but yesterday I didn’t leave until 615pm and got home around 7pm. I was actually able to catch the last of the Harris/Pence Vice Presidential Debates on KPBS on the radio when they were debating climate change. After pulling into the garage and walking across our backyard and seeing our kitchen illuminated by the household lights, my family was only half way through dinner. So we got to eat together and the kids caught me up on the events at school. Honors English teacher who is having some issues. Fellow students having some issues. 100% score on a math test. ASB versus History Day group dynamics. Can our daughter use my extra iPhone for ASB group chats?
I didn’t mind being late last night. I had time for my family and we were eating leftover Chicken Pot Pie from the Chicken Pot Pie Shop anyway, a local joint that has little plastic packaging. I had planned to be late, because I met with one of my teen patients who needed some more time to talk to me about teen stuff. We just chatted for a good hour about safety, choices, the earth and her family. I’ve been her doctor for over a decade and it’s my last year to guide her through her mostly smooth journey through these teenage years. This particular family is dear to me, but let’s just say they take some extra time. And that is okay. I plan it out in my day. I also chatted with a colleague yesterday and we caught up each other about our respective children. Our families are similar and he and I are very lucky. All our kids are doing really well. He told me his daughter who graduated from UCLA has a great job up in Washington state as a prestigious museum. He reminded me to go home to see my own children. And so I said goodbye and left. It was getting dark. There was some litter on the clinic docks where I take my secret way out of our non-descript HMO building. I didn’t pick up the litter. I had done enough for the day. The nurses asked me several times after 5PM as I was walking briskly down the hallway “You are still HERE???!!” They are so kind. But they kind of confused me. Of course I am here, existing on this earth with you and every other being. The shots were done and I already dismissed Nurse L to go home on time. I was just taking time to talk to them. I’m not late really. I just spent more time with a patient, just like sometimes I stop and take time to notice a new bird or the lettuce my neighbors are planting in their front yard. Just like when I pick up litter, sometimes I get really big bags and sometiems I get small bags. But I always make it home on time.
Because all of it – picking up litter, helping manage our department, taking care of patients – I actually do it for my own two children, Mr. Plastic Picker and our crazy puppy. We are all connected. Actually I admit that I was a little bit late, but it wasn’t because I was spening extra time with a patient I have known for 10 years. It was because I was disappointed in the diversity meeting that did not address the real issue, which is the lack of latino and black professionals in our corporate leadership. As I had typed in the chat box, BLACK LIVES MATTER. They did not listen to me at the corporate diversity meeting, but I know this readership does. ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS TIED TO RACIAL JUSTICE IS TIED TO HEALTH EQUALITY. YOU CAN’T SOLVE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER. WE NEED MORE BLACK DOCTORS.
And that is what made me late not my patient. Systemic racism in healthcare made me late. I made sure to spend some extra time with my patient because she is part of that group that is systemically discriminated against. If I can’t change systemic racism in health care right now, I can choose to spend an extra hour with her and make sure that she has great health outcomes despite half-hearted diversity attempts at the corporate level.