Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mortality and Pancakes (Clinton St. Baking Company)

Pancakes with Crunchy Bananas, Cinnamon, Chili, and Chocolate Sauce

I am a solid four months into my clinical rotations, and I wish I could say that I've been busy saving lives and all, but in reality, I've just been residents' bitch for most of the time. Granted, I've had some really incredible learning experiences and have gotten to see some pretty cool things -- for instance, seeing a patient with hemineglect bisecting a stethoscope way off from the middle, and scrubbing in to see a salpingectomy for a case of ectopic pregnancy -- but I'd be lying if I didn't say that medical students are entirely superfluous and unessential for 95% of the time that we are in the hospital. Sure, it's nice to have us around, and sometimes, we can actually be useful, but let's be real: the hospital would get along just fine whether we are there or not. So if the work we are doing as medical students is so unimportant, then what is the point of us actually being in the hospital? Well, I think part of it is so that we become familiar with the idea of what it means to actually care for patients. Okay, that sounds kind of silly now that I've typed it out, because shouldn't we all have come into medical school with an inkling of how to care for others? Isn't that why we've decided to throw away the best years of our lives enter medical school? But really, for many of us, this is the first time in our lives that we are so involved with the care and management of other people's lives. Other people's health is (partly) in our hands, and even the most mundane of our tasks -- morning rounds, vital signs, etc. -- can make the difference between life or death. I had one patient who I rounded on one morning, and she told me about chest pain and shortness of breath, leading to me sounding the alarm for a rapid response team. It turns out that the symptoms were secondary to her not having had dialysis for several days, but this is the type of thing where even a lowly medical student like myself can have a huge impact.

Mortality never really seriously crossed my mind until the end of my rotation on Internal Medicine. For four weeks, I had been following a patient with stage 4 pancreatic adenocarcinoma. He was an 89-year-old retired physician with six children, five of whom were physicians as well, and he had come into the hospital with vague complaints of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. However, he was otherwise healthy, as he maintained a fairly active lifestyle and was entirely capable of taking care of himself. Up until then, he had no serious medical problems, and he was in good health for his age. Over the course of his hospital stay, his health deteriorated right before my eyes to the point where, by the time I was ending the rotation, he was a bedridden and frail man who was entirely dependent on others for helping him eat and get out of bed. He was discharged from the hospital a couple of days before my rotation ended, and I ended up Googling him a couple days ago because I was curious to find out where his practice was located since he mentioned that he had his own practice in New York. Instead of finding the location of his office, I found his obituary. And that was when it finally hit me like a sack of bricks: we, meaning healthcare workers, are straddling the line between life and death on a nearly daily basis. I had been caring for this man who had gone from being an independent, jovial, seemingly healthy person to becoming a victim of cancer. Four weeks. That's all it took. This was my first experience with death on such a personal level, and even though I had only known this man for four weeks, I had been there for his entire hospital stay, and that just made me feel that much more close to him. I almost felt like we were in this together. Sadly, I had never gotten the chance to say goodbye to him, as he was discharged from the hospital after I had gotten out of work, and I still kick myself for not having been there to see him off.

My first close experience with death has, in a way, opened my eyes to the reality that I will be dealing with life and death for the rest of my career. So while I can't say that I've done very many useful things so far in my medical school rotations, I can say with absolute certainty that my exposure to death will have a lasting impression and will not be something that I will forget.

In the midst of my Internal Medicine rotation, I managed to find the time one glorious weekend morning to make it over to Clinton St. Baking Co. for their renowned pancakes. And because it was February, Clinton St. was in the midst of their annual Pancake Month, during which special pancakes are offered each day. On the day when I stopped by, the special was described as "Pancakes with Crunchy Bananas, Cinnamon, Chili, and Chocolate Sauce." If you put bananas and chocolate on anything, I'm sold, so I had to try these pancakes out. The pancakes themselves were quite impressive: a nice exterior that was griddled to a nice crispiness, and an interior that was incredibly fluffy and moist. I liked the fact that there were bananas cooked into the batter and not just thrown on top as might be done at some other places. I would have liked some more flavor from the chili and cinnamon, as neither really came through and seemed to be overpowered by the chocolate sauce and fried bananas. In the end, what really made the dish was the side of maple butter, which was insanely delicious. I would seriously consider bathing in a tub full of maple butter and just lathering myself with it all over, because yes, the maple butter is that good and no, I don't care if you're judging me now.

Okay, so the pancakes were good. Really good. But the wait is prohibitive, particularly on a weekend morning. Even if you get there when they open (like I did), the wait can be up to two hours. The pancakes are damn good, but I doubt I'd ever wait an hour and a half again for breakfast. And $15 for three moderately sized pancakes is definitely on the pricey side. All in all, I'd say that it's nice to try out the pancakes from Clinton St. Baking Co. at least once, but I wouldn't go back on a weekend morning. There is supposedly no wait on weeknights, and they have the same menu, so maybe I'll return for dinner sometime when I'm craving pancakes. But until then, I'll probably stick to getting my pancake fix from my favorite diner in Jersey.

So in summary, the last four months has exposed me to death firsthand and opened my eyes to the fact that I will be dealing with this type of scenario with greater regularity as I work my way through medical school. Oh, and I have also been exposed to some really good pancakes.

Clinton St. Baking Company
4 Clinton St.
New York, NY 10002

1 comment:

  1. where is your favorite diner in Jersey? I live in Jersey, n like pancakes.. :-) thanks!