By Cami Pond, Director, American Medical Association Alliance
I am a physician spouse, and I know all about loneliness.
In addition to my mate’s demanding medical practice, he is still serving in the military, and has been deployed into harms way on multiple occasions. He is also a delegate, three-time president of the county health department, past president of just about anything imaginable, editor for multiple journals (printed and assembled by me and the kids at our kitchen table) and on and on and on… He is an avid reader, mountain climber, accomplished skier, pilot and beekeeper. His plate is, and always will be, full.
I have seen my husband manage the stress of endless nights of call. I have seen him fill in for ill partners. I have also seen him pay partners to cover call just so he could attend a school function or game or to attend graduations or Boy Scouts when other dads can do so every night. As dads go, he is the greatest!
Early on, after waiting on him for four hours and missing church one Sunday, I vowed never again to do “doctor minutes.” Since that day, we share an understanding that I, too have a busy day to manage, and my time is also important.
Do others understand this life? Certainly not. I am a single parent. I learned to manage the every day wrinkles of life; I had no choice. I drive separately to everything. I have been left in church, left at the dinner table, left out on a date, left at parties when the beeper called him back to work for emergencies. Worse yet was being left alone in constant fear while my husband was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. That was horrible. And I will never ever forget 9-11.
Yet, I was lucky. Most importantly, I LOVE my spouse. I understand that he does not choose to spend time away from our family. I have come to grips with the fact that he is also married to medicine and, in our case, the military. I am proud of his service. He is a decorated veteran, a great physician, and a terrific spouse!
Doctors put up with amazing pressure, demanding patients, and increasing stress due to the uncertain future of healthcare in this country. This also impacts the health of the family. Yet, he comes home happy in spite of these circumstances.
Seek friends that are also in medicine. Only they can truly appreciate how different the medical marriage is. The fact is this: we are left alone to deal with unusual challenges.
I am very good at carving out moments to spend together. Coffee, an impromptu lunch, a 10 p.m. dinner, taking Chinese food to the hospital to get his thoughts on something emergent, or faxing math homework to him at the hospital –yes, I did this on multiple occasions when our kids were young. To continue in this crazy medical marriage, partners need to be together.
This year, I have made a vow to engage more with others while he is away. I vow not to sit and wait. I vow to pre-plan outings with my friends, see the kids when I am lonely, and to watch nature instead of TV. I vow to be flexible. I vow to always appreciate my freedom. I vow to continue to help others less fortunate. I vow to continue to drop everything when adversity hits. I vow to continue to support my husband. I vow to enjoy life, and to treasure the moments we share!
Cami Pond, a director of the American Medical Association Alliance, retired from her career as an OR nurse after 32 years. She’s served as Legislative Chair for the Indiana State Medical Association Alliance with board appointments to the Council on Legislation and Indiana Medical Association’s political action committee, IMPAC. She and her anesthesiologist husband, Col. William W. Pond, MD, love spending time with their four children and four “adorable grandchildren.” The couple are avid travelers and humanitarians who have participated in 19 medical missions around the world, providing free surgery on children with congenital facial deformities.