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Work Spouse

January 6, 2019

He is gone.

After almost five years working together, my diagnostic colleague has moved to be closer to his parents. “We don’t have that much time left,” they said.  A dutiful son, he complied. He sold his house and uprooted his little family to move to the Bay Area. They found a small rental home. He took a job at the local VA Hospital.  

At our trauma center, he was a workhorse, squeezing joint injections and barium studies in between reading scans.  He took progressively more weekend call over the years. Working at a constant pace, he was indispensable. I will take over arthrography duties in his absence, and I’ll be thinking of him.  

Shervin and I enjoyed short chats between cases, walks across the hospital to tumor board, and afternoon tea breaks.  The breaks were part of our “wellness ritual,” we joked. Physician stress is a hot topic these days, and many radiologists don’t have time for lunch away from the monitor.  So reminding Shervin to leave his desk felt like a small act of caring. These breaks served to loosen our limbs and clear our heads. The cafeteria was our watering hole.

We talked about the tea selection, and about switching from coffee to water.  We griped about the hospital grub, with fried food and Monster drinks among the most consistent offerings. Talking about the diet of the week, I told Shervin about the breastfeeding diet, which allows you to eat whatever you please, including chocolate doughnuts. He assured me I didn’t need to worry about it.

We talked about our ailment of the day:  

a cold here, a backache there. We chatted about the mundane.  And there are only certain people with whom one can discuss such things.  This is the virtue of a work spouse.

Sometimes we talked about travel- he and his Irish Rose wife were always coming back from somewhere exciting, like her homeland, or Japan, or Patagonia.  But mostly, we talked about abscesses and visceral artery ectasia and the beverage of the day.

He’d praise me just for doing my job.  

“You’re always so calm,” he’d say, when inside, I felt anything but.  It was just what a busy IR wanted to hear in the middle of a stressful day.  We consulted each other’s opinion throughout the day, and had a mutual respect for each other’s role in taking care of patients.  

When I was pregnant with my son, my husband was away for weeks at a time, traveling with a successful jazz ensemble.  Bumping over the interstates, Bob woke up somewhere new each day. He was with interesting people, and at a new height in his career.  At home, I felt out of sight and out of mind. Shervin was there, day after day, asking how I was doing. Later, I was placed on modified bed rest, and was restricted to working from home.  I could rely on Shervin to answer a “hello” over the instant messenger, or to consult with me on a difficult case.

He became a fixture in our lives

over the years, in a town where other professionals and friends came and went. He was woven in the fabric of our social group, comprised of doctors, dentists and lawyers, many of them Persian.  With Shervin’s acceptance, I felt like part of an extended Persian family.

For those who can find such a symbiotic relationship at work, I recommend they cultivate and appreciate it.  I know I’ll miss my work spouse.


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