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Life in Emergistan: The Women and Men Who Love EPs

Leap, Edwin MD

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000512780.31893.50
Life in Emergistan

Dr. Leap is the president of LeapMedicine, PC, a member of the board of directors for the South Carolina College of Emergency Physicians, and an op-ed columnist for the Greenville News. He is also the author of four books, Life in Emergistan, available at, and Working Knights, Cats Don't Hike, and The Practice Test, all available at, and of a blog, Follow him on Twitter @edwinleap, and read his past columns at

spouse support

spouse support



I take a lot of things with me when I go to work: my backpack with my computer inside, my phone, charging cords — the modern lifeline — lunch, a pen, a flashlight, and a pocket knife.

On a more abstract level, I take to work with me the wonderful education I received as a medical student and resident, coupled with my years of experience as a physician. I take my drugstore +2 diopter glasses, not only to read and suture but equally important, to look venerable and wise.

But I take something else. It's certainly as important as all of the other stuff, if not more so in the long run. I take the love, support, encouragement, and care of my wife Jan.

This is not some hyper-sentimental claptrap. A spouse, for better or worse, is part and parcel, warp and woof of our lives. In the best of circumstances, my dear bride gives me encouragement, laughter, stability, passion, and the not-so-rare kick in the behind when I'm lazy, whiny, or grumpy (as I am so often wont to be).

She reminds me of my priorities, reassuring me that I matter to her and the children, however I may feel. She reminds me that feelings are often terrible lies. (A lesson we would all do well to remember.) In times past, she has guided me through career changes because she could sense my unhappiness and dissatisfaction. This is because she loves me and knows what I need, often better than I do. In short, she is my most dedicated advocate.

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Staying Out of Prison

While I work in the ED, she works hard to manage the children (rather, the teens who require more diligence than mere children.) She looks after the family finances, useful in keeping me out of prison for delinquent taxes and in keeping the banker away from the door so that we keep our home.

To keep me moving forward through busy, difficult shifts, she ensures that I have things to look forward to with family when she does our master schedule. Two of our four children are in college, but she tries to arrange family events around my days off so I don't feel left out, and she takes me to the gym so I can enjoy our life together for a long time to come. Sometimes she makes me plank. I hate to plank, but I do it.

This might sound, to the modern ear, as if my wife is living out some sort of domestic indentured servitude. It is not. It is teamwork. It is unity. It is covenant. We are one. We have common cause in our marriage and offspring.

The result of her remarkable effort is that when I go to work, I can focus on my job. I can carry the love and care I feel at home into the exam room, into the resuscitation room. I am secure and happy. This makes me a far more effective, calm, satisfied physician than I would otherwise be.

I make the money that we share equally as partners. Not only in our personal corporation but in our lives. I don't get paid for me; I get paid for us and for Clan Leap.

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Smiles and Hugs

When I come home from work, I come home to smiles, hugs, and a kiss. I come home to laughter and dinner or date night, to stories of her day and the many other lives she touches in our family and beyond it.

Sometimes I come home to strategic family planning sessions. Occasionally I come home to a tired or angry or sad wife, and it's my turn to be the one in the supporting role. My turn to fuss at teenagers or call about car insurance claims. My turn to shoo her to bed early and manage things. My turn, on days off, to send her for sanity breaks.

Those of us who are married or in long-term, committed relationships must admit that without our wives or husbands, this whole gig would be much harder and much lonelier. And that the patients we care for are touched and loved, vicariously, by those who love us. Their role is not subordinate but intrinsic.

Through me, through our marriage bond, every sick child in my care has my wife's eyes looking on gently. Every struggling nursing home patient feels some of her kindness. Every difficult, irritable complainer has her patience and every smart-aleck teenager (or grouchy consultant) has her raised eyebrows and crossed arms gazing firmly on their behavior.

All of us owe so much of our professional lives to the women and men brave and loving enough to stay with us through all of our stupid, arrogant, surly behaviors. And to those men and women, let me just say that you are as much a part of our practices as we are. Thank you for being the other half, the silent partner, standing invisibly by us as we do the hard work of medicine. We couldn't do it half as well without you.

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