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On Being a Doctor |

Scream FREE

Elizabeth Broderick, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

From Newport News, Virginia.


Requests for Single Reprints: Elizabeth Broderick, MD, 124 Villa Road, Newport News, VA 23601; e-mail, bethbroderick@cox.net.


Ann Intern Med. 2007;146(2):145. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-146-2-200701160-00010
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“But you're a doctor.” They don't say it, but it's in their eyes when I tell them that my husband was arrested for domestic assault and battery. My office manager tells me she doesn't understand it. She's told her husband that if he ever hits her he'd better make it a good one, because she's coming up off that floor and killing him. I tell her they don't start the relationship by hitting you.

At first, they are kind and loving and only trying to help you improve yourself. He would ask me medical questions: “I'm curious, how does this work?” I would explain and he would keep picking apart my answer. Eventually, we would reach something I didn't know and I would tell him I would have to look it up. He would say, “No, you don't need to do that”, and I would feel stupid.

My patients certainly knew I had children. My pager would beep when I was on call, and I would get my messages and call patients while simultaneously holding a child and fending off a screaming toddler grabbing my legs. My husband would read the paper in the family room. “I thought they would make even more noise if I took them away from you so I left them alone.” I thought I wasn't doing a good job anywhere, as a mother, as a wife, as a physician. If I stayed at work to make my calls, he would call my cell.

“When are you coming home?”

“I have to finish my calls.”

“Do them from here.”

“I can't bring the charts home.”

“The kids want you.” The pressure never ended.

That night, I was screaming, “Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone.” He tried to slap me and I blocked him. He stepped forward, put one leg between mine, spun me in midair, and slammed me to the floor. I put my hands up over my head to show submission and curled sobbing into fetal position. My right shin had slammed into the chair and was swollen and painful. Then there was the shame of going to a local emergency room where they knew me. I had to tell them how my leg got hurt. I didn't know that the police would be called. I called my husband.

“The good news is, my leg isn't broken. The bad news is, you're going to be arrested.”

The police car slowly went away from the house. I walked through all of the rooms, looked at my sleeping children. I went into our room. I got into bed.

Don't scream.

Good girls don't scream.

Elizabeth Broderick, MD

Newport News, VA 23601

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