Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Battle of the Baby vs. Cell Phone

This morning we had our weekly Tumor Board meeting, a multidisciplinary get together where we gather to discuss difficult and challenging cases. Or, simply put, it's a chance for all of the great, academic minds of radiation oncology, hematology oncology, pathology, and surgical oncology to spout and pontificate, some more self-righteously than others, on how to deal with the unfortunate 45 year old woman who has two different histologic types of breast cancer in opposite quadrants of the same breast. What to do? Two separate lumpectomies with radiation? Or Mastectomy? Over the course of each meeting, I usually learn a thing (or five)...and in the very least, I ALWAYS enjoy watching the battle of the minds. It’s not unlike watching a WWF wrestling match…only in place of the greased-up, steroid-fortified body builders, picture the wrestlers as pasty, white, bifocaled, bow-tied nerds with massive egos. Great fun.

So today started out like any other Tumor Board…Medical Doctors, Surgeons, Nurse Practitioners, Social Workers, Statisticians, Pathologists, Radiologists, Medical Students, Residents. We all filed in. To minimize the distractions, everyone traditionally turns their pagers and cell phones to vibrate as they cross the threshold. Today was seemingly no different. That is, until Baby came in…perched on the hip of his mom, one of the nurses that works in the office.

Now, let me just say…I’m not a huge fan of babies in meetings. Ok. I’m not a small fan of them either. It’s not that I’m anti-baby, but, in a meeting such as this, it’s just not appropriate. They tend to coo and gurgle (or worse, scream and cry). And if they don’t do that themselves, they tend to illicit coos and gurgles (and goobie goobie yummy wummy shmoopie poopie noises) from all the XX’s in the room. Either way, they’re a distraction. And, frankly, Mom is usually so preoccupied with making sure Baby is sufficiently entertained in the all-adult meeting to glean anything from or contribute anything meaningful to the meeting. (Though, I do believe Mommies have bionic auditory capabilities that may counterbalance the distraction of having Baby with them. Being currently equipped with a womb that is being hormonally maintained in a state that is unsuitable for baby growing, aka being on birth control pills and thus NOT presently a Mommy, I cannot comment on the bionic mommy ears.) (And, for the record, I do understand that things happen…babysitters cancel, or babysitters get stuck in traffic, or babysitters get eaten by the dog. I get it. So we roll with the punches.)

So, enter Mom with Baby. To Baby’s credit, he seemed perfectly pacified by his pacifier and, frankly, was sitting more quietly than most of the adults in the room. Just when things settled down and the meeting began, Mom shifted in her seat and, in doing so, accidentally pressed what was likely the belly button of some soft wooly baby toy stored within her baby bag. A muffled nursery rhyme tune poured into the room from within the bag. Mom was mortified. But the damage was done. The toy just needed to play out its song. About 15 seconds into the nursery rhyme, meeting going on unimpeded, Dr. Snooty McProperPants (one of the particularly self-righteous MD’s in the room) leaned over to the already embarrassed mom and, without even the slightest effort to cover up her feigned attempt to look unsmug, said “Is there something playing? Could you make it stop?"

Mom shrugged helplessly. Dr. Snooty McProperPants peered condescendingly down over her designer glasses at the annoying child and his musical baby bag. The nursery rhyme ended seconds later. Baby remained seated, oblivious, content, and quiet on Mom’s lap. Meanwhile, at the front of the room, two docs were verbally duking it out over the fact that there isn’t sufficient data to support recommending a treatment that is not currently standard of care for the woman with two different breast cancers in the same breast…

Then all of a sudden, and I love this part, a shrill and meeting-interrupting cell phone ringtone erupts from the embarrasingly expensive bag of none other than Dr. Snooty McProperPants. Let’s overlook the fact that it was a bad, tinkly, dissonant version of Bach (one that I hardly think he’d approve of) and just bask in the sweet, sweet ironic glory of the fact that it was disturbingly loud. Louder than the baby. Louder than the baby toy. Dr. McProperPants scrambled to find her phone. Twenty long seconds later, she found it. And ANSWERED IT…and proceeded to have a not-so-hushed, but entirely snooty and quite-the-opposite-of-proper conversation, apparently with her lunch date, on where to meet for lunch.

Mom peered over the top of Baby’s head at Dr. Snooty McProperPants. I just wish she would have said “Could you make it stop?”

I believe we should chalk one up for the baby?

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