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LuciaglassesLucia Li -- "Whoever came up with the phrase 'slept like a baby' has obviously never had one."

Like most people, I think I’ve been sleep-deprived pretty much since the start of my GCSEs when I was 15. I can’t blame it all on work; nights out and extra-curricular stuff probably have something to do with it!

But since starting uni, and especially clinical school, where life seems to happen at the expense of sleep, I’ve really learnt that sleep is somewhat optional.

I got called up at 7pm one evening and asked to go assist in an organ retrieval operation overnight. Not having put my name down for that day, I was not at all prepared and had stayed up later than was good for me the night before. It perhaps would have been sensible to get some sleep in the evening before the operation, but I was at my supervisor’s leaving party and didn’t want to go home. So I stayed up watching bad TV until midnight. And then went with the team to Oxford.

The retrieval went very smoothly and I was able to get very involved. After we got dropped back at Cambridge, I went straight to my (less exciting) lectures, finally going to bed late that evening. A couple of my friends have also done similar things, and most people who were undergrads at Cambridge have stayed up all night at a May Ball and then gone straight on to day-time parties. It wasn’t the ability to be awake overnight that surprised me, but the fact that I was able to function competently throughout it and then carry on the next day.

This must be trivial for most people, but it was a pretty big thing for me. I’d never pulled an all-nighter before this transplant and I’m pretty protective of my sleep normally! But ultimately, it must be mind over matter. In surgery, I had no choice but to be on the ball. I made a demand on my body and it responded. Undergrad was pretty mentally challenging, but I’m discovering the clinical school packs its punch in physical challenges. Bring it on! An education is not just in the facts you learn but also in what you learn about yourself, and that was a particularly satisfying lesson.

November 11, 2008 in Lucia Li | Permalink


I agree! Surgery, for me, seemed to be particularly physically taxing. Holding a heavy leg in the air for long periods of time, without touching the "sterile field," for example, can be very difficult! Not to mention holding retractors for hours on end while losing sensation in your feet from standing for so long! Anyway, good post, and oh my goodness I love your new pic!

Posted by: Kendra | Nov 11, 2008 10:13:35 AM

While it's true on some occasions, when the all-nighters become the norm rather than the exception, it comes a point when the body demands it sleep, regardless of whether you are in surgery, driving, lectures, or partying.

Congrats on the staying awake during surgery, but continue being protective of your sleep!

Posted by: Mari | Nov 14, 2008 10:04:52 AM

I agree with Mari - as an undergrad, I scoffed at sleep and got by burning the candle at both ends and loving it, relishing the lifestyle. Just four years after graduating from college, how I'd love to be so flexible again! My body, fighting back, demands sleep of me, and I find myself falling asleep... anywhere, everywhere, standing up, while talking, typing, etc.

Posted by: | Nov 18, 2008 3:34:01 PM

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