The year was 1968. I was in the middle of my pediatric residency at Boston Children’s Hospital. This was my neonatology (“NICU”) rotation, where all of the sick newborns resided. And my student was . . . Michael Crichton (you know, the author of Jurassic Park, etc.). He was affable and bright, but definitely not cut out for the long hours of pediatrics. I, on the other hand, was always so excited when “on call,” that sleep eluded me. And, in fact, I used those nighttime hours to check on patients as well as to read Michael’s manuscripts.
One late night I was called by the NICU to advise me of the imminent arrival of an Air Force General’s newborn baby that was being emergently flown in from Alaska. The baby was “blue,” presumed to have severe heart disease. When I arrived in the NICU, I asked the nurses to call Michael in his call room and request his presence in the NICU. The baby and the General arrived. Michael did not.
I quickly assessed the infant and initiated the necessary life-supporting procedures. When I started to speak to the General, the baby’s father, he informed me that he only wished to speak to “the doctor,” despite my previously having introduced myself as such. Michael finally arrived, disheveled, in hospital scrubs wrinkled from sleep, and in slippers. The entrance to the NICU was low and Michael tall. In his sleepy state, the doorway and Michael’s head encountered one another. I turned around to the General and said, “Here is the doctor.” Naught more was said, nor ever needed to be.