Six weeks after our wedding, my husband and I were flying back to New Orleans, where we live. As soon as we reached cruising altitude, his head tilted forward in sleep.
The previous year had been the hardest stretch of his medical training. As a third-year resident in internal medicine, he often worked 30-hour shifts. When he came home, he’d still have notes to dictate. I’d frequently find him snoozing in an armchair with the light still on. A few hours later, he’d wake and go back to work.
“I’m trying to survive,” he told me when I complained about how work consumed him. “I’m doing the best I can.
”When we first met, I fell in love with his playfulness as much as his passion. He belonged to an improv comedy group and kept me up talking in funny voices and telling me what he loved about medicine.
Syphilis was his favorite disease. He called it “a sneaky bug” because it can surface almost anywhere in the brain, heart, groin, and he showed me his memorabilia: a plush, pink spiral doll in the shape of the bacterium and a tin lunchbox featuring a man in a gas mask and block lettering that read, “The Enemy Is Syphilis.”