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Saturday, July 13, 2024

How an Emergency Room Doctor Spends His Sundays (in Costume)

HealthHow an Emergency Room Doctor Spends His Sundays (in Costume)


“Hey, buddy, how are you doing?” a man wearing a Boba Fett costume said as he leaned over the bed of a young boy in a hospital gown.

It was a Sunday afternoon in the emergency room at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, where Dr. Alex Arroyo, the hospital’s director of pediatric emergency medicine, often dons one of more than 20 costumes when he visits patients. His favorite is Boba Fett, the famed bounty hunter from the “Star Wars” films.

“I love what I do, but it’s sure hot in there!” said Dr. Arroyo, 48, who has worked at the hospital since 2006. He started wearing costumes in 2021.

A die-hard “Star Wars” fan who grew up watching the original trilogy with his parents, Dr. Arroyo has passed that love on to his two youngest children, Grayson, 8, and Karra, 6. For New York Comic Con each year, the whole family dresses up, including his wife, Dr. Sharon Yellin, 44, a fellow pediatric emergency medicine physician who works at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. One year they went as the family from “Encanto.”

“I was the big, strong sister with the donkey,” Dr. Arroyo said, referring to the character Luisa.

Dr. Arroyo, who also has a 21-year-old son, Colin, from a previous marriage, was born in the Borough Park neighborhood of South Brooklyn — at Maimonides, in fact. Now he lives less than a mile from the house where he grew up, in a four-bedroom, three-story 1920s brownstone. He uses one of the spare bedrooms as his office and rents out the third floor.

“It’s a frightening place to be inside of because I’m also an active-duty comic collector,” he said of his office. “It’s filled wall to wall with toys. It’s my sanctuary away from the world.”

READY TO ROCK I wake up at 7:30 or 8. I probably don’t need my iPhone alarm, but I set it just in case. It’s “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys. It puts me in the mood for the day.

The first thing I do is make a cup of coffee. I brew as much as I can in the Keurig. I’m not a coffee snob — I’ll have whatever’s available.

CHEF HOUR While my children run downstairs to steal some iPad or TV time, I get breakfast going. My go-tos are pancakes, waffles and quail eggs — I bought them at the grocery store around the corner as a joke one day, thinking my kids would find them hilarious because they’re so tiny, but they’ve gotten to really enjoy them. They’re extremely difficult to open, though; there’s usually shells everywhere. Somehow, I’ve become the default cook for the house. My wife refers to my cooking style as “‘Iron Chef’ on steroids.” I cook the way I work — extremely fast and really efficient, but it’s really messy.

TECH FIX I check my email first, and then the WhatsApp groups from the hospital to see if anything happened overnight or if anyone needs anything. Then I’ll run over to Instagram, scroll through X to catch up on what happened when I was sleeping. I’m something of a social media addict. Then my wife and I face off in our daily Wordle, Connections and mini New York Times Crossword challenges. We text each other our results to see who beat who today.

FIGHT CLUB Around 10 or 11 a.m., I head to jujitsu class at Windsor Terrace Martial Arts. I try to go as often as possible, sometimes as much as 10 times per week. I’ve been doing it for about 17 months. I’ll usually do a private lesson on Sunday. I generate a lot of joy by strangling people who I consider my friends. It’s an amazing outlet for the horrors of the world I see on a daily basis.

SPLIT TRACK When it comes to work, my Sundays vary. I could be working one of three 12-hour emergency room shifts — which start at 7 a.m., or 1 p.m., or 7 p.m. — or I could be off. Today, I have a 1 p.m. shift.

I run the department, so my time in the E.R. is limited to about 12 hours per week. My other time is occupied with being in the office and trying to manage the day-to-day craziness that is running an E.R. in New York City.

HEADING IN I take a shower, then head to the hospital. On a good day with no traffic, it’s a six-minute drive. Usually parking is a challenge, but not on the weekend, which is nice. I get a cup of iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts around the corner from the hospital.

SUITING UP I’m starting my shift by visiting kids as Boba Fett, so I head to my office to change into my costume. It takes me about 20 minutes to put on, and I need help. I wanted it to be as close to movie accurate as possible, so it has at least 20 different pieces I have to put on. Good luck sitting down or walking through doors!

BOBA FETT WILL SEE YOU NOW I put aside an hour at the beginning of my shift to walk around in costume, because I don’t actually work while wearing it. Even on Halloween, we discourage wearing any costumes — the last thing you want is SpongeBob SquarePants handling your child’s cardiac arrest.

I have at least four “Star Wars” costumes, including two Jedis and a fighter pilot. “Star Wars” is good because it’s a ubiquitous thing that reaches across generations — when kids recognize a character, they light up and their eyes kind of pop out of their head.

THE REAL WORK BEGINS The 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift is the busiest of the three — I’m seeing patients pretty much nonstop. On a good day, I can sit down for five minutes at some point to eat and pee, but sometimes that’s not possible because I’m running around like a maniac.

I see lots of fevers — which, in a weeks-old baby, is one of the biggest emergencies we can see in pediatric emergency medicine. I liken that to an adult with chest pain, because it’s usually indicative of something very serious and we have to also rule out all the bad things. In the spring and summer, when the weather is nicer, I also see lots of broken bones, especially broken arms. Kids fall down at the park, especially off the monkey bars.

SUNDAY FUNDAY When I’m not working — or when I’m working the late shift — I’ll do something fun with my kids. They’re big foodies, so I’ll take them to Smorgasburg, the open-air food market in Prospect Park. The French fry place is my favorite. My kids love the rainbow grilled cheese, but it looks disgusting.

Or we might take a trip to grandma’s house and do brunch. Then we might see a movie at Nitehawk Cinema — Prospect Park, which is great because it has food.

HOT DOG NIGHT When I’m home, around 5 or 5:30, I’ll make dinner for my kids. Their palates aren’t as refined as those of many Brooklyn children. They’re big on chicken, pizza, hot dogs, pasta … and my son loves sushi.

After my wife and I put the kids to bed around 7:30 or 8, we’ll eat dinner around 8:30 — usually something more adventurous than a hot dog and mac and cheese.

TV TIME My wife and I will watch pretty much everything — dramas, comedies, period pieces. We recently finished “The Crown.” We’re big fans of “Cobra Kai,” “Yellowstone” and murder mystery documentaries.

DOOMSCROLLING Around midnight, I head upstairs to bed, where I spend 30 minutes doomscrolling whatever social media app to lull myself to sleep.

The nice thing about working in emergency medicine is that I don’t get the “Sunday Scaries.” My schedule flips and turns constantly, so I’m in this perpetual cycle of “whatever comes, comes.”



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