For those of you curious about the outcome of my last post…
~ ~ ~
A few weeks ago, I was quietly doing my work when my coworker disrupted the silence. ”Help! This patient’s down!” We dashed into the room.
“Does he have a pulse?” we began to assess the patient by calling out his name, feeling for a pulse, rubbing the middle of his chest roughly.
My co-nurse clasped her hands together and immediately began pumping atop the patient’s chest. Another nurse grabbed the emergency code cart holding all the urgent medications needed for a “code” situation. A 3rd nurse grabbed an ambu bag and began providing oxygen to the patient. Another nurse attempted to take vital signs. I began fumbling with wires as I hooked the patient up to the defibrillator to see if he needed to be shocked.
Within the next 5 minutes, the “Code Team” arrived. They were a team of medical residents, critical care nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and nursing supervisors. Flooding in, all at once.
“Ok, I’m the senior on,” the senior medical resident who led all code emergencies announced in a loud voice, signaling for everyone to follow his leadership. ”Is he breathing, does he have a pulse? What happened?”
The patient’s nurse quickly described the events that led to cardiac arrest.
“Let’s see his rhythm first.” We stopped CPR and looked at the monitor. It was a flat line.
“Asystole! Continue CPR,” the senior instructed.
Performing chest compressions is tiring. It is standard practice to rotate turns to deliver the most effective compressions to the patient. ”Hey…I’m getting tired. Someone replace me,” my co-nurse panted between compressions.
I stood right across from her. No one else volunteered. Every second that passes in a code means less blood flow to the patient’s brain. In seconds, life is lost. ”Ok. I’ll take over,” I hurriedly pitched.
She obliged, took a step back, and I swooped right in.
My hands grasped tightly together, dropping my body’s weight into each push on this man’s chest. His heart is not working. I am his heart now. I must be forceful enough to pump blood into the entire body.
It didn’t even occur to me that a lifeless person’s body was beneath my hands. Normally, I am the recorder, scribbling down all events occurring during the emergency, or I am fishing for supplies, ripping opening packages, and handing them to the team. It didn’t even occur to me, that the last time I did CPR was on a dummy only a month ago, renewing my CPR certification. My CPR instructor had scolded me. (Soapie! Your dummy is dead already because you’re so weak!) But none of those things came to mind at that time.
I only had one thought in my head- BE THE HEART. Keep a steady, fast, forceful rhythm.
Time flew right by, it must have been only a minute. ”Do we have a pulse with good compressions?” the senior asked.
“Yes, we do,” one of the nurses answered, her hand palpating a pulse and simultaneously surveying the heart monitor for a rhythm.
“Ok, stop compressions, let’s see what we have.”
I lifted my arms from off the patient, but stayed in place, ready to begin again at a second’s notice. My breathing was fast and hard. I caught my breath.
“He’s in VFib!” (A condition where the heart is quivering.) “Continue CPR and let’s charge it up to 200 joules.”
I resumed pumping on the patient’s chest.
“Ok, charged up, ready to shock. Everyone stand back.” It was just like what you see on TV. We took a step back, lifted our hands up and away from the bed to avoid electrocuting ourselves. “ALL CLEAR????”
Someone pressed the SHOCK button on the defibrillator, and the patient’s body jolted on the bed.
“AHHHH!!!” the patient groaned aloud, coming back to life and feeling the electric shock. Big eyed, we looked at him, then turned our heads toward the monitor.
“He’s got a strong steady pulse! Let’s send him to the ICU!”
The crew rolled that patient outta the door and towards the ICU quicker than the time it took me to recover from all that adrenaline. The chaos subsided, the code responders dispersed, and we resumed our usual early morning routine.
My co-nurse smiled, ”You know Soapie.. you’re a whole 12 pounds, but you do some mighty fine compressions there.”
Then, the medical intern walked by and lightly jabbed me in the shoulder. ”Strong work, Soapie. Literally!”