After hearing some news today, I felt like flinging my gloves in the trash.
Not in an angry manner, but in a different way…
~ ~ ~
August 4, 2005
“I can’t find a pulse…” he said, with urgency in his voice. The nurse was scrambling around the bedside trying to get the patient to respond.
“YOU NEED TO START CPR, it doesn’t matter if he’s open chest,” the charge nurse instructed him. The nurse locked his hands together and began compressions. The ECG on the monitor began to display some sort of pulse.
After a few minutes of compressions, a physician finally arrived. The nurse, still doing CPR, gave him a brief summary of the situation.
“I need sterile gloves, a mask, a gown…. STAT!” the physcian ordered, impatiently. I grabbed some gloves, a mask, and gown and handed them to him. I took a step back to get out of the way, then glanced back….
The patient’s chest was completely open, and the physician’s hand around his heart. He massaged the heart since it wasn’t pumping for itself. The physician shouted out orders while he massaged, and the nurse was on the other side of the bed, pushing the meds and trying to do everything he could.
Complete chaos. Orders being yelled out, staff scrambling around, people working under extreme pressure…I have never seen anything like that before. A man, dying, in front of my own eyes. A doctor, with his hand inside this man’s chest. My heart pounded
rapidly… Was it adrenaline? Was it fear? Was it anxiety? I didn’t know what the heck it was, but I sure felt it.
The health care team attempted several interventions. But nothing worked. The only “heartbeat” on the monitor was the manual squeezes that the physician was doing himself. The patient’s heart did not respond. It lay there, limp, unreponsive.
The physician looked up at the clock. It was as though things were running in slow motion, and he didn’t need to say a word because I could see it in his face. It read, “There’s nothing else we can do.” He sighed.
“That’s it. TOD (Time of Death): 23:07.”
I will never forget those words, that moment. I too looked up at the clock, as if, hoping maybe in those few seconds that the patient’s heart would beat. But it didn’t. When I turned towards the bed, I saw the physician taking off his gloves of disappointment. His gloves of failure. His gloves of defeat.
~ ~ ~
A few weeks ago, I chatted with a patient over the phone.
“Hi Mr. A. I was calling about your medication. These are your instructions…”
He listened patiently. “Got it,” he replied.
“By the way…how’d your appointment go with the specialist?” I asked.
“You don’t know already?”
“Well, I was wondering what they told you…”
“I’m gonna die, I just don’t know when…” his voice quivered.
~ ~ ~
Today, my coworker caught me off guard.
“Our patient overdosed and tried to kill himself.”
My eyes widened in shock. I spun around to face her. “Oh nooo…”
“When he’s here, he seems upbeat, strong, and positive. But I think when he’s at home… it’s not that way. He’s in a lot of pain.”
I retreated to my desk, at a loss for words. I felt like flinging gloves of defeat in the trash.
Although I no longer work in the hospital, although I have been working in primary care for years… here, too, we confront life and death. Daily.
My work is a battlefield.
God, help me to press on.