Author Topic: Written on Air 4  (Read 3504 times)

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Offline Soft Words

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Written on Air 4
« on: December 07, 2008, 08:57 AM »
{I've been working on this one for a while now. It still feels like it needs something.}

I’ve just come up here from the emergency room, where we made a futile attempt to resuscitate a man who had been shot at least seven times. I don’t know the make of guns or the wounds they present with. But I know they can do some serious damage. This guy was brought in by a team of paramedics who were giving up hope. Yet, we took turns pumped his chest, pushing air into his lungs and trying to get an IV in him. We got the IV, finally, but we lost this guy. The resuscitation was called off after 25 minutes, and we tagged him as John Doe.

I’m sitting in a call room, on a bed that patients slept on sometime in the eighties in this hospital. It has a wooden headboard and footboard, and you have to pump a pedal on the bottom of the bed with your foot to raise up the head of the bed. The newer beds have a button that does that job for you. Like all the other students, I changed the sheets and pillowcases myself when I got the key earlier today. I got a blanket too – I like to snuggle under the sheets in a somewhat cool room. But right now, I’m sitting here, numb, lost in thought.

I’m wondering how many people died in this bed. Or how many were granted new life.

I was sent up here by my senior to rest and have dinner. We will go running down to the emergency room again when we are needed, and scramble down seven floors of stairs, run through a maze of hallways, and make it to the ER three seconds after the senior does. Later, we will be reprimanded for our lateness. For now, we can focus on cutting away every single piece of cloth on someone’s body, counting and measuring and describing the shape of bruises and injuries, calling upon non-existant artistic talent to draw a representation of the wound on paper. Occasionally, we will deal with a drunken idiot.

My thoughts are macabre tonight. I have been homesick, and I’ve been thinking about the future. It used to be far away, a twinkling star. I don’t know why watching a dead guy die brought it suddenly closer.

Maybe it is the acceptance of mortality – in this section of Cleveland, you learn that life can either mean a lot or it can mean precious little, depending on which side of the line you’re on. Me, I’m standing on the line, heart in my hands, an adrenaline junkie with a taste for adventure.

I don’t fear death. To me, it is inevitable, and there is no point in fearing that which must come. No matter how rich or poor you are, you have to die. I’ve seen magnates die as vegetables, I’ve seen poor people die whole in their sleep. It is the process of death that intrigues me – I’ll confess, I’m obsessed with it. What I fear, is a long drawn-out death. I don’t have the courage to put myself through something like that. Call me a coward, but I want the easy way out.

I am all for life – I watch it ebb away pointlessly; I watch it flow back miraculously. But life is something as inevitable as death; only, you have some control over life vis-à-vis death. You live life – willingly or not – just as you die.
My dinner is in a Ziploc bag in the little mini-friggie. I should get it out, go heat it up in the microwave in the nurses’ station downstairs. Maybe get some juice to wash it down. But suddenly, I am drained, I have no will, no energy to do anything. I want to lie down on this bed, be tended to, be a patient here so I don’t have to go downstairs and face more people who need the exact same thing I’m craving right now. My senior just told me I need to be more enthusiastic about what I am doing, I need to show more interest if I want a good evaluation. Right now, I don’t give a damn. He can take that eval to hell with him for all I care.

I flop back on the bed. Close my eyes. Tears flow down my cheeks, unchecked, unexplained. I didn’t know I had it in me to cry. I wonder what my classmate, roommate and friend, currently tackling the crucial matter of dinner in a similar cal room next door would say if she saw me right now. She has told me before that she cannot imagine me as shy, quiet, unable to speak out. I wonder what the sight of my tears would say to her.

The streetlights are coming on seven floors below me. They are a bright yellow, and little slits of light wiggle their way onto my ceiling between the slats of the blinds. A couple of these curious fingers land on my eyelids on their way to the ceiling. It feels like a mellow sunset suddenly burst over Lake Erie, like the ones I watch from my bedroom window. My roommate doesn’t understand my fascination with the water and the sunsets that sear the surface of that far-in-the-distance water. I don’t understand her fascination with shopping malls. We’re good.

Finally, the telltale siren on the speaker in the call room jerks me out of my reverie. I push myself off the bed and into the bathroom. Absently, I notice I hadn’t bothered to pull off my shoes. I flick on the light switch and turn away from the tear-streaked face in the mirror half an instant before the disembodied voice yells at me through the speaker, repeating the same message three times.

Code Blue. SICU Bed 4.

As part of the surgical service, I know a little about each of the patients under our care. We’re a giant octopus-style team, where anyone can take over anyone else’s patients at any time.
Hurriedly I run back into the room and rummage through my backpack looking for my pack of wet face wipes. I grab one out of the pack and run for the stairs to the second floor. SICU is five floors below me at the other end of the hospital. Vaguely, I hear the pounding footsteps of other trained personnel behind me. We all know it is bad, but we run anyways.

Code Blue. SICU Bed 4.

What do I know about this patient?
21 year-old  African-American male, status post emergent surgery for removal of bullet. Idiot was stupid enough to challenge a whole bunch of gun-toting gang members on his own. Surgery went well, mostly, but the kid had extubation issues – we hadn’t been able to extubate. So he was in the ICU, getting a couple of blood transfusions, a ventilator pushing air into his lungs, and a brand new colostomy on his belly. The bullets had irrepairably damaged his colon, and since he had lost quite enough blood, the plan was to go back in later and rejoin the two ends of the colon when it had had a chance to heal.

Code Blue. SICU Bed 4.

The kid’s room is filled with birthday balloons and gifts. Someone has set a teddy bear bearing a satin cake on the visitors’ chair. The nurse in charge of him is calling his family. Someone, my senior, is barking orders. The red crash cart is in the room. One of the other nurses is calmly filling syringes with different drugs. Someone is getting the defibrillator ready.
Today is his birthday? Jeez. Oh no. His mother. Oh My God. ohmygod.
I don’t know how, but I find myself pumping the kid’s chest. Suddenly, the bleeping heart monitor settles into a regular bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep. We all stare, mesmerized. Nothing has been done except different people pumping his chest, keeping the blood going to his brain. We warily back out of the room in reverse order of entry.
I hang around the ICU with my senior. I sit down with him as he reads a bunch of CT’s and X-rays we ordered earlier. It is quiet down here. I ask him some questions about some random squiggles, he explains, draws diagrams, teaches me. It is peaceful.
Suddenly, the door bursts open and the kid’s family walks in. I try to slink away, not wanting to face a mother’s tears. My senior motions me to stay, and we watch, both on the same side of the line, while the nurse explains to the family what happened.

We don’t know anything yet, except that your son is alive. There might be brain damage, there might be something else wrong with him. We don’t know. I would not stop praying till he is back home with you.
Yes, those people in the blue scrubs are part of the team that brought him back. That girl, she was pumping his chest when he came back.
She is just a student. The other guy, he was conducting the resuscitation. You should talk to him.
No, you should thank the guy. Dr. K**. She is just the student –
Oh well, let me ask if you can talk to them. You want to see your son first? No?Okay.


The nurse motions to us. My senior steps forward. I hesitate till he turns back and gives me a look. Then slowly, my feet remember how to walk and I reach the spot where he is speaking to the mother. I want to slink away, escape the teary gratitude in her eyes. Trying to be useful, I look for a box of Kleenex and finding one, offer it to the now-weeping mother.
I don’t realize my senior has fallen silent. I’m focused on the Kleenex. Before I know what is happening, I am enveloped in 250 solid pounds of weeping mother. I’m too dazed to extricate myself, but my body is on automatic and remembers what to do. My arms go around her and gently pat her like in the movies.
Then, somehow, by some means I don’t recollect, I manage to bring the two of us to the waiting room outside. We’re the only ones in there.

Thank you, child, for saving my son.
What am I supposed to say? You’re welcome? My pleasure? Just doing my job? So I just look at my hands. They’re still throbbing, and the muscles in my arms are aching. My tiredness crept back when I wasn’t looking.
You have a magic touch, child. You brought my son back. You’re his angel. You’re our angel.
Gratitude can break you. I learnt a lesson that moment. I just turn into her arms, a mother’s arms, and weep. We weep for those that will die and those that will live. Mostly though, we weep for each other – our gratitude for each other, two females lost in a world neither of us belongs to, straddling the precipice between life and death.
Life isn't about waiting for the storms to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

Offline Mystic1

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Re: Written on Air 4
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2008, 01:19 AM »
I’m not certain what you think this needs...I love your perspective. You always draw me in with those small details that most people miss. The way you personify your surroundings. Humanizing inanimate objects. Your use of luminosity...beautiful.

After reading a few of these, I know you’ll make an excellent doctor. The genuine concern and  depth of compassion you express in these pieces is inspiring.
Your sympathy and understanding is heartwarming. That down to earth explanation of an anastomosis...(Yes, I know what that is...but I confess, I had to look it up to be able to spell it correctly.) perfection.
 
I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals, as a patient, and I’ve probably met a few interns just like you. They’re selfless and caring, even though they are frazzled and worked to the bone. You know, the good ones.  ;D

The only thing I noticed, other than I always find these pieces too short, were a few typos...

paragraph 3 -  '....calling upon non-exist(e)nt artistic talent to draw a representation of the wound on paper.
 
Paragraph 10 - The bullets had irre(pair)ably damaged his colon...

Keep ‘em comin’ G.  :blusmoke
I believe in making the world safe for our children, but not for our children's children, because I don't think children should be having sex.

Offline Soft Words

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Re: Written on Air 4
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2008, 01:53 AM »
Thank you, G. Sometimes reading through my notes is humbling, when memories like this one jump out at me and remind me of the reason I am here.

I don't know why I pay attention to details - or remember them. My notes have no mention of a teddy bear, but it was there.
It is one of my obsessions to keep medical terminology out of this series - or offer explanations. I find it makes the stories more relatable. This is also something I practice with my patients - I break down stuff into everyday words so they understand. Since I am going into Pediatrics, I think it is particularly important.

Thanks for pointing out the typos - :D - NaNo taught me not to care!

 :comfort
Life isn't about waiting for the storms to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

Offline Mystic1

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Re: Written on Air 4
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2008, 02:26 AM »
Typos are something you can always fix later. I mean, if writers didn’t leave in the typos...what would editors do with themselves?

You pay attention to the details because it’s how you’re trained as a doctor. And probably how your mind works anyhow. (Being a Gemini) Your tenacity, that comes from the Taurus. Everything counts, no matter how large or small.

Me. I’m a Cancer. So I see the imperfections in everything I do. I had to learn to overlook them, if for nothing more than to save my own sanity. But, at heart, I’m a perfectionist. Especially when it comes to my writing.

Oh, I don’t think I could do Peds. You‘re a brave woman. Children should be used for one thing and one thing only...food

Ha, made ya squirm.  :tongue G.
I believe in making the world safe for our children, but not for our children's children, because I don't think children should be having sex.