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Sunday, August 28, 2005

The morning (afternoon? evening?) after

So it's 7pm and I have managed to grab about 6 hours sleep today. It wasn't a bad night, but I had to come in early because one of the other doctors was so ill that she was forced to go home halfway through her shift.

I was doing perfectly okay until I looked at the clock at around 1 am and realised that I would have another 8 hours more to go. You would think that only really really ill people would be unwell enough to come into hospital during the wee hours of the morning, but I still had to deal with my share of patients with constipation, tension headache and muscle sprains.

But we did have a few really serious cases come in.

Last night, I had to watch helplessly as an 80 year old man had a stroke in front of me. There wasn't alot I could do to stop it from happening - when patients start to go bad, they go bad very quickly.

One minute he was talking to me, and the next minute he was mute and looking at his wife with terrified eyes, trying desperately to keep a hold of her hands in his ever-weakening grip...then he was slipping away, away and I was screaming into his ear and pinching his fingernails to get him to respond to pain.

It was all I could do to keep calm, get one nurse to call the senior team members and put out a 'code blue' call, another one to grab oxygen masks and ECG machines and get him transferred to the Resuscitation area (for serious cases - not always for CPR). All the time, I'm telling his wife and son to talk to him, talk to him, try to get him to hear you. It's weird, but I could hear at least 3 voices all talking at once, and all the voices seemed to be coming from myself but from a great distance.

He was dying, and I watched. I watched and I remembered once again that, in the end, the length of a life is not determined by my skill as a physician, but by God.

"See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no-one can deliver out of my hand." Deuteronomy 32:39

An hour later, I watched as they wheeled him up to the ward so that he could die quietly and in the company of his family.

The rest of the night passed by uneventfully, but when I got into bed in the morning, I still went over and over all the details of that case in my mind trying to see if there was anything more I could have done...which is probably why I slept fitfully, and why I'm now crouching in front of my computer - bleary eyed and clutching a glass of paracetamol dissolved in orange juice.

I go back to work in 4 hours.


Blogger fortycalibernap said...

that's a pretty incredible description, sl.

i'm awed, humbled, and grateful that you put it up.

wow. . . (exhales).

9:08 pm  
Blogger Tym said...

Courage! You do more than the rest of us can, if that's any consolation :|

10:26 pm  
Anonymous j. said...

indeed. for all my rants about my medical profession i acknowledge the amount of courage you must have to go through things like that on a daily basis.

we deal with numbers. we may ruin lives, or restore them with the money that flows through our hands.

but we cannot match you in that if it wasn't for all of you many wouldn't have those lives in the first place.

sorry for the partial incoherence it's been an awful long day at work.

5:19 pm  
Blogger tscd said...

fortycalibernap: All in a day's work.

tym: Actually, I don't think I did very much with this man, because there wasn't alot I could do. I wish he had been in a nicer environment.

j.: I think what you do has a very great impact. Being a lawyer is a scary thing. I don't fear that my patient lies to me, because they can only hurt themselves by doing that. If your client lies to you, it hurts someone else.

11:56 pm  

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