Saturday, February 23, 2008

And Still They Die

I don't even know where to begin; I think the "denial" stage of grief has a tight hold on me. Thursday as I was talking with one of my patients he died. This young, handsome, intelligent man with a kind and gentle heart looked at me and said, "my chest hurts" and died. I stood there talking with him, laughing one moment and the next yelling for help, grabbing the ambu bag and mask and fitting it over his nose and mouth. Frantically checking for a pulse, squeezing the bag to force air into his lungs, I ordered the nursing staff to bring the code cart and call a code blue.

It was a comedy of errors watching these nurses who rarely work on patients in cardiac arrest. Ordering one of them to oxygenate my patient, another to begin CPR I hurriedly hooked him up to the heart monitor and wanted to kick, scream and sob when I read it's tracings. Shoving my emotions down deep I worked, clearing staff from the bedside, laying pads on his chest I shocked him, I pushed emergency drugs and prayed my team members would soon arrive.

People began to flood into the room, as I relayed what had occurred my team moved into place. Someone secured a better airway, another took over administering medications, we shocked him, compressed his chest all of us knowing it was in vain. The tracings on the heart monitor gave us no hope but still we worked. As group of people dedicated to our wounded warriors we looked in each other’s eyes and saw helplessness.

How can we, those trained for this, fail this soldier? We didn't want to fail, our pace feverish we compressed and shocked and medicated for almost 2 hours. Two hours we tried every medical technique we knew to save him. Two hours when we knew from the very beginning nothing we did would make any difference.

I sit here now and the "woulda, coulda, shoulda's" run through my mind. Even the knowledge my patient had a massive pulmonary embolism doesn't make it any easier. See, I've grown accustomed to watching these guys and gals get better and move on with their lives. I've grown accustomed to watching them go home not to the morgue.

Once again my heart breaks and I am helpless.


Anonymous said...

You are not God. And a massive embolism is not something anyone except God could fix. You did everything right, nothing worked because it couldn't. That doesn't take the pain away--but you said it in your own post. You've grown accustomed to your soldiers getting better and moving on. But patients don't always--no matter how much you want them to--in a civilian OR a military hospital. One goes on that assumption--it's necessary to keep on doing the job--but you have to keep in mind that it's a hopeful assumption, NOT a guarantee.

Don said...

Thanks to your writing, I have achieved a greater appreciation for the people who volunteer to put themselves in harm's way to defend our way of life. Even when sent on missions that have little to do with defending us, they go out and give everything they have. You have told us about victory -- the times when you can help to give back a little piece of what they have freely given for use.

Today you tell us about defeat. Like your soldiers, you live in a danger zone; you voluntarily give more of yourself than we can imagine. I hope there is someone who can help to give you back a little piece of what you give to our soldiers.