They don’t call it the Emergency Department for nothing.
I’m sitting there, talking with a 40 year-old woman complaining of lower back pain who had a kidney transplant, and then she adjusts herself to try to get comfortable, and shakes a couple times. She starts gasping for air; she is unresponsive to my questions. I immediately call for help, and a nurse comes in. Neither of us can get her to respond, and her eyes are glazed over. The nurse goes to get the attending, who comes in. We’re having trouble getting a good O2 sat on her (that gives us a rough idea of the oxygen in her blood), and once we do, we realize she needs to be intubated to help her breathe. We intubate, and then have to start CPR; she now has no pulse. Her blood pressure is dropping. We code her for 11 minutes. Her pulse comes back, and she’s maxed on the medications for blood pressure support. Her heart on ultrasound is pumping, but barely.
I have my hand on her femoral artery. We lose her pulse again. We code her for 24 more minutes, and eventually the family decides to do comfort care and have some time alone with her. We lose.
I could go into all my analysis of how my resident did a great job and set a good example of following the basics–Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. But something scares me more than not knowing exactly what to do when this happens next time.
What’s really bothering me is how okay with it I feel. That we spent 2 hours trying to bring someone back to life, that she crashed right in front of me–basically died right in front of me–and I was totally okay with that. That 5 minutes after it was over, after I finished writing up what happened, I just went about my business and picked up the next chart. I moved right on.
I keep waiting for some delayed grief reaction or something, like I’m going to be just walking down the street and suddenly feel really sad or something, but it’s not happening. I mean, this person I just met died, but I’m not all that upset about it. Maybe I just didn’t know her long enough to need to grieve about her. Maybe I somehow knew that after the first code, things weren’t looking good, and I didn’t have much hope when the second one began. Maybe this makes me a great, objective, detatched doctor. Maybe this makes me a terrible, distant, detatched human. I don’t know.
I’m hoping that either my over-analysis of this event over the past week is my grief reaction, or that whatever part of me I think I’m currently missing can come back, because it seems pretty damn ironic if I’ve somehow lost my compassion and empathy during the practice of medicine. Never saw this one coming.