Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The hard part about being a doctor

Tonight I participated in my first "code."For all of you non-medical readers (probably only Jeff and Mom and Dad Tell) :) a "code" is called whenever someone passes out, or stops breathing, or if their heart stops beating. Everyone around comes into the room to start CPR, give drugs, intubate, or whatever else could be done to try and save someone. Unlike what you see on ER or other doctor shows, most people in this situation do not survive. I haven't been to too many of these, but there are rarely those dramatic recoveries that are portrayed on TV.

I was sitting in the doctor's library when they called a "Code Blue" on the third floor. The resident and I ran up there, and when we arrived, there were tons of nurses, doctors, and other health care providers standing in a patient's room doing CPR. For a while I actually thought it was going well since she still had a rhythm to her heart rate, but after a little while of working, we lost her pulse. We gave her lots of medicines, shocked her heart, but nothing was working. CPR gets very tiring so I actually performed CPR on this lady, which is the first time I've ever had to do that. She looked awful. Her lips were blue, her eyelids were blue, she felt cold, her eyes were half open in that very scary way that made me think she probably wouldn't make it. I guess I've never actually been watching as someone died. I've seen lots of dead people since starting medical school, and have had many patients die, but I've never actually been there watching. Tonight, though, I was there watching as her heart stopped beating. As I was doing compressions, and looked into her face, all I was thinking about was her family, whom I could actually hear crying in the hall (they had been watching and visiting with her when she suddenly fell over), and wondering if she knew Jesus.

I think that's the strangest part of medicine for me: every day, I'm a part of people's lives at very strange times, when their lives are completely changed. Sometimes, it's during incredibly happy events, like the birth of a long-awaited child, or the successful removal of a cancer. But sometimes, like tonight, I'm a part of something awful and horrible, a day that these people will remember with great sadness. And it is sad, but at the same time, it's my job, and I'm there every day, seeing many of the same events played out over and over.

So I leave the patient's room as the family gathers in mourning. Tonight, there was a sweet-looking girl who was maybe 5 or 6, standing close to a person I imagine was her mother, who was weeping for the loss of a dear family member, and I'm wondering if she will remember this day when she is older, and what she will think about it. Will I remember this day when I am older? I'm not sure. And I go on, walking back downstairs to the doctor's lounge, to await our next call, maybe get a little sleep before it gets too busy, looking forward to all the happy events, but knowing there will be plenty more days just like this one, where I watch as someone slips away.

Days like this make me hope for heaven.

1 comment:

Jenny in Queensland said...

What a thoughtful post, I am sure most people never see this from the doctors perspective.