Dead Miss X

OH! So I forgot to address the dead woman.

When I first got to the hospital, I was put into a semi-private room, which was like okay, whatever, I heard people come and go. One woman had an abscess on her foot and her husband? boyfriend? girlfriend? lover? was very VERY worried about it and didn’t seem to understand the what the phrase, “I don’t know any more about it!” meant.

But there was one woman, mid-forties, large, light brown hair, white, whose name I don’t recall. When she came in, I was on one of my four-hour advil-induced highs, wherein I had no fever and overall felt relatively okay, so I was able to gather information (when you’re in a hospital, you get bored easily, so pretending you’re a spy listening in on conversations that nurses are having with other patients becomes inordinately interesting). She came in because her oncologist had said she was dehydrated, which for a patient with stage 3 colon cancer undergoing chemotherapy can be a big deal. She came in during the late-evening, probably around 7, and I never talked to her one-on-one, just saw her on one of my many trips to the bathroom to pee out the saline that was coursing through me (which, by the way, is so weird! I barely drank any water all day, but I had to pee like a incontinent racehorse).

Anyways, from the moment she came into the room, she was wheezing heavily. She had some serious trouble moving air, which I assumed was from her enormous size, since she fared better sitting up. But, throughout the course of the night her wheezing just got worse, and even I thought that someone needed to help her, to put an oxygen mask on her or something, because she was clearly having difficulty. But med-techs came and left the room, just asking if she was in pain, but not really paying any heed to her wheezing. At about 7AM the day after she came in, a tech was in the room with a nurse because they were having trouble taking her vitals when I heard the following:

“Miss X’s eyes rolled back into her head”
“Her eyes! They rolled back into her head”
“Miss X! Miss X! Are you with us?? Oh god she’s not moving air…get me the suction and oxygen…oh god she’s coding! Pull the code line! Pull the code line!”
“The what? Where?? Where is it?”
“The blue line!! Pull it now! Get me oxygen”

*Tech pulls the line, about 50 seconds after asked to…has trouble finding it, mean while Tyler and I are still in the room, I am attached to a IV, which is attached to the wall**

**Three more nurses run in, with a doctor asking to be briefed, chest compressions start, frantic movement around the room, another doctor comes in asking to be briefed**

**Another nurse pops over, notices me sitting there in horror, listening to this woman die, unsure of what to do and how to exit the room. She asks Tyler to leave, which he was already getting ready to do, and says they’ll send a wheel chair for me**

**Some time passes and they continue to work on Miss X. Another doctor comes in, the room seems to be frantic and in chaos, people not really sure what to do during a code. I am still in the room**

**Miss X’s body suddenly starts to fart a lot, and there are weird noises**

**Finally a nurse seems me trying to unplug my own IV because Miss X’s bodily death-functions are starting to really frighten me…so she helps me up and out, muttering about how people should have gotten me out right away**

So I end up outside, sitting in the nurses station, with one shoe on, in a patient gown, slightly frightened at the incompetency I heard/saw in the room. Questions swirled: Why hadn’t they taken me out right away? Why didn’t they know where the code line was? Why did it seem like mass chaos instead of an organized well-oiled machine? Wasn’t that what was needed to save a life, not the bumbling that occurred in there? Why hadn’t the woman been helped with her breathing earlier?

All of these questions continue to bother me. Particularly, I am frightened by the complete shock I heard at this woman coding. I feel that hospitals need to run like practiced machines: while it may not be common for people to code in that hospital, the staff should be prepared through practice runs to handle it when it does happen. Precious seconds are important at that time.

Honestly, she probably would have died sooner than later with a cancer that bad (from what I gathered from the not-so-subtle nurses), but she didn’t have to die like that. She was in distress for a while, and people wasted the time they should have been using to save her, bumbling about trying to find an oxygen machine.

Therefore, I have a couple of resolutions:

–When I am a doctor, I will work at a teaching hospital, one where you are constantly kept on your toes by residents and interns who have just learned the material, and nurses who constantly have to be on their toes to correct the mistakes made by those residents and interns, and too cocky attendings.

–I will not be satisfied with mediocrity in my career. Being satisfied with mediocrity leads to general absentmindedness. When you are a healthcare professional at any level, RN, tech, LPN, doctor, you cannot afford that, peoples lives are in your hands. That sounds so ridiculous, but it’s true, and I felt that no one questioned this woman’s seriously distressed breathing, and that is settling, and thinking someone else would deal with it.

Maybe she would have died anyways, I don’t know, but what I saw at the hospital, her death, and so many other problems, very much bothered me, and made me even more sure that when I am a doctor, I will not let myself become complacent. I will be constantly meticulous and work in an area where I am forced to stay so.

Okay, now I’m off to play video games.


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