welcome

My adventures as a pre-med college student volunteering in the ER and trying to hold my own as an EMT student.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Long time, no see!

It's been a few years since I have been on this thing but I want to try and start writing more actively, if just so I can look back on the journey through my medical career. Since finishing my EMT certification (which seems like so long ago now!) I have began classes at the university and am now a senior (super, super senior). I work as a scribe in an Emergency Room and I LOVE IT!! I love it so much that I'm applying to medical school in May and want to go into emergency medicine and do exactly what I do now everyday for the rest of my life, only I want to be the doctor and not the scribe (less writing, more pay). I'm going to start writing in categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I saw this idea on another blog and thought it was really neat.

The good: At work this week, I have to say my favorite patient was a women who was morbidly obese. I mean seriously, seriously big. It's always a bit shocking to see a body that large and it makes me feel a little awkward for them when they are so exposed. I kept my eyes clued to my clipboard when we entered the room. She was there for redness and pain behind her right knee. She nervously laughed and made a joke about herself, as many women do for some reason as soon as a doctor goes to touch them. As we were about to leave, she shyly asked the doctor if he knew anyone that could professionally help with her weight problem. She went on to tell us that she was now entering her forties and had a six year old that she and her husband had adopted. She wanted to become healthy before it was too late and she kept mentioning how she needed to be there for her daughter. She tried to keep her tone airy and laughed as she told us about how her weight had become a problem and that she knew she needed to do something about it, but it was clear that she was holding back tears. The doctor, one that I really respect and enjoy working with, sat down and talked for a long time about her problems. I think (hope) this women left the ER today feeling inspired and motivated to make life changing decisions about her health and lifestyle. 

This is probably a weird favorite patient to have for the week but it was so refreshing to see a doctor have an honest conversation with someone about their weight. It has become a taboo topic that even doctors feel they can't bring up, even if it is only to discuss the negative effects so much weight can have on someone's health. It's easy to tell a patient to stop smoking but it's offensive to tell them to start exercising. It was refreshing to witness this conversation and gives me confidence that I will be able to gracefully bring up these kinds of topics with my future patients in a similar manner that this doctor used.

The bad: The bad this week was an older women in her late eighties that came in a few weeks after falling down an escalator. She complained of rib, wrist, and knee pain. She initially had been seen after the accident (in another country) and had a negative CT of her head but came in for a repeat exam after the pain became worse. Her daughters were at her bedside, translating for us during her exam. When the doctor pressed lightly on her abdomen, the lady nearly jumped off the bed so it was decided that she would be getting a CT of her abdomen as well. We always know the results are bad when radiology calls instead of just putting them in the electronic chart. So when the phone rang, I listened carefully to figure out which of my patients they were calling about. The doctor looked at me with wide eyes and raised eyebrows, silently pointing to the women's name on my computer screen. When he got off the phone, he let out a long sigh and a curse word. "What?" I asked. "That lady has cancer, like, everywhere." I replied with the same curse word. Her daughters were, of course, crushed. The patient's room has filled with tears and hugs and I just sat there in the corner trying to burn a hole into my clipboard with my eyes, willing myself to hold back the tear about to fall. I told the doctor that I had gotten choked up and asked him how he handled those kinds of situations. He told me he had cried exactly three times in a patient room since becoming a doctor. I wonder how many times it will happen to me. 

The ugly: The ugly this week goes to a patient who came in with the police after crashing his car into a tree and then fleeing the scene. He took a quick swim in a lake before finally being caught and hauled off to jail. On the way, he told the officer his head hurt so they brought him to the ER at about 3am. When we entered the room, he refused to answer questions or open his eyes. The doctor silently examined him and then told the officer in the room that he would be ordering a head CT and some basic lab work. It wasn't until we were half way out the door when we heard a loud, low "NO" come from the patient's mouth. "I said I don't want no picture on my head." The doctor explained how he needed to order the CT to show any trauma inside his head (not on). The patient went on to say that he didn't want a CT and that jesus would heal him. He became angry when it was explained that the reason he came here was because he was complaining of head pain. The patient began to yell that the real reason he came here was to bless us, he began to tell us about a day that had happened months ago, a day that he swore he did not hit his girlfriend. He told us that he was not driving the car, the devil was, and that he knew exactly what we were doing. He told the doctor he was pretending to be asleep but heard everything that was said and knew that we were interviewing him. Ummmmm...okay. This guy was crazy. His parents were called who assured us that he had no previous psych history and would be there in a few hours, as soon as they could. 

Other than that, nothing too memorable happened at work this week. I am sitting here watching tv and need to seriously get some sleep before my early bio lab and MCAT class tomorrow!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A new meaning of tired.

Just got home from a really good clinical. I went to the same station that I wrote about in my previous post since I had such a good experience the first time. I had amazing medics that were funny, had excellent patient care, and made a point to include me.

We started out the day with a call for a 90 year old man experiencing stroke symptoms outside of a restaurant. We arrived to find him feeling some generalized weakness, although he showed no facial droop and his speech was fine. We did a load and go, pretty routine transport. On our way back, we were driving along, and all of a sudden the medic noticed the car in front of us swerving in and out of the road, barely missing a telephone pole. Something wasn't right. He pulled over and flagged us down. I was in the back so I had no idea what we were doing parked on the side of the road until I hopped out. I put on my ugly neon orange safety vest that was about 5 sizes too big, and grabbed the equipment. The man was clammy, had a decreased level of consciousness, said he felt weird, and that we was also a diabetic. Ah ha! His sugar was probably too low, so I hurried to get a blood sugar reading and it was in the 40's. Way too low. The medic started an IV, and pumped some dextrose. Within seconds the man was alert and oriented, and his sugar shot up to 120. I was amazed at how instantly the dextrose worked. A neighbor came to drive the guy home since he refused transport and we were on our way! I thought it was cool, what are the odds that we were right behind him when he started getting hypoglycemic?

The afternoon at the station was slow, we got called out a few times but they resulted in cancellations. I mostly read my book, studied, and we watched a movie. For some reason, despite waking up at 5 in the morning, I just wasn't tired. Finally around 11:30, I crawled in bed, and had just started drifting to sleep when the tones rang out. On our way to the call, I learned it was for an 82 year old woman with abdominal pain. We arrived and walked up two flights of stairs, I was just hoping we wouldn't have to carry the lady down. She was super nice and wasn't in any pain at all when we got there. She had experienced sharp pain in her left rib that woke her up but then it went away. She didn't want to be transported but we talked her into going. It was a routine transport, she was very nice and willing to answer all of our questions. By the time we got back and finished paperwork, it was 1:30. I crawled into bed and starting dreaming when...

I somehow slept though the ridiculously loud tones but woke up to the shuffle of people around me. I was so confused since I didn't know if I was suppose to be up but i grabbed my shoes and blindly found my way to the hallway. One of the medics took one look at me with my hair looking crazy, one shoe on, and what must have been a very disoriented look and started cracking up. I tucked my shirt in and attempted to look presentable on our way to what was labeled as a "right knee injury". Whatta injury it was! We pulled up to a bar, where two drunk guys were sitting on the curb talking to the police, one was holding his leg in agony and freaked when anyone tried to look at it. When I finally did see it, I saw the strangest deformity and what I think was the bottom corner of his femur poking out. Ouch. Not that I was expecting anything different, but the guy was a total jerk. First he didn't want to be transported, saying his drunk friend was going to take him. The police shut that down real quick. So he still didn't want to be transported because he was fine and it "wasn't that bad." We couldn't leave the guy there with a bone poking out like that. The next 15 minutes were spent talking him into going with us. When he finally agreed, and he was loaded in the ambulance, he made us wait until his buddy could find his phone and keys. Well that took forever, and then FINALLY we were ready to go. I tried taking his blood pressure but he ripped it off as soon as I put the cuff on. The medic started asking for his information and the guy refused to talk. Wouldn't give us a name or anything, yelled when I fixed him up with an ice pack, and was just an all around unpleasant person. I was getting frustrated that he was wasting my precious sleeping time. When we got back to the station and finished paperwork it was 3:30 in the morning. I was so tired and fell asleep before I hit the pillow.

5:30 am. The tones rang out and I dragged my butt to the ambulance, riding in silence. I was so exhausted. We were called to a 64 year old woman that had fallen in her bathroom. We walked in to her apartment and the most disgusting smell hit me in the face. Well that woke me up. The medic smiled at me and told me this patient was all me. She was about 250 lbs, had a shirt on but was naked from the waist down. It was a lovely view. She had fallen on her knee so we got her into the stretcher, it took 5 of us. I should mention that she was hard of hearing and so it sounded like a screaming match between me and her in order to get any information across. In the back of the ambulance, she proceeded to yell that she had nerve damage, high blood pressure, diabetes, gas in the back of her head (?), acid reflux, she was going to throw up, blah blah. She had every problem in the book. All of her vitals checked out and she seemed fine other than the pain in her knee. The rest of the way she yakked/yelled about her cousin, her problems, her address, her neighbors, everything she could think of. I was happy to smile and wave goodbye as we were leaving the hospital. When we got back to the staion, I was free to leave and go home. I took a much needed shower and crashed for about 7 hours.

Overall, the clinical was great. I loved my preceptors, they taught me how to radio a report to the hospital, and let me pretty much run the calls. I really felt like I was part of the team, and will be returning on the 19th to finish up my last clinical!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sittin' on puke duty.

I experienced my first "real" call as an EMT student last weekend when I was on my second 24-hour clinical. I tried out a different station for this clinical, one a little further from home, and had an awesome experience with the staff. They were welcoming and professional. They seemed to take pride in their jobs, and had a real interest in teaching me. I felt more like I was apart of the team, compared to someone they had to drag along for the day. A much better group than I had gotten stuck with the previous weekend.

I arrived, claimed my bunk, met the staff, and made myself familiar with the location of everything in the ambulance. They went over some of the basics with me to make sure I knew how to do everything that would be expected of me. I took everyone's blood pressure for practice, took a blood glucose, spiked a bag, etc. Then we waited for a call. And waited. And waited. Then finally, at about 2 in the afternoon, we had our first call of the day! We arrived to a laundry mat for a 35 year old woman who had suffered from a seizure while doing laundry and fell while seizing.  We pulled up to find that the volunteer fire department had already started an assessment of the woman, and was doing an absolutely terrible job of it. The oxygen tank was open but somehow unattached to anything, just leaking air. I quickly hooked her up to a nasal cannula, and tried to make my way through the eight inexperienced fire fighters. I stood there and came to the conclusion that there were enough people trying to "help", and I was more in the way than anything else. So I stood next to my preceptor and waited while they back boarded the patient and loaded her onto the stretcher. It took them a few attempts, but eventually the patient was in the back of the truck and ready to go. I hopped in behind the medic and when it was just me and him, he rolled his eyes, and told me that if I learned anything, I should have learned to do everything opposite of what just happened. I laughed, began hooking our patient up to the monitor and obtained some vitals. I guess I should mention that during this entire time, our patient was completely out of it. She was in what they call a "postictal state", which is what people experience after a seizure. She was in and out of consciousness, and wasn't talking to us at all. Well, sometime during our ride to the hospital she began snapping out of it, and decided to be violent. She began ripping out the Styrofoam blocks that were supporting her head, and in her confused state, didn't understand that the sticky side was getting caught in hair. The paramedic asked me to hold her hands while he removed the blocks without chunks of hair coming with it. I'm about 110 lbs and not exactly going to be winning any strength contests anytime soon. Or any mean contests for that matter (I'm the kind of person that feels sad for a squirrel's family if I accidentally hit one with my car). So you can imagine how uncomfortable it was for me to wrestle this crazy stranger's hands away from her head. The medic finally, very sternly, ordered me to "sit on her hands" if I had to. I held them so tight, I thought I would break her wrists. After what seemed like an hour of crushing this poor lady's hands, the blocks were off, and we were nearing the hospital. We hoisted her from the stretcher to the bed, and that was that.

We had another call that afternoon for an older woman suffering from shortness of breath. She had been having anxiety and difficulty breathing. I guess after dealing with it for the last few weeks, she decided that today was the day to call 911. Her perfectly able husband could have driven her to the hospital that was no more than 5 miles away, but I guess she preferred an $800 ambulance ride instead... I will never understand some people. She was super sweet and told us about her cute grand kids on the ride over. There's nothing much else to say about that call except that no matter how much your EMT instructors assure you that oxygen is the easiest thing to hook up, and there's no way to really screw it up, there IS a wrong way to do it. I guess they just didn't think someone would be dumb enough to hook the mask up to the handle instead of the air valve. I was sitting there like an idiot wondering why I could hear air but the bag wasn't filling up. Duh.

We had a quiet night and I fell asleep around 9:30. It's really hard to fall asleep at a fire station, because I'm always expecting the alarms to go off. I never want to fall into a deep sleep and be out of it if we get a call. But, somehow, I was dead asleep around 4:30 when the tones rang out and jolted me out of bed. I heard a groan from the other side of the room, and scrambled around to find my glasses and my belt. Of course, I put my shoes on the wrong feet, and had to correct them on the way. Half way there, dispatch told us that it was a class red call, which means that it was serious. An actual life or death call. I was wide awake now. We met an officer at the door, he had gotten to the house first and told us that there was an unconscious 74 year old man lying on the couch, he was completely unresponsive. His family surrounded him, and they spoke very limited English. I am embarrassingly bad at understanding anyone with an accent. I feel terrible about having to ask people to repeat themselves a million times, so I went right to assessing airway, breathing, and circulation, letting the medic ask the questions. We packaged him up quickly and high-tailed it to the hospital. The officer rode with us for some extra help, and I quickly started hooking the guy up to the monitor and the AED pads, in case it was a cardiac situation. Then he started vomiting. There was so much of it all of a sudden, it kind of startled me. Guess whose job it was to suction? I was the lucky winner! I grabbed the suction machine and had the suction part down his throat, when surprise, no suction. The paramedics response was something like "oh crap, the battery must have not been charged, just stick your fingers down there and shovel it out". Afterwards I was so grossed out by what had just happened. But at the time everything was happening so fast, I just did it without thinking about how nasty it was. Weird how adrenaline can give you those kinds of powers. I spent the rest of the ride on puke duty. As soon as we got him to the hospital, the nurses and doctors took over. He stopped breathing and they incubated him. I got to watch. It was so cool! We got back to the station and the medic asked me if I was bored on the call. I was confused so I asked him what he was talking about. He said while I was cleaning the man's throat out, I looked super bored. I told him I was going crazy inside, and he complimented me on my ability to keep a calm face in the midst of chaos. I gave myself a mental pat on the back. I was so hyped up, there was no way I could go back to sleep, so I stayed up until it was time to leave and paid for it later when I couldn't keep myself awake during chemistry class.

Overall, it was a great clinical, and I think I'll return to the same station for my other ones. I have one more 24 and then one 12 hour station clinical, and an 8 hour hospital clinical to complete before I'm finished with my emt class. Wish me luck and lots of trauma! :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Weeeoooo Weeooo! My first clinical on an ambulance.

It has been so long since I've updated! Between the holidays and school, I just haven't had time to hit up the ER much for volunteering. I'm afraid I may have lost some of my readers with my long absence, but for those who keep up dutifully, here's what I've been up to lately:

I haven't had anytime to volunteer because I have started my EMT-B program! It has been very exciting and stressful. The class is only 3 months long, and so I am already studying for my midterm. The first half has flown by. So far we have learned about medical emergencies: allergic reactions, heart attacks, diabetes, childbirth, etc. I have learned so much, but the material has been a little dry. Next week we start the trauma emergencies, should be exciting. I have that class three days a week, and I am also taking 17 credits at the college. All that paired with the 24 hour clinicals I have to complete each week has made for a crazy schedule. 

This morning I finished up my first EMT clinical shift at a fire station. I went in from 7:00 AM on Sunday morning to 7:00 AM on Monday. I woke up at 5:30 to get ready, I was so nervous I had hardly slept a wink. I got into my uniform, grabbed my little notepad, pen, watch, stethoscope, sleeping bag, and all my other gear. I arrived at the station ten minutes early and met the entire crew, only to find out I wasn't actually working with that crew, as they were all leaving and MY crew was walking in. Great. So I reintroduced myself to everyone else, and asked for a tour of the ambulance. After making my self comfortable with where everything was located, I helped wash the trucks, and sanitized the stretcher and other surfaces with clorox wipes. Then we played the waiting game. At about 10:00, the alarms went off and I just about jumped out of my skin. Dispatch announced a location and said the patient was a 30 y/o female with chest pain. I hopped in my little jump seat in the back and rode in silence as my heart was pounding and my heart was racing. Holy crap, this is it, my very first call! We arrived to a little house where a fire engine was sitting outside. We walked in to find another crew completing an assessment on a woman lying on the couch. I took a glucose test and started her up on oxygen, while the medics prepared her for transport. In route, I took a BP (blood pressure) reading, an O2sat (the little finger thing that measures the oxygen in your blood), and applied a 4 lead (measures cardiac activity). I also was told to give her a squirt of Nitro for the chest pain. Then as soon as we had finished all of that, we were at the hospital and taking her though the double doors. The nurses got her situated, and the medics were answering questions. I wiped down the stretcher and put fresh sheets on.

The rest of my shift, we got paged for three other calls, but they ended up in refusals before we even got there. One was for a young woman who was attempting suicide by laying in the road of a cul-de-sac in a small, residential neighborhood. A major highway was less than 200 feet away, so we concluded that she was only wanting a little attention. She ended up getting a little embarrassed that 911 was called by a neighbor, and refused treatment. We had another call that lead us to a church. It was one of those churches where the gospel choir sways, and the members dance in the aisles with their hands raised high. I guess the power of the lawdy lawd almighty overcame one young woman, as she had felt a little weak and passed out. She refused treatment to a crew who had arrived before us. The last call of the night that I was hoping wouldn't get canceled was for a bar fight right after the super bowl ended, but we turned around before we even got there. There were no calls after that.

Even though I had woken up much earlier than normal that morning, I was wide awake most of the night. It didn't help that the radio was in my room, pretty much right next to the bed. And so, although the station I was at wasn't receiving any calls, I got to hear every call for the entire county that night. It was fun, at first, then it got really old at about 3 in the morning. Overall, it was a quiet night, but I got some homework done and got to watch the entire super bowl. I even won the bet on what color the Gatorade would be when they threw it on the coach.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Calling all podiatrists!

I find that there's sometimes a theme in the ER, last weekend it was pediatric cases, this weekend it's feet! Within the first twenty minutes of walking into the hospital, I had seen two broken feet, and a toe that had been severely mangled. First girl was about 17 years old, she had fallen off the roof while trying to hang Christmas lights. She had broken it, but instead of calling her mom right away to take her to the hospital, she walked to her boyfriends house, and then about a mile to Wendy's. After eating a nice hamburger, she decided it was time to call her mom. The doctor called us in to look at the foot. I was a little shocked when I looked down and saw only her big toe and her pinkie toe. She had been born with Edward's Syndrome, a genetic disease caused by an extra 18th chromosome, that had caused deformities in her fingers and toes. Poor girl, she had an awesome attitude, and was laughing about her clumsiness all the way out.

Second foot case, a young man had come in with his girlfriend. He had hurt his foot while trying to teach his girlfriend's son how to ride a bike (aw). Apparently, his girlfriend called him a big baby when he kept asking her to drive him to the ER. Eventually she gave in, and lookie there, a clean break in his third metatarsal. His girlfriend felt terrible, he'll probably be milking it for the next month, I know I would be.

Third and final foot case of the night, a woman in her forties comes in by ambulance, absolutely screaming her head off. She's babying her foot, which was wrapped up so I couldn't really see much, but the medics were rolling their eyes at the dramatics, so I assumed it wasn't too serious. She's in a dangerously short night gown, smells heavily of smoke and I think there was little alcohol on board. Apparently she was getting ready to go to bed, when her dog got out. She ran after the dog, and somehow her toe got stuck underneath the door? The pad on her toe was a little skinned, but no bone showing, and no damage. The doctor called Katie and I in when he went to stick her with the numbing medicine. He went with the standard, "This is going to pinch a little." She immediately starting crying, banging her hand on the bed, and yelling for her mommy (I'm not kidding). I had to stifle my laugh, as the doctor literally had not even touched her yet. She kind of became a pleasant person after the nerve blockers kicked in, and her boyfriend eventually came to pick her up. He came in wearing a suit, Katie and I cracked up at how different he was compared to what we had been expecting. They wrapped her up, and sent her on her way with some Lortabs.

Most disgusting case of the night, a 92 year old woman comes in via ambulance, complaining of abdominal pain.  She seemed a little out of it, but actually looked pretty good for her age. Her hair was done, she had a french manicure, her toes had been painted pink. The nurse asked if I would assist her while she tried to hook her up to a catheter. I gave her a look like, "Yeah...if I have to". The nurse started taking off the woman's pajamas, taking off her diaper, and surprise! This woman had extremely loose stool (to be medically correct). It was everywhere, I had to keep my eyes on the television as she was being cleaned up. My gag reflex was having a moment of doubt. After she was cleaned up, and the catheter was in (ouch), it became Katie and I's job to make sure she drank the contrast needed for a CT. She would drink a little sip when we initially came in, but refused to drink anything else until we left and came back later. We figured out the woman didn't have a good sense of time, so we would stand outside her room, count to ten, go back in and get her to take a sip. Then we would wait a few more seconds and repeat. As long as she thought we were leaving for awhile, she would take a sip. High-five for tricking the elderly!

The last interesting case of the night, a woman in her eighties came in with her husband after shortness of breath woke her up. She had a harsh murmur, heard over her "aortic area". She was hilarious. A nurse came in to draw blood and when she stuck her with the needle, the woman screamed at her. The nurse was startled, looking a little wide-eyed at her. The woman started cracking up, saying she was only joking. She was really patient, and let me practice a blood pressure reading on her. I even got to listen to the murmur through the doctor's stethoscope. I hope nothing serious was going on, she was so nice!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

E.D. stands for Emergency Daycare

I think every parent in the county brought their kid into the ER tonight. Seriously, at least fifteen kids came in over the four hours I was there. This is pretty unusual, seeing as I've probably noticed two kids in there prior to tonight. I was kind of excited by this, as my main interest is in pediatrics. That, and my two favorite doctors were working tonight.

One little girl came in after falling off a yoga ball, and fracturing her humorous. She was a sweetie, nine years old. Her entire family was there: mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, brother, sister. I got to watch as a paramedic splinted her arm, and I got to hold her arm steady as he did it. I could tell she was in pain, but tried to be brave. Turns out, she needed surgery and since our hospital doesn't have a pediatric orthopedist, she was transferred to a large children's hospital in a nearby city.

A little boy came in, he had just turned one at the beginning of the month. He had a small laceration to the forehead that required three small stitches. According to mom, he had just started walking and took a tumble into the corner of a table. No biggie, she was really calm and we talked for awhile about her little boy. He was super cute and only cried for a minute after the doctor stuck him with numbing medication.

One mom, however, was not so calm. Her little baby had a slight fever and a cough. The nurse listened to the lungs, everything sounded clear, and his stats came back normal except for the fever. While something minor was probably going on, the baby was in no immediate danger. When the nurse tried to explain this to the mom, you would've thought she had just told her the baby needed immediate open heart surgery or something else of that scale. This mom was FREAKING out, nurses were trying to calm her down and reassure her that kids get coughs and that he was going to be okay, but this lady wasn't having it. She was completely convinced her baby was having a seizure. Um...okay? He wasn't showing any signs of that, he was actually sleeping pretty soundly in spite of the commotion around him. I can understand a new mom overreacting, but where the heck did she get the random seizure idea from?

Last interesting case of the night, Dr. C came up to me with a piece of paper. The words "Pseudotumor Cerebri" were written on it. He told me to look it up and report back to him with questions. Neato! I found that it's a condition effecting the pressure in the brain. It causes terrible headaches and blurred vision. The pressure presses on the eyes and can eventually cause blindness without surgery. Doctor's are still trying to figure out the exact cause of it. Sometimes it can be caused from medications, obesity, or pregnancy. Sometimes it can appear to be caused from nothing in particular. I reported back with my findings. I guess a twelve year old boy came in who had been diagnosed with this condition. I was curious as to how they decipher this from just the run of the mill migraine. The doctor explained that there are many tests done. This little boy was diagnosed after a lumbar puncture and a series of eye tests. 

On a personal note, I have registered for EMT classes next semester. I'm still going to school full time to eventually become a PA (physician assistant), but I'll be doing a three month EMT program at night and on Saturdays in order to gain some more experience in the health field. I'll continue volunteering for the time-being, but this blog may go from adventures in the ER to adventures in the ambulance by summertime. Wish me luck and keep reading!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wheelchair turned racecar

Finally, nice patients! My faith in humanity has been somewhat restored after all the appreciative people we had tonight. After a busy, depressing weekend last Friday, this week was steady but not chaotic. I was constantly transporting people to radiology, making beds, or chatting with the nurses. Everybody seemed to be a good mood, nice patients equals nice nurses! I also brought in homemade muffins for everyone, the over-night staff always appreciates something to munch on at three in the morning.

The one downer of the night was an older man, he was ninety years old, born July 4th, 1920. Nobody knew if there was actually anything wrong with him but they sent him to CT just to check.  He was very cold (it's freezing in there) and kept asking for more blankets. I tried to make him as comfy as possible and he looked content on the way to the CT test. The radiologist there that night was by herself and since the man couldn't slide from his bed to the testing bed, Katie and I helped her move him. As soon as we lifted him he started moaning in pain. It was a smooth transition, he was just older and couldn't manage much sudden movement. I tried to awkwardly smile and reassure him that the test would be fast and painless. Poor guy, for the next few minutes I watched this little frail man going through the CT machine and all I could do is ponder on the type of life he had led. He had once been a young boy full of life. I wondered what he was like back then. Was he was a wild man that lived on the edge? Did he ever have a family of his own? Did he ever think he would be an old man unable to sit up in a hospital bed without any family in sight? He made me sad, not because he was in any pain or had some sort of disease, just because he was old and frail and that wasn't fair. It's not fair to grow old. I made sure to visit him on the way out. I don't know if he even knew I was there but I gave him a little pat on the arm just in case.

After having said all of that, I don't feel like my calling in life is to work at a nursing home for a living. God bless those who do, but I just couldn't handle it. I feel like it's much easier for me to communicate with children, and so right now my focus is in pediatrics for my future career. When I started college my dream was to be an early education teacher. After working at a daycare for nearly two years, I realized that I did not want to be disciplining three-year-old children for the rest of my life. I did realize, however, that I had a way of calming down sick kids. When someone fell off the monkey bars, I was the first to soothe them and stop the tears. When more serious things happened (one child fell off the swings and broke their arm), I remained calm and kept smiling as to not panic the kid. While somebody dialed 911, I held the boy and made sure his arm didn't move. This is when I found my gift of communicating with children, and found my interest in making sick children feel better. I shifted my focus from teaching to medicine, so far, I am very happy with that decision.

Tonight in the ER, a little boy was brought in by a family friend that was watching him for the night. He was worried when the boy's cough turned from a small "ahem" to a deep hacking. The doc ordered an x-ray to see if there was fluid in his lungs. I went to transport him to radiation, and he was scared to death of me. He refused to get out of bed, and covered his head with a spider man blanket. I smiled, and somehow convinced him that the wheelchair was pretty much the same thing as a race car, and that we were going to take awesome pictures of his tummy. He thought that sounded neat, so he reluctantly climbed up in the chair and I wheeled him over to radiation, asking him about his favorite action heroes along the way. By the time the tests were done, he was all smiles, and showed off his new collection of Disney stickers to the nurses we passed on the way back to his room. I later found out that he didn't have pneumonia and left with directions to get some children's cough medicine. He was my favorite patient of the night!

As the clock stroke midnight, Katie and I decided it was probably time to go. We were tired and getting giggly. We were getting so silly over nothing, I'm sure some of the nurses were rolling their eyes at us. Oh well, we left and may come back next weekend for a later shift. Midnight until 4 AM? I'm going to check with the volunteer coordinator to see if it's allowed, but I don't see why not. The nurse's say things get interesting at around 2, so we shall see!