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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Death, Bike Crashes, Flexor Tenosynovitis, Oh My!

Tonight was by far the craziest night in the ER I have been a part of so far. There were so many things that happened. I think I'll type them in a list format. I feel like it's easier to read, and an easier way to organize all my jumbled thoughts.

1. Dr. C (I don't want to use full names in case this doctor is ever googled. Even though I would never portray any of the staff in a negative way, I would still feel weird for them to be reading my private thoughts about their work!) invited us into one of the patient rooms to shadow him and a nurse during a procedure that involved slicing open a disgustingly large abscess on a man's upper thigh. They started out by numbing the area, this was done by sticking needles straight into the giant lump. After that, they sliced right down the middle of the abscess, puss exploded out of it. This man was clearly in pain, and to add insult to injury, the doctor had to insert his finger into the mess and swab the inside, making sure it was fully drained. This was absolutely repulsive. I consider myself to have a very strong stomach, but even this made it churn a little. This poor man was probably over 250 lbs, had sleeves of tattoos and a mean looking eyebrow piercing. He looked tough, but when they stuck that needle into his leg, he hollered like baby. I later went to talk to him when he was cleaned up and waiting for his discharge papers. He was super nice and appreciative of the doctor's help. He even apologized for yelling. Ha! I told him no worries, I would have been yelling too.

2. A man came in after he went for a drunken bike ride and crashed. It was quite the bike crash! He claimed to have just "fallen over", but his faced was all bloodied up, his nose broken and swollen to the size of a golf ball. I thought he had gotten in a fight, but when I heard it was a bike crash, I almost had to laugh. I guess drinking and biking can be as dangerous as drinking and driving. They should start a campaign in schools about that. He got cleaned up and was sent to cat scan just to be sure his brain wasn't hurt in the accident. During the CT, they found a small gap that looked as if it could have been caused by cancer. They admitted him upstairs to have a oncologist take a closer look.

3. Dr. C found Katie and I to ask us to look up a condition for him. He wrote down "Infectious Flexor Tenosynovitis" on a note card. He wanted a definition, the four Kanavel symptoms, and a photo. I'm not sure if he actually needed us to do this, or if it was his way of making us feel involved. Either way I really appreciated it. He later let us in the patient room of the man whom he had suspected of having this infectious flexor thing. He asked us if we thought that's what it was, according to our research. It sure looked like it, and he agreed. Infectious Flexor Tenosynovitis is caused from an infection in the finger. The finger swells up and the patient is unable to bend it. This man had let it go a little too long and his finger was HUGE! On the side of it, there was this nasty open scab looking thing, it looked like something was eating away his flesh. Yuck. The man was younger and tried to smoothly flirt with Katie and I. I can't speak for Katie, but I know I'm attracted to men with sausage fingers and gross flesh eating infections. Oh, and he worked on a shrimp boat for a living. Super attractive... Not!
4. On a more depressing note, an older man passed away in the ER tonight. I'm still not quite sure how I feel about it, as this was the first time I was there to see someone come in alive and leave dead. In a weird way, it was somewhat peaceful. I've always thought of a patient dying as this hugely chaotic scene with doctors and nurses running around. That may sometimes be the case, but not with this man. He came in from a nursing home, was eighty-nine years old, and had a ton of problems. They had him hooked up to all sorts of things, it was a sad sight, this frail old man with an endless amount of tubes and wires coming out of his body. His nurse went in to check on him, then came out and told the doctor that he wasn't breathing. I stopped making the bed I was working on, and waved Katie over to eavesdrop. A few nurses went in, one came out looking at me and made wide eyes while running a finger across her neck. Clearly the gesture for "he's a goner". I was a little curious, so I asked a nurse if I could go in the room. She said no problem, and I told Katie she had to go with me. It wasn't a big deal, he just looked like he was sleeping, didn't look any different than he had an hour ago. It was clearly his time, and I hoped he was in a better place. I'm not sure why, but I kind of expected for the attitude in the ER to become solemn for some reason. However, the nurses kept joking around, the doctors continued rolling their eyes at rude patients. Life went on, as this man lay lifeless, waiting for someone from the morgue to come get him.

These are the kind of nights I really enjoy.  I learned a lot, and saw some new, interesting things. I was a little reluctant to leave and definitely excited to come back next week!

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