Thursday, June 21, 2012

Never giving up

I'm at the Observation Unit (OU) of the Emergency Room, monitoring some of the patients' vital signs. It's 11 pm. The air is humid, smelling of blood, sweat, vomit, antiseptics, all at the same time. All stretcher beds are occupied. Everyone on my team is busy with something—extracting blood, writing lab request forms, taking clinical histories, or stitching head lacerations of drunk motorcycle drivers from Cavite.

Near the OU entrance is a 40-something woman crying silently beside the intubated man on the steel stretcher. With an Ambu bag, she manually pumps air into a man's mouth. She has been doing so for two hours now. Her hands must be sore.

Hours ago he was rushed to the hospital after falling from the fourth floor of a building. He was a construction worker. He would leave for the city during weekdays to work on month-long projects where he earned some money to provide for his family's needs.

Her face is soaked in tears. I probe as to how she understands her husband's condition. Normally the doctors explain the prognosis to the family members—that resuscitation can be performed, but that the patient, when revived, is expected to have deteriorated brain function, even to the point of being in a vegetative state.

In her husband's case, the critical period between the fall and any useful clinical intervention has long passed. When he was first seen at the ER, he was already declared, in layman's terms, brain dead.

I feel for his radial pulse, which is so faint I have to ask a friend to confirm. His blood pressure is, at best, palpatory. He does not breathe on his own. It will take a miracle to bring him back.

Using Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' theory on the stages of grief, I think the woman is still in denial. She refuses to believe that her husband is gone. She agrees to have blood work-ups done. She even avails of a respiratory ventilator machine. Meanwhile her husband's condition is not improving.

Or maybe her grief has not fully obliterated her hope. Wasn't it Alexander Pope who wrote, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast?"

I ask myself what I would do when faced with a similar situation.

Silently I pray that God grant the patient's family comfort in this time of sorrow.

I fill out the monitoring sheet, make my way out of the OU, endorse my findings to my superiors, and head over to the Operating Room where a man who was stabbed in the abdomen is being sedated.

It's going to be a long night.

2 comments:

  1. i pray that the woman will have the strength to face the reality when it comes... btw, nagcomment ako dito primarily dahil sa 3 words na binanggit mo: motorcycle, drunk, at Cavite. ganon ba lagi ang profile sa ER?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good thing you pointed that out, Schubs. It's what they call the Trauma Triad, or something to that effect. May Trauma Pentad pa nga daw eh.

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