How to Save a Life
As doctors, our ultimate goal is to save lives. But sometimes, no matter how hard we fight for our patients’ lives, it is not absolute that we’ll succeed. Their conditions are not always within our capacities.
June 6 was for me my most eventful duty. Our responsibilities usually start at 6pm monitoring wards we’re assigned to. I was the labrat for that duty night, meaning I didn’t have to monitor, except I’ll be in charge of most if not all insertions, extractions and other procedures.
At around a few minutes past 5pm, I was called by the nurse in charge of the female ward asking me if she can borrow a pulse oximeter. Apparently, there was a patient hooked to a mechanical ventilator who seemed to be not breathing. I rushed to the patient, who was at that time already pulseless and cold. I immediately called the senior intern and knew it was a code. Everyone ran to the bed, and did advanced life support to revive the patient. Sadly, she didn’t make it. After 30 minutes of trying, she gave up. Her husband was crying, asking us to do more. But her relatives already told the residents to stop. It was expected. The patient has been confined for more than 5 months, comatose, and was just dependent on her mechanical ventilator. Even my co-interns were crying. She has been our patient even when we were still under the surgery service. We left the family to give them some private time.
After less than an hour, I was again called by the nurse to see another female patient. She was complaining of difficulty of breathing. Again, I ran together with a co-intern and a senior intern and checked on her. I remembered getting a respiratory rate of 65. She was having an arrest. In a couple of minutes a code was again called. We tried our best, but after more than half an hour, the patient expired. As an intern, barely starting a career in the medical field, I would admit that it’s exciting when something like this comes up. But, 2 codes in a span of 2 hours is really something terrifying. Males usually do chest compressions for circulation. It looks easy when you see it on tv or in the movies, but it’s not actually the physical factor that’s tough, but your drive to keep the patient alive. I guess it’s the same for all those involved in the process.
They say it comes in three’s. After a little more than an hour, a male patient in the ICU became hypotensive (low blood pressure) and bradycardic (low heart rate). His vital signs dropped even more. I was inserting a foley catheter that time, when the nurse told me to rush to the ICU for another code. This time, we were able to revive the patient. Just a few, minutes after, the patient was pulseless. The patient’s family decided not to do resuscitation, and we complied. I was already thinking if someone from our duty group did something bad the night before. I actually don’t believe these myths, but at that time, it may have been true. It’s painful to see 3 people die in less than 4 hours of our duty. The thing is, we were closely monitoring our patients. It’s probably already “their time”, and incidentally we were the ones on duty. The rest of our duty night was benign.
I thought three was the final number. Unfortunately, in the morning, another patient expired. Again, we tried our best, did our share of life saving, but as I said, it’s not always up to us, doctors. We study diseases, not sleep, monitor patients, do rounds, prescribe drugs, perform surgery. But at the end of it all, we’re just humans, we are not gods. However, despite these unfortunate events, our goal remains to be, to save lives. And however tough it may be, it is a commitment we’ll hold for the rest of our medical careers.
One of the reasons why I CAN’T be a doctor. I can’t handle things like this =/ Doctors need to be tough, and I am not tough. I may look the part, but I will crumble.