Mar 7 2015

Right Place. Right Time.

I saw someone die today.

It’s something I see nearly every day. It’s a normal part of the cycle of life, and within the hospital we have so many tools at our fingertips to keep it at bay. We can allow it or we can fight it. We regulate it.

Outside of the hospital… is where things get scary, we don’t always have everything we wish we did. Death is not regulated, it’s messy, it’s brutal.

11024636_10100310680795281_3078368369315217540_nI love my job, I love the skills I have learned and the years of training I have gone through. But using these skills off duty always leaves its mark. I saw someone die today. And there was nothing I could do. Nothing. Which burns a hole in my heart and brain. What could I have done differently? Could I have prevented the loss of another soul?

I saw someone die today.

But I also helped save the lives of many. I witnessed this accident. Actually, if my car was only 2 cars ahead of where we were stopped, it would have been our bodies laying in the morgue and not his.

The second I saw it my EMT brain took over, and I jumped out of my car, yelling for sawyer to call 911, immediately accessing the scene and triaging within my head. I found myself running towards the red Vibe, the first vehicle that was hit, and the one with the most visible damage. I saw many others running to the silver Malibu, that had hit the car I was nearing. The driver, a middle aged male was slumped over, I braced his c-spine and felt for a Carotid pulse. None. Radial. None. Femoral. None. Shit.

I hear screaming. “What do we do next?” Over and over again, it’s repeated. I suddenly realize they are asking me. My brain untunnels. I quickly scan the scene and see smoke coming from the vehicle that took this mans life. I direct all the others to check for breathing and consciousness of everyone in all of the other cars as I run towards the smoking car.

Thankfully, two gracious souls had already began to extricate the elderly couple from the car. The passenger has a gnarly head wound and looks like he’ll pass out any second. I yell for more hands to come help. The driver is a larger woman, for which I am thankful that adrenaline give you super powers, and that she had a seated walker in her car that miraculously was not crushed. It took what seemed like forever to remove her from the vehicle, she kept grabbing the seat belt, almost as though she though we were kidnapping her.

Eventually, we got her, and her mangled legs out of the car, as we quickly as possible, wheeled away to safety. She kept mumbling that she “couldn’t find the brakes”, and that “Peanuts” was in the car. I turn around only to see the engine compartment spewing flames. And thankful to see a young woman carrying a shaking poodle walking towards us.

Taking a quick traumatic assessment of her mental status and injuries, I noted a slow pulse, her hyperventilating and pinpoint pupils. Great, she’s going into shock, and I don’t even hear sirens yet. About 2 questions in, just to keep her talking, I finally hear sirens.

Praise the good Lord, Hallelujah!

I begin breaking down the situation for the Police, and that I believe this lady should be transported first. She continues to panic. Do you know how hard it is to calm am elderly woman going into shock is?? We get her ready for transport and she refuses to let go of my hand, stating I can’t leave her. I finally convinced her that she will be ok, and I can’t come.

We wait, for what seems like hours for the humane society to come retrieve their dog, and to give our eyewitness statements to the police. Which is when the officer tells me that my actions kept many alive today. My actions. My situational awareness. My directing of responders.

Regardless of training, isn’t it something anyone would do?

If it was me in one of those affected vehicles, I hope someone else would have done the same thing.

Jan 12 2012

dearest victor…

The other night, we had a tragedy occur, we lost a loved one, in our own home. The un-timely death rocked everyone, and everything in its quake. I wish I could put to words what this experience was like, but really it just emotionally broke me. Losing something you have spent years with will do that to you. My mind keeps spinning thinking what I did wrong, “was the water too warm?”, “Did I not handle you carefully enough?”, “Did we use you too much?”. The moment you met your final demise, Victor, well, a little part of me died. I should have seen it coming, my sinuses had been feeling it for days, yet, I failed to notice that maybe you, dear Victor, were not feeling well either. And for that, I had failed you.

What would I do without your humidification in my life? I’m not going to lie, you were not my “reason to breathe”, but surely you had done sooooo much to assist in making it easier for me everyday. *sigh*  And so, I had to move on. Blogosphere, Meet, Victor 2.0.

Oct 21 2011

Adventures in Anesthetics

As many of you know, I am a lightweight. Seriously, a total light weight. I should be labeled the queen of the lightweights. Bahaha. See? Crap, it’s not even official, and I am already drunk with power. But what power one would ask?

In all honesty though, one simple margarita inevitably leaves me giggling and flushed for the next few hours. Make it two, and I’ll be dancing on your antique dining room table. So just think about what could happen when you exchange the tequila for some anesthetics? A tiny little bit goes a loooooong way.

A few weeks ago, my dearest otolaryngologist (ear, nose + throat doctor) decided that after a kajillon and a half respiratory infections this year, it was finally time to remove my tonsils. On a beautiful Wednesday morning in September, we packed up and wandered off to have a “fun” morning at the hospital. After checking in, signing my life away in consent forms, having labs drawn, getting hooked up to some delicious LR, and donning that ever so sexy blue hospital gown, we waited. Sawyer, being the sweetheart he is, threatened to take video of me in the Recovery Room. It seemed like forever we were waiting, but my sweet Pre-Op Nurse kept us company (along with my MockingJay book – which I still haven’t finished). It wasn’t long before they came to take me to the OR.

While up in the OR holding area, the team all came to chat with me about the procedure, and what to expect when entering the actual OR – the EKG monitor, pulse oximiter, blood pressure cuff, the tube that would be going down my throat… Oh – and that it was going to be REALLY COLD. They loaded me up with some more warm blankets, and told me it wouldn’t be much longer. My sweet anesthesiologist Susan, came and spoke to me one last time before she began to wheel me in, gave me a few puffs of an inhaler, and some xanax, to “take the edge off”. Well it worked, because that is all I remember…

The next thing I remember is waking up in the PACU, to beeping noises of the telemetry, and my sweet Post-Op Nurse trying rather unsuccessfully keep my oxygen mask on my face. I remember her telling me that the surgery went well, but they had a hard time getting me to wake up afterwards had to use the reversal meds more than they had expected. Yay Narcan! (As I have said, a little bit goes a long way with this girl). Looking back it makes me laugh at how I usually am in the reversed role of holding oxygen on my confused patients faces, not the one continuously trying to pull it off. My lovely sister, Kristin + a close friend, Teana where both able to sneak some hugs in before I was wheeled down to Recovery to meet up with my husband.

Apparently, little mrs dazed and confused kept asking if they could get me a latte, unfortunately, I am still waiting for it, I swear she said she would be right back

The next few days were a complete fog, consisting of lots of meds, pain, blood, pain, the need for some serious NT suctioning,  and more pain. Somewhere in between the fog, I had  posted this on facebook:

Monday morning forecast: mental focus is cloudy with a chance of drowsy + scattered naps throughout the day.

It was not pleasant. Everything they say about adults having a harder time recovering from surgery is 100%. Kids recover so much faster – if you have the option, have your kids tonsils removed while they are young. I was a bad patient. I was very much not patient with my sweet husband who took a week working from home to take care of me. I owe him the world for putting up with my 2 am screams for pain medicine when I still had hours left before I could take more medicine. I know I scared him a few times. I am a very independent soul, I have never been one to ask for help. My sweet husband joked around a few times that we should leave the “fall risk” band on that the hospital had put on me in post-op. Maybe we should have, not like it would have helped other than to remind me that I was not in my right mind every time I clambered out of bed and stumbled down the hall towards the bathroom. Thankfully, my footsteps are not that quiet and Sawyer came running at the first sound of my feet hitting the floor. He saved me from many head on collisions with the counter-top even if only by a few inches.

Needless to say,  I am very glad that I am now, fully recovered, and feeling much better. Although I really miss having a diet consisting of coconut sorbet + smoothies.

Apr 5 2011

the hardest part

Death effects us all, whether its the loss of a closest friend, a dearest family member, a friend of a friend, or even that of a complete stranger.

It is impossible to not be moved, whether we are sighing with gratitude for the relief of their pain. Or we are grieving the empty hole in our hearts, and empty bed in our rooms. We.Are. Affected.

My heart aches for the tragedies I have seen unfold in the lives of those I love, those I work with. Young people taken from us in their prime. Many before they were given the chance to take a first breath. And those taken from us as their lives have come full circle. It pains me, it stabs deep within my flesh + bones to individuals ache from withering loss.

I have working a lot with palliative care lately, and  I can assure you, it is really really difficult. I know for a fact that end of life care is something that I could not do long term. When I decided that I wanted to work in the medical field (even the social work field) I knew it was because I not only wanted to save lives, I wanted to make them better. I wanted to not only make them capable of living, but worth living. That whole thing about making a better tomorrow, we will achieve it. I am not just pooping rainbows here. However, the part I overlooked was that at times, you are not only going to have people that can’t get any better, sometimes you’ll met people who don’t want to get better. I always knew there were lives that couldn’t be saved. I always knew there were people who’s quality of life would never improve no matter the amount of fighting to change it, sometimes you just have to give up. Sometimes you have to stop fighting. I struggle to come to terms with it. Standing at a patients bedside with unlimited amounts of supplies that could keep someone breathing, but not being able to do anything to save them. Sometimes you have to let go. Its so hard to speak with a grieving family and not be able to say you did everything possible, even when it was within the lines of the patients/family’s requests.  Now, I am not talking about medical ethics, or what is right and wrong in these situations – Nor, do I want to get into a debate about them. I am coming merely from an emotional standpoint of a {very} emotional being. Im not sure if its always the best quality, but bygone, I can’t just empathize with a grieving family, my hormones jump straight to sympathy. Leaving me many a times, holding back tears at the bedside.

I can’t even imagine what it would be like to see a family member suffering, choking on every breath. My heart fights against my conscience, I would want to say-that I would want the medical staff should do everything to save that persons life. But for the mere days, weeks, or months, I may receive – its it worth it? Of course, for me, selfishly I would say yes, every dear moment is worth it. For me. But what about for them? What would their quality of life be? What if they were never able to have a chance post-extubation? Would I really want to put my dear sweet family member through all that? I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t want that for me, why would I wish it upon another? Is it terrible to say that only if the prognosis is good, that I would want everything done?

Mar 3 2011

7 day slumber.

This past wednesday, I came home from working a graveyard shift, feeling a little more weaker than usual, I clambered into bed + doozed off quickly. I awoke 4 hours later with gut wrenching pain, + nausea. Something was not right. I passed it off as a stomach bug, or some bad food, chugged back some pepto bismol + ibuprofen and decided that it was not going to get worse. ha. Boy was I wrong. Mere hours later my body was shaking, shivering. I swear to death that the thermostat was reading wrong as it bodly stated it was 72* in the house. I was in the middle of a blizzard in a swim suit, as I threw on more + more layers of clothing + enough blankets to create a suana in the room. Its just a cold. Its just a cold. I told my self over + over again.

My stomach still in pain, and my  bowels seemingly attempting to make an escape from my core. I reached for the thermometer. Beep. The number glared at me from the screen flashing its  indigo light – 102.4. I can’t deny it anymore, it was definetly not just a cold. I knew the symptoms, whether I wanted to believe it or not. I called up my doctor + ran to the clinic to get tested.  If you can avoid it, at all costs I urge you to avoid the test (many providers with prescribe flu medications with suspition of the flu + do not require the test – although many employers will require documentation of the flu test). The test is quick, but horrible. HORRIBLE. I tell you. Yes, that entire nine inch swab goes up your nose until it can’t go any farther. Ow. my.nose.was.violated.

The doctor told me it would take about 24hours to get the results, but would started treating for the flu immeaditely. She wrote me my prescriptions + I was on my way. Little known fact: Most Utah pharmacies don’t keep tamiflu in stock all season – call before you go. so, I have the flu – life can’t get much worse can it? Yes. Yes, it very much can. You know what is worse than having the flu? Having the flu + having to go on a wild goose chase get your medications.

The next morning the doctor called me, my results had came back. Influenza B. Pleasent surprise, right? I needed to be isolated for atleast 5 days. Great – I thought, I can get so much reading done. NOT. This is litterally how I spent the next 5 following days + nights, up for half hour periods ever 6-8 hours to take meds + attempt to eat. Which usually returned itself unpleasently moments later. Peaceful right?

But in all reality, it looked alot more like this:

It’s Thursday now, one week later + I am finally feeling like I actually belong in the land of the living.  Today was my first day back at work with much thanks to some major TLC from my mother + fiancee; tamiflu; and my ever trusty vicks humidifier (God send it is really). Needless to say, I was exhausted ALL DAY. Goodness, Its hard to get back into the swing of things after being comatose for a week.