Tuesday 25 April 2017

Rural hospital diaries, vol. 2

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m sitting out on the patio, enjoying my first cup of coffee. It’s the first time in our new home that it’s warm enough at 7:45am to sit outside, so it feels very special.
Suddenly, the phone rings. And I just know.

“Hey, it’s emerg. Can you come in as quickly as possible? We need you STAT.” I say I’ll be right there, and race to my room to get dressed, hugely relieved that I already had a shower this morning. There are days where a shower is optional, but today wasn't one of them.  I pull my wet hair into a messy ponytail, throw my toothbrush in my purse and run out of the house. I’ll brush my teeth at work.
In the car I eat an apple from my lunch bag (which I packed the night before, a miracle), and then pop some gum to make my breath less atrocious until I get a chance to brush my teeth properly.

I make it to the hospital in record time. Instead of the usual calmness of a Sunday morning, it’s mayhem. The patient is sitting up in his stretcher, gasping for breath, while two doctors, four nurses, and several EMTs work feverishly on him to help him breathe. I dump my stuff on the desk, and grab the portable x-ray machine to do the chest x-ray they called me in for.

The patient is in such critical condition that he needs to be sedated, and a tube is inserted through his mouth into his trachea to get air into his lungs. One lung was collapsed, and they re-inflate it. Another tube is inserted into the side of his chest to drain fluid from his lungs. After every new tube, I go in for another chest x-ray to check for proper placement.

In the meantime, the High Acuity Response Team has arrived. HART consists of highly trained critical care nurses, who care for severely ill patients during their transport to a higher-acuity hospital.
Watching them work is a thing of beauty. The team clearly works together often, because each person anticipates what the other needs before they even ask for it. They are calm, quick and efficient, and it looks like a dance, with one person leading and the other following smoothly.

They insert a central chest line through his neck into his jugular vein, and I'm taking my last x-ray on this patient to check for placement again.

Then they leave. After two intense hours, the sudden silence is unsettling. We all look at each other, and breathe a collective sigh of relief. Housekeeping is called in to clean up the trauma bay, and I finally get a chance to brush my teeth.

After lunch, the combination of digesting food and the aftermath of the prolonged adrenaline rush from the morning hits me hard. In between patients, I find myself sitting motionless on my desk, staring into space, not doing anything. I'm literally just sitting. It's a bizarre feeling, one that I have rarely encountered before I started this job. But it looks like I better get used to it, because this is the second time in a month that I feel like that.

Eventually I force myself to get up and tackle the long list of housekeeping tasks we do on Sundays. The rest of my shift goes by quickly, and at 5pm, I'm done.

But not for long. We've just finished dinner and I'm stretched out on my bed, ready for some Netflix, when the phone rings.
"Hi Miriam, it's emerg, we have some x-rays for you."
Oh, the joys of being on call. I have to return twice more that Sunday, and when I'm finally back in bed at 1:30am, I feel like I have worked a week instead of a day.

But you know what?
It's thrilling. And also ironic. The girl who has successfully avoided answering the phone for most of her life, now has to sleep with it next to her pillow. Life has a twisted sense of humour, doesn't it?

Having been at my small town hospital for almost 3 months, I'm starting to feel at home here. All the staff knows me, even people I have never seen before. Patients are curious about the new face, and I have repeated the story of where I'm from and how we ended up here dozens of times.

I'm so grateful for how things are unfolding. It feels good.

I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Rural hospital diaries, vol. 1

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  1. I'm glad you are liking your job so well. I don't know if I could handle the intense stress of being on call like that!

    1. Thankfully, I'm not on call that often. Last weekend it was 3 nights in a row, but mostly I only do 1 per week or so. That's totally doable!

  2. So thankful for people who can do what you do. I am the worst in panic situations and can't even imagine working in such a stressful environment!

    1. Adrenaline goes a long way. It will make you forget hunger, thirst, or exhaustion! Quite amazing. But the crash comes later, and always with a vengeance: I usually go to bed as soon as I get home after these intense shifts!

  3. Whoa! That does sound like a week in a day. So emotionally and physically exhausting. I'm glad you're loving your role and settling in well.

    1. The secret is: I only work 2-3 days a week right now. Don't tell anyone! You know, with 4-5 days off per week, you really can do anything. It probably won't last, but as long as it does, I'll enjoy the heck out of it!

  4. Sounds like things are falling into place and you are right at home! Jealous of your bravery!

    1. Thanks Linds! It's only scary if we let our thoughts get away on us. If you expect thibgs to work out, they usually will!

  5. Pre-hospital care has become a vital service that allows a severely injured or ill person to be safely taken to a nearby hospital. It is equally important as an emergency hospital care, if not more.


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