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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Not working hard and appreciating it

I woke up early today, and the first thing that popped into my mind was the image of a little boy we had taken care of a while back. I decided as soon as I got to work I was going to check on him via his mother's blog.

Now here I sit. It is freezing cold here in the RT cave. Even with the thermometer turned up to 85 I can still feel a draft coming from the window. And, considering we only have seven patients on our RT list, I have plenty of time to sit here at this computer, which sits on a table right in front of that window with the draft.

Seven patients seems like a lot these days, considering when I came in Thursday night we only had 2 patients. By the end of that night we were up to a whopping three patients, the third of whom actually took up some of my time during that night, but it was still a major task staying awake by morning.

Last night our patient load escalated all the way up to four, but two were QID and one Q4 W/A, so I ended up not giving any of them treatments all night because I'm certainly not going to wake a patient up whose sleeping comfortably. So, what I ended up with was a hell of a lot of time on my hands.

By six in the morning, after spending the majority of the night right here completing some projects and, of course, just a little blogging, I was feeling very sleepy. This wouldn't bother me so much if I were actually doing something, but since I was sitting around so much I needed tooth picks to keep my eyes open, and what I looked forward to more than anything was going home for no better reason than to give my butt cheeks a rest.

I really haven't had an interesting case worth writing about lately, which is unfortunate because I have the time to write. The ironic thing is, if I worked at a larger hospital like some of you other RT and RN bloggers out there, I'd probably have many interesting cases to write about, but no time to write. So, I suppose, that's life.

Last night around six, eyes burning, I slouched back in a chair behind the critical care desk and had a real philosophical discussion about God. It seems when you are most tired, like say after 2 a.m., is when these discussions occur. The discussion seemed really enlightening at the time, and I thought I might write about it later, but, for the life of me, I can't remember the details.

Oh, I suppose this might have something to do with the fact that at around 6:30 it seemed the discussion rested mostly between my two RN co-workers, and I decided to rest my eyes a minute. I will do this just a few minutes, I thought, and then I'll go out and do my QID treatments."

I opened my eyes and looked up at the clock: it read 6:55. My co-workers were still rapt in their discussion. I don't think they even had a clue I had fallen asleep.

Here I sit; the cool draft causing me to shake slightly as I click away these words. I'll eat my lunch soon, finish off my two treatments, and then I'll end up right back here for a few hours unless the emergency room finds other things for me to do.

And I feel fortunate nonetheless. When I have nights like this, at work, I think of how many 18 hour days my dad put in, and his dad before him. And I think how many people have sacrificed their lives over the years so I can have this. I thank them.

Thinking of this makes me appreciate all the more how wonderful a life I have, especially to have a great job like I do.

This reminds me of the little boy again, so I clicked on his mother's blog.

He was transferred from out services to the Big City hospital and placed on an ECMO machine within a few days. If you're not familiar with ECMO, that's a machine that removes the blood from your body and oxygenates it, giving your lungs and heart a rest and time to heal.

She wrote how she was informed by the doctors that there was a chance the boy would survive, but it would be a long and difficult road.

Going on an ECMO machine is nothing like the ECMO machine used in an episode of ER that I watched two nights ago, where the patient was put on an ECMO machine right in the emergency room and taken off five hours later. This boy's doctor said it would be a minimum of three weeks.

I know very little about ECMO other than what I was taught in a brief two hour lesson when I was in RT school. I did see one once when I was an RT student at a large University pediatric hospital in our state, and what I remember is a roomful of machines, IV's and other machines and, right in the middle, this tiny patient.

In doing my research, I learned that there were other children who had swallowed kerosene and survived. Two I read about were placed on ventilators, and another was on an ECMO, and all three of them survived.

This mother was well aware of this, and this gave her hope.

I read today the child passed away.

Now I didn't know this child, as I don't know probably 99% of the people who walk through these doors, but it's very nice when a family keeps us updated on people we cared for, even patients we stabilize in a few short hours and ship out.

While I feel for the child, and especially the mother, this situation acts as a reminder to us all how fragile life is. It provides me a greater appreciation of how wonderful a life I have, and how great a job we have, even while I sit here freezing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was wondering about that little boy you mentioned a few weeks ago, myself. That poor mother--his whole family, really. Thanks for posting this.