Thursday, September 3, 2009

Swan Song

My last post over at the WebMD-sponsored medical student blog, The Differential went up on September 1. My thank-you to readers marks the end of my first honest attempt to tailor my writing for a general audience. But don't worry: I'm hooked! Look for other ways for me to participate in written media over the coming months and years. I'll keep you updated. I cannot stop writing about my journey. Here's a rough account of something that occurred tonight.

Barreling up State St. in the back of an ambulance at 50 mph, I was reminded this evening there is much to observe, experience and transcribe about medicine in an emergency setting. This week, I'm participating in "ride-alongs" with paramedic ambulance teams; I'm learning a lot about pre-hospital care that will help me in the ED. While en route to a code-100 (or presumed cardiac arrest), I was reviewing how I would do my initial assessment at the scene and what my likely first interventions would be. Bouncing around the captain's chair in the back of the cab, I noticed with a shiver the music on the radio up front: "December" by Collective Soul. It turned out the soul we were about to collect had found its way to another place, or soon would. We found the patient warm but lifeless. She would not notice the view of a world being left behind from the windows on the back of the truck. She probably wouldn't even notice her ribs cracking as I compressed her chest to pump blood through her body. Her work on this planet was finished even as ours had just begun. At the behest of her family, we applied all of Western medicine's best known methods of restoration. Mrs. Lazarus traveled from home to the Yale Emergency Department, all the while being maintained in an intermediate stage between life and death. There would be no miracle this evening, however. The accompanying family member was invited into the code room shortly before the attending pronounced death. But by then, we were responding to another call. Someone in West Haven was vomiting blood.

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