Sunday, June 21, 2009

Frailty of Life

So....I really want to blog about the experience I had this morning in a code. An experience so bad that it left me questioning if I want to stay in this world I have lived in for several years: The World of Medicine. A 36-year-old female with breast cancer suffering from complications from a lymphectomy. There were those of us on the ICU team that had been working on her for hours before one of us hit the blue button that would signal the hospital switchboard operator to make the overhead call of "Code Blue", then there was the general crowd that shows up when the code is called. Those of us that knew the story tried to resuscitate the young woman with faces that were streaked with tears. One of my colleagues came to check and see if I needed any help, and saw that I was crying, so he offered to relieve me. Her mother was already there, but we kept her alive until the "rest of her family" got there. When we realized our efforts were futile, the Nursing Supervisor went to get her family. Allowing the family at a resuscitation attempt is kind of controversial. Is it cruel? But studies have shown that families deal better when they see the effort we are putting in to save their loved one. So while I hate it because it does not always allow me the mental distance from the situation, if it helps them, so be it. But nothing prepared me for this. Her weeping husband. And her nine-year-old daughter who was wailing in pain and anguish. I tried to count the number of ceiling tiles in the room. I inspected my shoes. I didn't have to look. By now, my hands hold within them the rhythym of breathing and I can deliver breaths at a steady pulse while intentionally not looking. But this time that didn't stop the tears. This time it was my family I was seeing, no matter where my eyes tried to focus.
I could not get John's face out of my head. Or Evan's voice. My reasons for living. And undoubtably, the husband and daughter were hers. They were robbed by the intricacies and the mysteries of the human body. And like us, I am sure they had plans for their future. The husband had been out of town, and didn't know that he would never see his wife again. I still cannot get the image of his pained, tear-streaked face pressed to her cold, pale, lifeless one. The picture serving as a study in the contrast between death and life. And her death proved something to us all. She was in the MICU, the unit of the hospital to which I have been assigned for going on the past 2 months now. Our MICU is new. State-of-the-art facility and equipment. Staffed with the A-team of the medical world. Even we therapists are a select few. We are all oriented to the unit, but non-hackers weed themselves out. But this morning, nothing we had to offer could have been enough for her. Which is scarier than you could imagine, because it humbles all of us. It shows us that we cannot fix everything with almost unnecessary cruelty. And while we are all there, working our demanding schedules to pay for kids' tuitions or the new family minivan or the plasma tv that society tells us we need, we are forced to face the idea that we are away from the very ones we are doing it all for. That life is frail, and would it be better to be at home, snuggled in bed with our spouses or waking in the morning to sloppy kisses from our young children. Because as we were witnessing at that very moment, life could have other plans for us.

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