Room 3 Bed 1
My third year of medical school was chaotic, and I wasn’t too sure if I was the right fit for clinical practice. I was unable to complete clinical skills and communicate as well as I thought with team members, and more importantly the patients I saw.
I decided that to improve my skills and knowledge, that I would complete a night shift with the F1 on call for surgery. This would give ample opportunity to work in an environment I had not been before, to experience life in a hospital when the lights were off. To see my what my future work entailed and to aspire to perfection in the face of adversity. I spent that night shadowing my colleague aiding in assessments and attending scenarios that I could handle so that he could focus on other tasks.
3AM hit, a bleep was made for a surgical emergency at the assessment unit. Immediately we began running, we were on a different level of the hospital, but that was no problem. Whilst en-route we briefly discussed that the usual bleep for an emergency was a breathless patient. This was to be significantly different.
We entered the ward, and the room number was shouted at us by a nurse behind a desk.
We didn’t need this information though, we could hear the patient screaming in the distance. On entering the room, it was dark, the patients light was illuminating the scene. He must have been around 30. Sweat was dripping down his brow, his eyes were wide, full of fear and regret, he was talking, promising never to inject again, whilst simultaneously screaming in pain. I looked further down, his bed sheets were covered in fresh red blood, a metallic tinge could be smelt in the air. I realised then that he was a drug addict who had been injecting into his groin. Because of this he had developed bilateral abscesses which had subsequently perforated, their contents spewing onto his leg. My colleague and I looked at each other and a plan was developed without the use of words.
Immediately we set to work. We donned gloves, a cannula was called for. My colleague jumped onto the bed and began stemming the blood flow with the paper towels gathered from the dispensers located above the sink. A tourniquet was thrust into my hand by one of the nurses, I pulled it tight around the patient’s arm. I picked the cannula up, unsheathed it, admired its sterility and looked for my target. Visibly there was nothing, the patient had already used all his veins. I prodded, looking for a place to attack. Finally, something bumpy was palpable, it had no pulse. I thought to myself it is now or never. I plunged the cannula into the patients left arm. Flashback was seen. But the fight was not over.
Other team members had been arriving amidst the disorder. An anaesthetist was by the head of the bed, explaining what was going to happen. They acknowledged that there was no time to sign forms and consent was completed verbally. My colleague swapped with a surgical SHO, and the patient was wheeled off by the anaesthetist to the operating theatre.
This was one of the defining moments of my medical career. This man taught me that I could cope with intense situations within the clinical environment. But I regret that I’ll never know his name or of his outcome. I was trying to acknowledge what had just happened. I lost track of him, as is sometimes the problem with Medicine currently.
Going through Medical training, we refer to patients as the 27-year-old Male with difficulties urinating, or the lady who we met with a “Pancoast Tumour” who had a constricted pupil, drooping of the eyelid and the anhydrosis on one side of the face. However, we need to remember that there are still human beings behind the diagnosis and our interventions. This patient deserved more from me than I gave. For such an inspirational moment, he will only be called ‘Room 3, Bed 1’.