Hello from the Emergency Department

Hi all!

Sorry for the hiatus, but I’m back now after a hectic past few weeks! I completely underestimated the stress of belonging to two classes and being a researcher at the same time. I’ve spent these past two theory weeks basically running back and forth between lectures and classes (internal medicine with semester 8 and orthopaedics with semester 9) and trying to progress with our research. Finally those hectic weeks are over and therefore – hello from the Emergency Department in Jönköping!

I’m on my next final day at the emergency department, and I must say, today has been the least busy day of the week. I define least busy by:

  • having lunch for longer than 15min at around noontime
  • not having to run as fast as I can together with my doctors across the hospital
  • not having to respond to a single cardiac arrest alarm
  • not having to respond to a single stroke alarm
  • only going to the emergency room of the emergency department once

On my first day at the emergency department, there were at least three emergency alarms we had to respond to (meaning a load of running) on top of the regular influx of patients, that we didn’t manage to eat lunch until 5pm. During my second day at the hospital, we were anticipating yet more alarms to go off around the hospital that my doctor was prepared with his scooter outside our room. I of course had to run alongside with him.

Today was a surprisingly calm day, so calm that I didn’t need to run. It was only then when I realised. As I stood in front of our only high-priority (code red) emergency patient of the day, I realised I wasn’t scared anymore. I was looking at an acutely ill and quickly deteriorating patient without being the slightest bit concerned. This has been everyday for us all at the emergency department. It was then I realised, I’ve really been blunted after these past few days. Or perhaps, my trust in the capabilities of medicine and the healthcare workers around to quickly save a life has increased. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

So, what have I learnt after a few days in the Emergency Department? Saving lives is a very reasonable job description for doctors.

Final day in the medical emergency department tomorrow here we go! 😀

let the doctor do his work maam gif giphy south park emergency room doctors

What do you tell someone who’s about to die?

(Disclaimer: I received verbal consent from my patient to share about my experience with him.)

This week I’ve been at the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, and nothing has challenged me more physically, mentally and emotionally during a placement.

At the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, many patients come in after suffering heart attacks. They are in critical need of care, where many patients are vulnerable and are fighting to stay alive… and the healthcare team fighting to keep them alive.

The week began quite calmly, which gave me lots of reading time, but since yesterday and especially today, I’ve been running.

Running. Trying to learn and help out during critical situations, but mainly trying to keep out of the way. Running to wherever the alarm rings. Another patient is dying. Every second counts.

Yesterday, in the midst of a flurry of doctors and nurses trying to save another patient from a cardiac arrest, everyone leaves the room to discuss. At this point, several life-saving electric shocks had been given, and I was there to witness them all. Even seeing the patient in pain.

I tried fighting my tears as I realise, I don’t like seeing patients in pain. And I really wish I don’t ever have to. But there I was.

I was left alone in the room with the patient and I take their hand to comfort them. The patient then looks at me straight in the eyes and tells me:

Jag kommer nu.” – “I’m coming now.”

Coming. Coming to a place beyond us. Coming to death. Coming to what I like to believe, life after death. Coming to Heaven.

I was silent, again fighting my tears. I look straight back not knowing what to say. What do you tell someone who knows they’re about to die, and you know it too? What do you tell someone who’s about to die?

*

This question wracked my brain until the next day. Could I have said anything to improve the situation? What if that really was the last chance I got to talk to them? What if I was the last person they spoke to, and I couldn’t even say a word?

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. After a rough night and morning of more emergency interventions, the patient is alive and recovering. I finished my day early and decided to pass by the patient’s room to talk to them. It didn’t really feel right for me to leave for the weekend, not knowing whether they will be okay or not when I return. I waited for their room to be free, came in, and in the end I stayed for over an hour chatting. At the end of it they took my hand and told me:

“You have an important duty to pass on your genes to the next generation and I hope you have many children… but be careful with your choice!”

I promised I will, and in return I made them promise they will be around when I come back after the weekend.

As a medical student, I usually joke that another day at the hospital is another life saved, but now I realised this is not a joke at all. As healthcare workers, we are given the unique opportunity to make great changes in people’s lives, and sometimes even save a life. However at times, we are also there as they take their last breath. Being prepared for both scenarios would make the best impact on people’s lives and today, I realised I still have a lot left to learn.

heart ECG tracing recording