I'm on call in the OR. The list of urgent and emergent surgeries gets longer and longer. As the day wears on, the anesthesiologists and the OR nurses become weary.
I don't even remember the first operation of the day. At 2:45 AM we finish the last operation. I write out orders to the recovery room nurse for pain medication and send the junior resident to get some rest. I stay to write out the log of the cases that were done on call. At 3 AM my beeper jars my senses. The supervising nurse in the OR informs me that the surgeons are rushing up with a trauma victim from
I call the junior resident and tell him to prepare OR 5 for an emergency operation. The surgeons burst in with the patient. It is a Palestinian with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He underwent an initial emergency surgery in
We often get referrals from
We transferred the young man to the operating table, he was barely conscious, he was cold, and his pulse was barely palpable: all hallmarks of severe hemorrhagic shock.
As the surgeons opened up the abdomen the extent of his injuries was appalling. The bullet entered the right lung, passed through the diaphragm shredding the liver, part of the small bowel and the right kidney finally lodging in the pelvis. Our surgeons admired the Gazan surgeons’ work. They had resected most of the liver, the small bowel and removed the damaged kidney. They anastomosed (connected) the stomach to the stump of the bowel. The sutures were perfect. These guys definitely know how to sew.
Unfortunately, their post-op treatment is less optimal and the patient continued to bleed because of consumption of clotting factors. Although the surgeons urged me to infuse blood, I started with plasma in order to replenish the clotting factors. The only documentation we received described the surgical procedure performed. There was no information as to which blood products the victim received. My instincts were right, the oozing stopped and then I started to infuse blood. The patient’s blood pressure stabilized but remained low. We transferred the patient to the Intensive Care Unit. By the time we were finished, it was 7 AM. Time to sign out.
These “on calls” are killing me. They are becoming harder and harder. Operating through the night has become the rule rather than the exception. Maybe it's the caseload which has become endless, or maybe I'm getting older, or maybe it's both. I go home feeling like I'm observing the world from inside an aquarium.
At the bus stop someone asks me a question, his voice sounds like it's emanating from a tape recorder with low batteries. I haven't the foggiest idea what he wants from me. He points to his wrist. Assuming he wants to know what time it is, I say "7:20."
Apparently I was right because he turns away. I hook up my ears to my MP3 player and try my best to ignore the world. At home, I shower and collapse in bed.
A few days later, I'm assigned to the ICU. Amazing, the patient is still alive, barely. How he survived to the initial surgery is a mystery. How he made it this far is unfathomable. He is sedated, mechanically ventilated, and since his remaining kidney has shut down, is on hemofiltration (a machine that replaces the kidney temporarily). His blood pressure is still low. The doctor finishing his on-call rattles off the vital stats and relates that the patient underwent a "second look" operation to make sure he didn't rebleed.
One of the doctors is a Gazan who tells us the circumstances surrounding the injury. It turns out that the patient was at a wedding. As is customary, shots were fired in the air in celebration. Either someone missed the air in the sky and hit the air in the young man's lung, or it was a bullet finishing its steep trajectory that fell on the unsuspecting victim. Not that it matters to him, but it seems a pretty stupid reason for getting shot.
Ruminating on the case, I became enlightened as to how the "new math" is done in
Post Script: Unfortunately, the patient succumbed to his wounds. This is not only tragic, but frustrating because of all the effort expended to try to save him.