For the weak hearted who donot like any talk about hospitals and ill patients, this might not be a post you want to read.
I was doing my first set of nights at a hospital that was very sparsely staffed.Like most hospitals. What was terrifying was that I didn’t have a senior I could turn to for help, incase the need arrived.I would have had to call a consultant in the middle of the night if anything went wrong.Not some thing anyone wants to do.
This would have been my second or third night.I knew I had done well so far.That night had been busy. I had already seen 13 patients or so.I remember.Some days/nights you just do.
An old man was brought in by his son.Must have been around 6 in the morning.I was already counting minutes to 8 am, when I would be relieved.I was really tired.This man looked sick and his son very worried.He needed attention right away.
When I was done with the patient, high on my differential diagnosis was neutropenic sepsis*. I had taken the bloods myself.I always use a glove as a tourniquet. Not the ideal. But when patients are difficult to bleed the glove works wonders. He wasn’t easy at all. He was so dehydrated, I just couldn’t find a vein.
I wrote all my notes. Wrote the drug chart. Made sure plenty of fluids were prescribed. The blood results were back in less than an hour’s time. The patient was neutropenic alright.I was very pleased with myself.Who doesn’t like being right. Especially at that hour.
Assured I had everything under control, I told the son he could go to sleep and that he should come around later. By then we would know all our plans for his father.The son refused to budge as according to him his father looked really ill.I agreed.The father was very ill.
When the consultant came around 7:30 am, I asked him to see this really ill patient first.When we got to the bed side, my patient looked a lot whiter and more sick than what I had left him 15 minutes ago.Some thing was drastically wrong.
I looked around.Horror of horrors.The place I had tied the glove as a tourniquet was red.I must have left it on.Someone has just taken it off.He wasn’t getting any fluids.No drips in the arm.Why wasn’t his medication being given to him?I didn’t know what was going on.I was ready to scream.I was losing my patient right before me.This couldn’t be happening. I had him.And I had him right.He could not die on me. Not after all that. I was panic stricken. I had done everything by the book.So I left that glove.Couldn’t be more than an hour.That cannot kill him. But what was killing him then?
I had forgotten to sign the drug card.
None I mean NONE of his medications were given to him.He was slipping away, right before my eyes. C’mmon nurses.So you have your instructions.But you have some common sense too don’t you.This wasn’t the time to pass a buck and principally I was to blame.
Drug card signed, orders checked I proceeded onto to present my other patients to the consultant.After the rounds I checked on my old man again.He was sleeping. The son was just leaving.He began to thank me.I just had to cut him short, the guilt was too much to bear.
Of course sleep did not come easy that day. Knowing the nature of this man’s emergency how could I forget to sign his drug chart.At lunch time I checked on my old man again.He looked less dehydrated.So the drips were running fine.I went back to my room and slept for the coming night. At night my man looked a lot better. The colour in his cheeks was returning and I knew he would live.
When he felt much better I walked upto him to let him know that the worst was over and that he had to work on getting his strength back.
He turned out to be a very jovial old man. Just before I could take his leave, he thanked me for giving him a new life.I looked at him wondering if he knew how very close I was to taking it away.
I often think of some of the patients I have met.They help me find strenght and motivation to do better in my life. They also humble me into remembering that we are all walking a very fine line….
* That is best explanation of the condition that I could find on the net.In short it is a medical emergency where in if the patient does not recieve immediate antibiotic therapy and plenty of fluids, there is rapid deterioration which can lead to shock and even death.