Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Hospital tales 7: Way out in the forefront of medicine

When life sends you into a tailspin, tell the tales.

After the lysing procedure they wheeled me into surgical ICU with four tubes and wires coming out of my leg, an I-V in each arm, and two monitors. I must have looked like a float in a parade.

As soon as we entered, an ICU nurse looked at one of the monitors and said, “What’s this? We’ve never had one of these before.”

“It’s an ultrasound that pushes the clot buster into the clot,” said a radiology nurse who was part of the parade. “This is only the second patient we’ve used it on.”

“We don’t know anything about it? What if the alarm goes off?”

“Call the tech. If the something goes wrong call the tech. We have a power point I can show you about it.”

There’s nothing like being on the forefront of medicine, so far out front that the ICU nurses are scared.

Bravely, and later I thought, foolishly, I encouraged Sarah to go home and get some rest since she couldn’t stay with me in ICU and spending the night in the waiting room would be very uncomfortable.

At about 11:00 p.m. the alarm went off on the ultrasound monitor. The nurse came in and pushed a button that turned it off. Then she didn’t now what to do next. I reminded her that interventional radiology had said to call the tech.

She went and got another nurse and they both studied the monitor. Neither one of them knew what to do. “Should we call Angio?” one of them asked the other. Assuming that Angio was the tech I voted for calling Angio.

The nurse pushed a button turning the machine back on but she wasn’t sure if the monitor reading was correct. Again I voted for calling Angio.

Later the nurse came back and told me that she had called the number for the tech. The tech, she discovered, lived in Seattle and was flying out the next day to teach staff at St. Francis, She described what the monitor was displaying and he reassured her that everything was fine.

It’s good to be out in the forefront of medicine, I guess.

The next day as I was being wheeled back to interventional radiology we passed a door with a department sign on it: Angio. Oops, I realized, Angio was not the tech.