Duty · Gratitude · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

Telemedicine: Threat, or Menace?

One fine day, I was at work, FDASL, and received a text from my daughter, let’s call her Brenda. She related that her second child had developed what looked like pink eye, to Brenda’s assessment. She (Brenda) had contacted whoever, and that medical soul had video chatted/e-visited/virtually visited/some other bullshit with my grand daughter, and had prescribed an ophthalmic antibiotic.

Brenda was not altogether certain that this assessment was spot on, and wanted her clinician dad’s take on things.

As you may have surmised, MY take on non patient contact, not in the same room “visits”, is not filled with much enthusiasm. There is something to the gestalt of being in the physical presence of somebody, that provides you with clues that are neither evident, nor are they provided across a video screen of any sort. (Ever smell the fruity breath of diabetic ketoacidosis? Ever smell it over a phone?)

Placing that aside for a moment, I asked for some pix. (I am aware that this amounted to the very same thing I had just, 11 words ago, railed against. Wait for it.) My grandchild’s eye appeared red, and (uncommonly in pink eye), so did the tissue surrounding her eye.

I asked if this grandchild could move her gaze left and right, upwards and downwards, painlessly. Was there any change in her vision?

The response I received was that the vision in her affected eye was “blurry”, as well as “it hurts when she looks up”.

My response text, verbatim, was, “Who is going to see her in person, in the next half hour?”

Brenda took her child to our local urgent care, which clinician, to THIS clinician’s credit, is reported to have entered the room, taken one look at my grand daughter, and turned to her mother, and said “So, I’m not going to charge you for this visit. Do you know the way to Big City Referral Hospital? Good. Do not dawdle. Go directly there, now. Yes, I mean the emergency department. Thank you. Drive safely.”

THOSE folks examined her, CT’d her, and started an IV (a process that Grand Daughter did NOT approve of!), and IV antibiotics, and admitted her for several days. The CT had revealed a peri orbital cellulitis (mild, but, nonetheless…), which responded to the medication.

She is now home, sassy, and none the worse for the experience. Take home points: Brenda demonstrates many, many of the affirmative attributes of The Plaintiff: she is smart, decisive, has a finely calibrated and high functioning “shit don’t sound right” detector, and is a bulldog advocate for her children.

I loathe “telemedicine”.

Sometimes I am both blessed and lucky. This time, to the benefit of my grandchild.

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cats · Duty · Gratitude · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important!

KITTEN TAILS PART VI

So, TINS, TIWFDASL….we, uh, no, I was NOT Fighting Disease And Saving Lives, rather, I was at home while TDW-Mark II recovered from surgery. (Thankfully, minor. Well, “Minor” from my perspective. I’m pretty cure that, for whoever goes under anesthesia and awakens with sutures and re-arranged body parts, ain’t no such thing as “minor” surgery!)

In any event, on my multiple rounds on TDW, I noted that there appeared to be two, or three, cats perched upon the bed. Should one depart, one would take station. The others would eat, play, loll about: typical cat stuff. The two, or three, “on watch” all appeared to gaze upon her, that is, if they were not snuggled up against her. Just as if they were, indeed, “on watch”.

Olivia appeared to be the one constant watch-stander. She was perched upon TDW’s pillow, and did not seem to move. Others would appear to rotate in and out, but Olivia was pretty constantly there.

When she (TDW) was up and about the next day, she commented about it. “Every time I opened my eyes, one or more of the cats was there, looking at me. I felt as if I had a couple of private duty, furry little nurses!”

Then she reminisced. “remember that time you had your GI bleed? The two dogs, and all three cats (at one time, my cat crazy was under better control….) were settled in all around you! They would only leave to eat, drink, and go. Then, they were right back.”

At that time, we developed the McFee Critter Triage System: if one animal is sleeping with you, that’s normal stuff.

If two of them, well, likely normal, perhaps not.

If three of them, The Spouse needs to take a closer look at things: it ain’t raht!

Four? When is your doctor appointment?

Both dogs, and all three cats? Call dispatch. It might take some explaining (“Ma’am? Did you just tell me that your emergency is that all five animals are sleeping on the bed with your husband? I…I..don’t understand..?”), but Bad Things are at hand. Do Not Dally.

Fortunately, TDW-Mark II recovered uneventfully.

Duty · Fun And Games Off Duty · Fun With Suits! · Gratitude · Life in Da City!

Snippets Part III

I have a flexible spending account at work, so as to be able to pay my copays, deductibles, and suchlike with pre tax dollars. Late last year, I noticed that the card by which such expenditures were paid for, was getting declined. I assumed that I had spent all the money and thought no further of it.

Then, I began to get messages from the administrators of the account. Finally rousing myself to speak to them, I learned that the card had been frozen, because, I was informed, they required hard copy receipts for 3 or 4 of my expenditures. This included purchases from my optometrist for, oh, gosh, GLASSES, as well as at the podiatrist, for TDW-Mark II’s ingrown toenail.

It puzzled me, Visa, nor Mastercard never had such issues. I assumed that, just like the commercial banks, that the electronic billing that led to the vendor of, say, my gasoline, getting paid, had all the information required, kind of like a grocery store receipt.

Perhaps I was wrong. Or, perhaps, somewhere in this favoured land, folks go to their podiatrist, or their optometrist, when they feel the need for hookers and blow. (I wouldn’t know, myself, and Hunter Biden was not available to comment on that possibility) So, I guess, I will have to remain puzzled.

@@

Occasionally, I am humbled. Just the other day, I had such an opportunity. The lady bringing the pre school aged children in for whatever their complaint that day, was approximately my age (and, I am by no means of child rearing age. Hell, my youngest grandchild is already in primary school!) She reported, in the course of the conversation, that “My husband and I both got them when they were very, very young.”

Just, matter of fact. No inflection, dry fact.

As I was charting later, I noted that the parent was identified as the grandparent.

So, let’s contemplate that. Some of us are anticipating retirement, with few responsibilities, plenty of free time, and no pressing concerns.

Others, around us, are raising a SECOND family, at our ages, and not flinching.

Some of us are facing demands of duty, and stepping up to those demands, and in doing so are protecting, and nurturing, the most vulnerable among us.

@@

So This Is No Shit (TINS), There I was Fighting Disease And Saving Lives (FDASL), long, long ago and far, far away.

Well, okay. REEEAAALLLLYYYY!, I was shopping in Farmer Jack, in Da City, on one of my off duty from EMS days. I was pushing my shopping cart down one aisle or another, occasionally consulting my shopping list, and a fellow approached me.

He greeted me. “Hey! I know you!”

I did not just recently develop my aversion to Humanity. I spent years perfecting it. “Uh, no, you don’t, sir.”

He, on the other hand, was undeterred. “No, I know you! You work for the fire department!”

“You have the wrong guy!”

“No, really! I remember you  You saved my brother’s life!”

“Yep! That’s me! That’s how I spend my days! How is your brother?”

Fun And Games Off Duty · Gratitude · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

KITTEN TAILS, PART THREE

Our Cat Farm grew, as Momma Kitty joined us. One autumn day, TDW-Mark II observed Momma Kitty come onto our porch, and eat the dry cat food we had been placing out for her. TDW opened the kitchen door, on this pleasant autumn day, and verbally invited Momma Kitty to enter, and get acquainted.

Much to our surprise, she promenaded into the kitchen. She next sat herself in one of the windows, and we could not convince her to move. TDW then retrieved our travel crate for the one dog, opened it, and Momma Kitty simply walked in, settled down on the dog bed, and looked at us as if to say, “Well? Do you think you are done?”

We secured the door of the crate, and realized that we now needed to find, and retrieve, her latest batch of kittens.

TDW (perhaps, by now, y’all have realized who is the brains of this operation. And, it’s not me, apparently.) had observed the dogs lingering over a particular potion of the porch, as surmised tha the kittens would likely be located underneath.

So, we accessed the underside of the porch, TDW entered, and passed out the two kittens she found therein. The first kitten, now know as Oliver, was a wee bit, and appeared to have a lesion of some sort on the back of his neck. (this later was identified by our vet as an abscess) The second kitten, now know as Trixie (due to the black and white, “cow camo” pattern of her fur, reminiscent of TDW’s pet cow from her childhood), appeared to have some sort of mucoid material from her one eye. We wondered if the litter had been larger initially, and suspected that the stimulus to bring Momma Kitty in might have been some predator (we have raccoons about) might have attempted to clean out the litter, and these two, and Momma, survived.

We cleaned them up, as a start, and arranged for vet assessment. Oliver got an antibiotic, and his abscess resolved. Trixie was another story.

The vet could not visualize her one eye, and voiced concern that this might be a viral conjunctivitis, and have a corneal ulcer associated with it. She wondered if this would, in fact, heal, or if, once healed, she would have no vision in that eye.

So, we became cat nurses. Trixie got her eye ointment twice a day. After several weeks, she improved. And, since curveballs seem to be my lot in life, one of the other cats appeared to develop pink eye as well.

Since conjunctivitis is wildly contagious, unsurprisingly the other cats developed it. To my surpirse, only 7 of our ten cat herd did so: the three oldest appeared to miss that fun. So, we drew a kitty MAR (medication administration record), and began twice a day sick call.

The bad news was that the biggest of the kittens Was Not Having the medication administration. That led to Sumo Cat “Parenting”, which is every bit as much fun as it sounds. Particularly for those of us who bleed freely. And do not have hind claws. Fortunately, TDW, wise in the ways of Catdom, determined that should we profit from the old aphorism “letting the cat out of the bag”, and place Reluctant Cat into a sack made of two retired pillowcases, his paws and claws would be neutralized, I could immobilize his head, and she could administer the eye medicine.

To Reluctant Cat’s credit, he either did not realize that he could readily gnaw the shit out of us, or else elected to let this insight pass by, unacted upon. In either event, he improved.

The good news is that, soon, we would corral Reluctant Cat, and his escape artist sister (previously referred to as the superball, or the furry bottle rocket), and medicate them.

That task accomplished, we would administer treats, in the form of canned cat food, which they seemed to very much enjoy. Then, we would open the bathroom door, to release them and seek the next contestants, only to find that there was a feline line up, and next two would walk in, apparently unworried.

We would shut the door, medicate (and chart) these two, and provide their reward/treat. Opening the door, those two would saunter out, and the next two would meander in. Shut the door, medicate cats, treat/reward cats, chart meds, open door, those two exit, and the next one would enter and be medicated, rewarded/treated, easy-peasy.

As the kittens became integrated into the pride, one adopted our older cat. (I told of Henrietta and Max in a previous note) We were surprised to see that, once Oliver was in the pack, he appeared to adopt Olivia, from the previous litter, as if he was her “pet kitten”.

The cuteness mounts!

Fun And Games · Gratitude · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

THE SUNSHINE RULE: THE OTHER SIDE

It came to pass, we were open on New Year’s Day, and I was on duty. On that day, our waiting room waits were approaching 3 hours. I am not a fan, notwithstanding the fact that generally I have little control over how many folks disembark from The (metaphorical) Bus, when The Bus stops, and disgorges it’s passengers for our treatment pleasure.

As you may imagine, most of us, myself included, do not find it to be a life enhancing experience when I, or they, get to while away the hours in the waiting room, with a dozen or more unknown, snotty, feverish, sick strangers.

On this particular day, it occurred to me that I was oddly blessed. Nobody felt the need to extend my medical education with the results of their internet search, nobody “knew their body”, and, indeed, nobody KNEW! that The! Z! Pack! would resolve their woes.

In addition, nearly everybody was in good humor. Indeed, several folks made it a point to actually thank me for working that day. Specifically, literally, “Thank you for working today!”. Direct quote. No BS.

I had seen one of these folks a couple of weeks previously, and given them my stock spiel regarding treating their post nasal drip induced cough with fluids/inhale steam/Zyrtec/Flonase/Tylenol/follow with family doctor/return if worse. She told me, to my face, that “I got way better once I followed the advice you gave me. I’m still a little stuffy, and cough now and then, but nothing like when I saw you last time!” (today’s visit was for another malady).

Then there were the folks, a majority of the patients that day, who were possessed of a very robust sense of humor. On days when the wait is lengthy, my introductory spiel goes along the lines of “Hello, I’m Reltney McFee, I’m a nurse practitioner. I’m sorry about the wait, and thank you for you patience. I apologize for the abundant opportunity that you had to demonstrate your patience! What can I do for you today?”

Most folks chuckled, and those that did not chuckle, said something along the lines of “That’s ok. I’m here today because of….”

All that is to provide some particulars regarding the first two clauses of my Sunshine Rule: “Everybody brings sunshine into my life. For some people, that is when they arrive….”

Fun And Games Off Duty · Gratitude

Dad’s Blood Infusion

So, TINS©, TIWFDASL©…well, while This Is (indeed) No Shit, I was NOT, in this tale, Fighting Disease And Saving Lives. Rather, years ago, I was in The Un-Named Eastern State, visiting the Momette and my father. Dad had had a cardiac arrest something on the order of a year and a half prior, and had, miraculously, recovered entirely intact. Subsequent to that, he was found to have cancer, and THAT had NOT had a miraculous outcome. He had undergone several surgeries, and finally had been referred to hospice.

Let me say this about hospice. These folks, in this corner of that state, were a Gift From Heaven. No shit, honest-to-God, straight up. If I were to be found to have a heart, they certainly warmed it.

Today’s lesson concerns one of Dad’s surgeries. I had taken some time off, and was in The Un-Named Eastern State. Dad had come out of surgery, and we were there to visit him: Mom, My Brother The Accountant, and myself, who, at this point (yeah, my stories sort of jump from one point in time to another, don’t they?) was an actively licensed paramedic, as well as an RN, and nursing supervisor. I had been an ED RN for something on the order of 5 years at the time of this story. In anticipation of there developing a need for me to make a longer term presence in my parents’ home, I had obtained a Nursing license in the Un-Named Eastern State.

So, we were standing at Dad’s bedside, and I noted that he had blood running. As a nurse, we all learn, early on, that from the time that the blood departs the blood bank, until the last drop of hemoglobin rich goodness leaves the bag for your patient’s veins, no more than four hours must elapse. Anything not infused at the four hour mark, will still be in the bag as it is returned to the blood bank.

Idly, I observed that the bag appeared to be half full, and dropping sluggishly. I looked at the blood bank tag, which documented, among other things, the time the infusion had started: approaching three hours previous to my inspection thereof. I inspected the tubing, looking for closed clamps, kinked tubing, or other impediment to flow. On Dad’s hand, just upstream from the IV catheter, I observed a tight bend, something resembling a slight kink in the tubing.

I released the tape, opened the loop a bit, and re taped it, and gave things another looking over.

My mother reproached me. “Reltney, I don’t think you should mess with that. You should call the nurse.”

I was surprised. “Mom, I *AM* a nurse! In fact, I’m even a nurse, in *THIS* state!”

She replied, “Oh, you know what I mean!”

Fun And Games · Gratitude · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Random Thoughts Part VI

Assessment of the elderly, sounding confused.

When I am assessing a patient, and ask, in my interview, ref location/day of month/day of week/name/etcetera, when you are not the patient, and YOU answer, talking over the patient, please realize that IDGAF about YOUR mentation, and when you coach the patient, it really, really interferes with my assessment. Plus, it is entirely likely that I myself KNOW the place/day/date/season/etcetera, because, you can bet your ass that if it were NOT Tuesday March the 41st, I would certainly be somewhere else, doing something else, other than attempting to struggle my way through your interruptions of my evaluation of your parent.

In a similar vein, when I ask Jim-Bob where he hurts, probably, when you coach Jim-Bob, admonishing him to “Tell the doctor where you hurt”, you are not really contributing any value whatsoever to the interview. If Jim-Bob indeed comprehends my question, you are only adding noise and distraction and likely, that is NOT helpful. If, on the other hand, Jim-Bob does not understand my query, your repeating it IN THE VERY SAME FREAKING WORDS, neither adds to the information that I require, so that I may care for Jim-Bob properly, nor facilitates timely implementation of that care. So, unless Jim-Bob does NOT speak Engrish, himself, please STFU, and allow me to interview the patient. Or, perhaps, go boil some water, gather a fresh newspaper and some clean shoelaces, right now, please.

Which will, of course, require you depart the exam room and allow me to complete my interview and examination.

Thank you.

Thoughts about Cost vs Price:

Lowe’s “bargain bin” AA battery powered cell phone charger: $10

Having several in your Bag-O’-Tricks at work, so you can hand one to a patient you’re sending to ED via ambulance, whose phone is dead: Kharma.

Having that guy get my cheap-o, bought-on-a-whim charger back to me, with a thank you: PRICELESS!

EMS LAW OF ALTITUDE: Patient’s weight divided by number of floors above street level equals a constant, “K”. Therefore, a 300 pound inert patient on the first floor is roughly equivalent to a 1200 pound patient on the 4th floor. With no functional elevator. And the first due engine company out on a working fire.

(redacted)’s Law: (I don’t have permission to use his name, but it’s not *MY* formulation) When responding to an EMS call, and you are pretty sure that you are on the correct block, but, for some reason, folks in this neighborhood do NOT have any house numbers, seek out the most tumbledown anonymous house on that block, and knock, Your patient awaits inside.

(redacted’s partner)’s Corollary Number One: The one house on the block with ghetto gates (bars on the doors and windows), is your call.

Corollary Number Two: Occupants of the house with the gates KNOW who is performing all the neighborhood B & Es.

Corollary Number Three: There is nothing inside the grilled house worth stealing. The decor is milk crates, cast offs, soiled mattresses on the floor. Even odds that the smell makes the place a haz mat scene.

Final Thought”

Please, please, please! If your physician has ALREADY prescribed a medication for your affliction, take the freaking med, BEFORE your come to my clinic stating that you require treatment for that selfsame affliction! Because, it could happen that my self control may lapse, and I may, indeed, ask you just how exactly I may help you, when you not only were prescribed, but physically picked up, the very medication that I would have prescribed (and, indeed, wound up prescribing) for your problem.

But, OF COURSE, you weren’t here to get a work note! Totally!

Duty · Fun And Games Off Duty · Gratitude · Pre Planning Your Scene · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

PROFESSIONALISM

While my divorce was unwinding, I was working midnights in the ED of Mid Sized Hospital in the Adjacent Relatively Big City. I had a seven on/seven off schedule, which worked out pretty well for the week on/week off custody schedule for the youngest two kids.

So, TINS©, TIWFDASL© (well, to be precise, I was standing in my kitchen, looking around to see what I had forgotten to pack for the night to come), when my phone rang. My darling daughter was on the line. “Hey, Dad! How would you like to come over and take a look at your grand daughter?”

“I’m always up to visit my grand daughter, as well as her mother! What’s the occasion?”

“Well, Carmen is having some difficulty breathing, and I’d like you to look at her and tell me what to do.”

“Be right over. Unlock your door!”

A couple of minutes later, I was knocking on her door, stethoscope around my neck. Brenda opened the door, and I heard Carmen wheezing from across the room. “Call the ambulance, right now!”

Brenda was unconvinced. “Dad, if we call the ambulance, they will simply take her to Local Small Town Hospital. They will simply wind up transferring her to Next Town Big Hospital. Why don’t we just drive her to Big Hospital, ourselves?”

Good time for me to collect data. “Honey, do either you or baby daddy know CPR?”

“Um, no.”

“Y’all have oxygen in your car?”

“No!”

“You guys have any way to alert Big Hospital ED that you are coming in hot with a critically ill child?”

“You know we don’t!”

“So, let’s call EMS, who do indeed know all those things, and have all those things, so that they can treat Carmen properly, hmm?”

“We’ll just drive her over to Small Town Hospital, ourselves.”

“NOW, sweetheart. Right now!”

“I just have to…”

“No, you don’t. Get your ass on the way, right freaking now, and no more delay. Now!”

As they cleared the door, I phoned Local Hospital ED, where I had been an ED nurse, and provided a heads up. “Hey, my daughter is on the way with my grand daughter, who is in respiratory distress. Under a year of age.”

“When will they be here?”

“Open your door, now!”

I locked up, and made my way to Local ED. Once there, I saw the staff meeting that was a pediatric critical child. The ED physician was in the room, my daughter and baby daddy, two ED nurses, a respiratory therapist, the lab, and a couple of other folks that I could not make out in the crowd. I spoke to my daughter, and told her that I was off to work, and I’d stop by in the morning to see how things were going.

I called my daughter the next morning, on my way out of work, and met her at the Big Hospital Peds ICU. She told me that, unsurprisingly (to me), Local Hospital had tested, x rayed, oxygen-ed, and IV-d Carmen, and then transferred her to Big Hospital, via Peds Mobile ICU ambulance. Carmen was considerably improved over last night. I could not hear any wheezing, and she appeared to breathing easily within her oxygen tent. I said my hello to Carmen, ascertained if my daughter needed anything from me, and said my goodbyes to return home, and to bed.

Carmen was discharged the following day, and Brenda had a ream of instructions, as well as the opportunity to administer breathing treatments, as well as oral medications, to an infant several times daily. As a civilian, not a nurse.

A couple of weeks later, I was again preparing for work, and, again, received a phone call from my daughter, again inviting me to visit Carmen. “Always delighted to visit. What’s the occasion, this time?”

“She’s struggling to breathe, and the breathing treatment did not seem to help today.”

I instructed Brenda to immediately go directly to Local Hospital ED. “But, they will simply send her to Big Hospital again!”

“Yep, that is entirely likely. As is the fact that they will send her in a peds MICU, with a physician, respiratory therapist, and a couple of paramedics. All of which I highly approve of. Now, get going, right now!”

I, again, met Brenda at our local ED, again Carmen was the center of a veritable staff roll call in the treatment room, and, again, that evening she was whisked as described, approvingly, above, back to peds ICU at Big Hospital.

I stopped by the next morning. Brenda greeted me. “Dad, just like you said, they transferred her by ambulance back here. When we arrived, all the ICU nurses remembered Carmen, and were crying as they brought in the vent, the crash cart, and the intubation cart. Mom was here, and, gotta tell you, I was trying as hard as I could to keep it together for Carmen. The nurses’ crying was *NOT* helping! If mom had not been here, I would have lost my mind!”

I replied, “Honey, your mom is a pretty good nurse, and she keeps her head really well in a crisis. I’m really glad that she was here for you!”

And, at that point, I did the smartest thing I had done in a while. Right then, I shut up!

Gratitude · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

“He Didn’t Have To Be”

Well, campers, the sun is shining, it is 40-something outside, and that means that, in The Un-Named Flyover State, it is time to start sunbathing!

Well, almost, but not quite. In any event, it is time to reflect, gratefully, on the looming advent of spring. And, that turns me back to my recent theme, gratitude and thankfulness.

In 2006-2007, The Plaintiff divorced me. It was a dark time. I had taken-for-granted (perhaps, one of our problems, right there?) that she would always be there, and that we would always work through our rough spots. I was, of course, mistaken, and the divorce provided irrefutable evidence of same.

I was immersed in depression, and found myself weeping at traffic lights, for example. (Has anybody else experienced the angst, the melancholy, pouring out of a RED LIGHT?) (uh, no? oh, ok. Maybe it was simply me…..)

It was in the midst of this self pity party, that my step daughter (who I have everywhere else referred to as my daughter, as that is how I view her, notwithstanding the fact that she has none of my chromosomes) made for me, and gave me, a Christmas gift, that I treasure to this very day.

Brad Paisley has a song, on his Who Needs Pictures album, entitled “He Didn’t Have to Be”. The narrative is a step child (in Paisley’s, and his co writer’s case, a son), who gets included early on in his single mother and (to be) step dad’s activities, and how that forms a family. My daughter copied that song, and created a slideshow, set to that song, of photographs of my children, their mother and I, as our own family formed, and grew.

I wept. At the time my daughter created that slideshow, she was, herself, a single mother, working full time, as well as going to school full time. Her child, my oldest grand daughter, had spent more than a little time in pediatric ICU. My daughter had spent who knows how many hours collecting those photos, organizing them, arranging them, including that song, knowing that it would touch my heart, perhaps knowing, even, that I *needed* that memoir.

That was the single nicest, most apt, most engaging Christmas present, that I have ever received. She gave it to me for Christmas 2007, and I played it, again, today.

Over 13 years later, I wept, again. Thank you, honey. You have touched me, again. Still.

For so many reasons, I am grateful for my children.

Gratitude · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

Guardian Angel, Working Overtime

So, TINS©, TIWFDASL©, working a weekend gig in a very, very rural corner of The Un-Named Flyover State. I was a mid-level in, completely out of character for me, a very, very rural hospital’s (VVRH) walk in clinic. I was working with an LPN, a woman of sense, alertness, and industry. Sometimes, Blessings are not obvious.

So, mid morning, she gave me report on Our Next Contestant. Late 20’s fellow, had complained of back pain for a week or two, and he attributed this pain to “I pulled my back, working out doors”. So, this was long about February, and in VVRH’s catchment area, it was mighty freaking cold. Snow, long about hip deep, lined the roadways, and the roads, themselves, had been plowed, and, in keeping with Flyover State Rural Road Commission Operating Procedures, had *NOT* been salted. Since everybody got their water from wells, and most of us thought that salting our water was ill advised, the roads had some sand applied, “upstream” of intersections.

I listened to the vitals, and noted her assessment that “this guy doesn’t look right”. I entered the exam room, introducing myself. He told me that he had started to hurt a couple of weeks prior, the pain in his back, described as “Like something tearing”, had increased with time, despite his employing the ever popular intervention of “ignoring it, hoping it would go away”.

Having concluded on this beautiful sunny 8º F day, that is was *NOT* going to get better, he had WALKED three miles into town, by his estimate, seeking help.

He had muscle spasm in his back, true enough, but something about his story sounded several degrees out plumb. I palpated his belly, and felt something therein pulsing away. He also reported that my pushing on his belly, made his back pain worse. I was not certain what it was, but I was pretty sure that this was way, sway above my pay grade.

I phoned the ED physician, spun my tale of oddness, and he accepted my patient. My nurse wheeled him down the hall to Emergency, and we plodded through the rest of our day.

Nearing the end thereof, the ED physician walked in my door, and told me a story, featuring my long walking friend. He, the physician, had also thought that the examination, along with the back pain, was odd, and so he, the physician, had CT’d my patient. That study revealed a honking big, seriously dilated abdominal aortic aneurysm (a dilation of some part of the aorta, in this case in my patient’s abdomen).

For those in the studio audience who are not medically inclined, the aorta is the single largest, highest pressure, artery in your entire body, running about 2 cm in the area just below your diaphragm, about at the level of your renal (kidney) arteries. Those of us who have studied the US Military’s tactical trauma care course, or have had some sort of “care under fire” training”, will have learned that, should the aorta be penetrated, either by projectile or through a rending of it’s wall, the entire blood volume of an adult male (running around 5 quarts) can empty out in something approaching a minute, plus or minus. One thing that places you at risk of experiencing that, besides the projectile-through-your-aorta thing, is having a large aortic aneurysm abruptly rupture.

Of course, in VVRH, there was no abdomino-thoracic surgery service. My friend the ED doc attempted to arrange a transfer for this fellow, only to be SOL (Surenuff Outa Luck). The roads in our corner of the state were being snowed in, and therefore ground transport to pretty nearly anywhere was not going to happen.

Doc cast his net more widely, and more widely. Adjacent State Big Time Medical Center would accept him, but, alas, we would have to figure out how to beam him up transport him there. Middling Outstate Medical Center could not accept him, since they had no vacant ICU beds, which our new friend would certainly require, assuming he survived (a) the trip, (b) the surgery, and (c) the post op period. Any one of which could end him.

Next Up Upstate Medical Center, alas, similarly had no ICU vacancies, and so, finally the physician negotiated a transfer to Downstate Academic Medical Center, who, miraculously, sent a fixed wing aircraft and critical care transport team to our little single runway county airstrip.

A couple of weeks later, I was working a weekend as was the physician in question. He made a point of strolling over , and relating the above to me, both because it was remarkable that the patient had not only survived the trip, as well as the surgery, and the recovery, into the bargain, but was home, and evidently neurologically intact. The doc knew this, because this fellow had come into ED seeking care for a sprain or some such thing, that he had newly acquired, working outdoors!