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

Above and Beyond

So, TINS©, TIWFDASL©…. Well, OK: REALLLLYYYYY!, I was holding up the counter, and awaiting my next patient, when one of the registrars came up and informed me, “Reltney, I’ve got this sick lady out in the drive up, and I really think you need to see her! Like, right now!”

To set the stage, my urgent care has (surprisingly!) urgent care patients, as well as folks who arrange to be tested for Da Rona. This latter group makes their appointment, drives up, telephones in to announce their arrival, and my registrar gowns up, registers them (now, THAT is a surprise, amirite?), and one of the MAs gowns up, strolls out, tests them, and hands a sheet of instructions (prominently featuring the admonition to quarantine for ten days, or until negative results are forthcoming) to the patient.

This particular soul had not made it past the whole “registrar registers them…” part. This particular registrar, let us call her Eloise, has been doing this for several months. She is one of those quiet, efficient, takes-care-of-business folks that make things in general, and our agency in particular, run. She is not a nurse, not an MA, may not have any “medical training” whatsoever.

Nonetheless, Eloise had appropriately identified that this patient, nominally here for coronavirus testing, was way, way, way sicker than (a) coronavirus testing was gonna help in a clinically relevant timeframe, as well as (b) way, way, way, way! too sick to be driving around. So, she came and got me.

I went to the patient, shortly afterwards followed by an MA who had overheard Eloise’s pronouncement. I was impressed by the fact that this woman reported chest pain, nausea. left sided neck pain, left sided jaw pain, as well as being unable to tell me her allergies, or medications, or medical history, and could not state the name of her boyfriend (whom she wanted called to retrieve her vehicle) as I shortly had determined that this nice lady was going to shortly be the recipient of over 50 years of pre hospital emergency care wisdom and experience, as well as diesel therapy. (ambulances nowadays generally run on diesel).

I told Eloise to get an ambulance, and the MA hopped in, to clear a room for this patient. Eloise evidently had delegated that task, as she returned promptly with a wheelchair, and I noted another MA on the phone to dispatch, as Mrs. Chestpain was wheeled in.

As I assessed this soul, engaging in conversation all the while, it struck me that her ability to track the conversation was deteriorating before my eyes. Not a good thing.

Soon EMS arrived, packed her up, and set about their own part of her care.

I called report to the local ED, explaining the above.

I then went in search of Eloise’s supervisor. I informed this worthy that, in my opinion, Eloise had saved this woman’s life. Had she not had her head in the encounter, had she not noted “chick don’t look right” (the fundamental item of nursing assessment), had she not sought me out and had she not compellingly made her case that this was a SICK person, well, Mrs. Chestpain might have driven off, to die from (her heart attack)(her stroke)(a collision from her impaired ability to navigate), or (all three).

For some reason, I had occasion to speak to my physician supervisor around that time. I repeated the foregoing story, as well as the foregoing analysis, to her.

“Well, you know, Reltney, you also saved her life!”

“Ma’am,” I responded, “I have dozens of years of schooling, decades of emergency and clinical experience to enable me to do that sort of thing: it’s kind of what you are paying me for! Eloise, on the other hand, has none of those things. You are congratulating me for doing my job. I’m applauding Eloise for thinking outside of the box, outside of her job description, and acting effectively to get this woman the help she desperately required. Thank you, but Eloise went above and beyond her job. She is what made everything else happen.”

As a side note, here’s what the preceding paragraph looks like, when your cat helps you:

“Ma’am,” I responded, “I have dozens of years of schooling, decades of emergency and clinical experience to enable me to do that sort of thing: it’s kind of what you are paying me for! Eloise, on the other hand, has none of those things. You are congratulating me for doing my job. I’m applauding Eloise for thinking outside of the box, outside of her job description, and acting effectively to get this woman the help she desperately required. Thank you, but Eloise went above and beyond her job. She is what made everything else happen.”pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp

Thanks, Kitty. i do believe that I have this under control.

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

“From the mouths of babies…”

Last week I worked with a resident. She had recently completed a rotation at The Big Pediatric Hospital, in the ED. One of her stories involved a child with a fracture. She related that, as she was showing this child her fracture on the x ray, the child exclaimed, “That’s the broken part, isn’t it?”

This stimulated me to recall a tale of my own (for, does not nearly EVERYTHING, stimulate me to recall a story?). Long ago and far away, I was working urgent care at a distant clinic. In this facility, my MA was an x ray tech, going to school for MRI. One day, a family brought in the matriarch, who had hip pain after a fall. Indeed, this elderly woman was pained by the movement elicited by the cracks in our flooring (our flooring was in very good repair!) Well, (let us call my MA…) “Ashley” determined that there was an x ray in this lady’s future, and figured that one movement onto the x ray table might be superior to a move into the room, an exam, another move into the x ray room, and THEN onto the table. Good call.

Ashley took only one image, before exiting the x ray room, at speed, and summoning me. “Reltney, you need to see this film”.

“Oh? Is it interesting?”

“Well, I believe you will be irate if you delay another minute before you see this film. I think that it will have a serious impact on your medical plan of care!”

Well, alrighty, then!

I had previously casually mentioned the concept of “the ophthalmologic fracture”. That is a break so obvious, so lacking in radiologic ambiguity, that should an ophthalmologist happen by, that physician would stop in his/her tracks, do a double take, and exclaim, “Hey! That looks broken!”

This lady had a ophthalmologic fracture of her hip. I had Ashley copy this image on a CD, and had my clerk summon EMS. I called The Local Trauma Center, and described the events to the attending physician. Once EMS had arrived, I invited them to view the film. They were, as well, impressed. She was backboarded, and transported to the hospital for further evaluation and care.

My physician colleague (remember her? She led me into this tale, after all!) nodded. I concluded, “You, doctor, have just introduced me to the concept of “the pediatric fracture: a break so obvious that a child can identify it”!

Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pre Planning Your Scene · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

Neighbors

One fine day, TDW-Mark II and I were at home, doing some sort of chore or another. Our doorbell rang, and I answered it, to find the neighbor girl, a seven year old classmate of Grand Daughter Number Two, standing there with her three year old younger sister, hands clutched one in the other.

“What can I do for you?” I asked.

“My grandpa fell, and he hurt himself, he’s not moving. Can you help us?”

I hollered, “Honey! Emergency at the neighbors!”, and headed out the door, TDW-Mark II watching me turn the corner into their yard.

The girls led me into their home, where I saw an elderly gentleman (now, THAT would be the pot calling the kettle over-the-hill!) prone on the floor, at the foot of the stairs, with a pool of blood about his head. The girls stood by, anxious appearing, until TDW-Mark II appeared, and led them into the kitchen, and attempted to distract them from the front of the house drama.

I asked the gentleman if he was OK, and his answer did not inspire confidence. Looking over the scene, multiple bad scenarios played out in my imagination, all leading to the conclusion that I did not want to manage this scene alone, and I really, reeally wanted EMS here, pronto.

I dialed up dispatch, and abruptly realized that I did not know the house number.

Fortunately, all those years of Street! Medic! Experience! started to pay off, as I realized that the house would have the number displayed prominently on the front. I walked out front to familiarize myself with that little detail. Oh, yes. AND the name of the street one block East of my residence.

You don’t have to say it, I already know. Bad Stretcher Ape! Situational awareness fail!

So, anyhow, I shared my new-found wisdom with dispatch, and summarized what I knew. She assured me that our little town EMS would be on the way, and then proceeded to start into pre arrival care instructions. I played along, until she paused, and I observed, “So, I’m an ER nurse. he is breathing, he is speaking, sort of, and I am reluctant to move him in any way, because it appears that he fell down the stairs.”

“Oh. Right. Well, if things change, call us right back!”

“Yes, ma’am, will do.”

The medics arrive shortly thereafter, and I reported the little that I knew. The one medic was surprised. “You don’t know any of his history?”

“Nope. We’re the neighbors. The little girl came over and got us, when he fell.”

At about that time, the mother returned home, and TDW-Mark II filled her in on what we knew. We turned the kids over to her, said our goodbyes, and departed.

Housekeeping · Pre Planning Your Scene

Staging your CAT Tourniquet

I found this, here: https://elmtreeforge.blogspot.com/2021/07/some-good-information-on-setting-up-cat.html Known as “Irons In The Fire blog.

As is likely no surprise, I consider myself a sort of “Surprise, BAD!” guy. Since I might not always have my medic bag right in my hand, well, enter the concept of “everyday carry”.

I have a CAT tourniquet on my belt, well, pretty much all the time that I am wearing pants. Similarly, I have a SWATT tourniquet in my off hand pants cargo pocket, again, pretty much all the time that I am wearing pants.

To date, I have never required a tourniquet, either in a scramble, nor RFN. Still, as Bat Masterton is reputed to have said, “When you need a gun, you really, really need a gun!”, which, given today’s discussion, might be paraphrased as, “When you need a tourniquet, you likely will really, really need a tourniquet. And damned quickly, at that!”

Having stumbled over this video, I felt compelled to pull out my own front line tourniquets, and have a look see.

It develops that my McFee Tourniquet Stowage Plan-Mark I, was one of the featured fails in this video.

Oops!

I guess that makes July, “Medic Bag And First Aid Kit Review, Repack and Revise Month”!

Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Life in Da City!

Paying Attention Is Important

So, TINS (c), TIWFDASL (c), and working in Da Corridor. This was Da City’s, well, let us say, in paraphrase of the immortal words of Old Ben Kenobi, “Da Corridor: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy!” So, not the nice part of Da City.

I was working “The Corridor”, and an academy classmate, let us call him Gordon Lightfoot, was detailed in that day from another house. At this point of time, TBTCIDC was closed, as they were in the midst of moving kit and caboodle to the shiny, new, and in-the-medical-center hospital they had just opened. (Well, it had not been opened, just yet, and that little detail will figure prominently in this tale!) The hospital that was TBTCIDC’s “stand-in” was NOT generally the trauma center, but was in the medical center.

We caught call after call, transported sick (and a lot of not-so-sick) people, and generally saved lives. Our next run was on an asthma patient, and off we went. In fact, this particular address was only a block from the medical center.

We arrived, announced ourselves, and acquainted ourselves with this person’s malady. I brought the stair chair, and we wheeled this soul out to the ambulance, and settled them onto the cot. I had JUST entered the cab, preparatory to a leisurely trip to The Stand In Hospital, when Gordon stuck his head through the window connecting the cab with the patient compartment, and bellowed, “Reltney! He’s arrested!”

I hopped around to the back, and helped Gordon get set up for a spot of in transit CPR. Once he was set, I re entered the cab, and called dispatch: “Medic One, Code One, Stand In Hospital. Cardiac arrest, witnessed. Eta One Minute!”

Dispatch acknowledged. I tuned in the hospital alert frequency, and called: “Stand In Hospital, come in for Priority One traffic!”

They acknowledged, and I started my turn out into traffic, lights flashing, and siren wailing. “Witnessed cardiac arrest! CPR in progress! ETA one minute!”

The nurse on the radio was not clear on the message. “Say your ETA?”

“Open the doors! We’re here!”

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!

Fun And Games · guns · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Retail Pharmacy, So To Speak

A long, long time ago, in an ER very far away, I was a night shift ER nurse.

Surprise!

So, TINS, TIWFDASL, well, uh, not so much. I and the other nurses were capitalizing upon a slow moment and gabbing away at the nursing station, when one of our security officers ran in (literally!) and announced that “We got a shooting in the driveway!”

Having heard no loud noises, I was puzzled, but, these officers were not prone to overstatement, so I asked a couple of the other nurses to grab a cart, I grabbed some gloves, and off we went to the ambulance entrance.

Now, by way of background, this was in the early days of the crack cocaine epidemic (although, how one contracted “crack cocaine” from another person without active, willful action on one’s own part is unclear to me). A couple of blocks away was what might be considered to be an open air drug market. Folks (commonly suburbanites) would drive up, engage a soul in conversation and arrange a transaction, another confederate would be summoned and the exchange would take place, money from the buyer, drugs from the vendor.

We were told that in this particular transaction, the named patient, seated in the back seat of this two door vehicle, appeared to believe that he was the designated quality control inspector. Indeed, the tale appeared to paint this fellow as believing that he ought to remonstrate with the vendor regarding the unsatisfactory nature of the product that had been delivered.

As the History Of Present Illness unraveled, the vendor did not seem to have fully committed to a “Zero Product Defect”, nor a “Every Customer Fully Satisfied, Every-time” merchandising philosophy, as, when the shootee indicated that he, the shootee, intended to enforce his product quality complaint by with holding payment, he, the vendor, is reported to have produced a handgun, and shot the shootee.

Bad times ensued. The driver, unsurprisingly, panicked, and sped away. A few blocks later, he, the driver, noticed our bright “Emergency” sign, and pulled in, bellowing an incomprehensible narrative.

So, security cleared the car of the terrorized goslings, and I (and security, and my nursing partners) tried to extricate Mr. Beenshot’s inert form out of the rear seat of a coupe, indeed, a compact coupe.

It only closely resembled a cluster fuck. For a while.

We maneuvered Mr. Beenshot into our code room, and commenced to resuscitating. Before things had progressed very far, our doc had determined that this guy had a “STAT!” transfer in his very near future, and so the nursing supervisor, who had come at a run upon our paging a Code Blue overhead, peeled off to arrange with our transfer ambulance service that they produce a crew and truck RFQ (Right F*%king Quick), and then phoned TBTCIDC to provide them a heads up.

We eventually got him stabilized (kind of, sort of), and the physician had a detailed chat with TBTCIDC senior physician. Off Mr. Beenshot went, and we sought out the entourage, intending to elicit more history, more circumstances leading up to the shooting, more pretty nearly anything, so we could provide that information to TBTCIDC, as well as, well, notify next of kin.

Alas, the posse had unassed our waiting room sometime while we were distracted, trying to save the life of their friend, I mean, co conspirator.

Duty · Fun With Suits! · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome!

TINS, TIWFDASL at Medic 13, and we caught a run. Initial dispatch information suggested that this was a heart attack.

We arrived on the East Side of Da City, at the stated address, and discovered out patient was awaiting us, upstairs. The folks who were encouraging us to step right up and set to business, were pretty excited. As we arrived and entered the bedroom wherein our patient awaited us, well, we could see why.

Our initial patient survey was, to be charitable, not encouraging. The bedroom was nearly entirely filled by a double bed, and that bed was nearly entirely filled by an unbreathing human being. Unable to detect a carotid (big ass neck artery) pulse, we concluded that this soul was in cardiac arrest. Doug and I knew that there was NO WAY we were going to move this person, let alone move them down the stairs, into our ambulance, continue a resuscitation en route, and offload same at DBTCIDC.

While I started CPR, as best as I could on the bed, Doug called dispatch on the handi talkie, and brought them up to speed. “Dispatch, we need an engine company, or two, for manpower. We have a active cardiac arrest, on a patient estimated weight of 800-1000 pounds. That is a stat call.”

Dispatch acknowledged our call, and responded, “We will send you help”.

Doug and I both set to resuscitating this soul, until our help, a second MEDIC UNIT, arrived. This crew, Mariel and Don, while welcome, came nowhere near the lifting power we anticipated in ten firefighters. Doug relieved me, and I shared this insight with dispatch. “Dispatch, we need at least one full engine company, perhaps two, and we need them several minutes ago! This is a working cardiac arrest, and there is no way we can move, let alone lift, this 800-1000 pound patient!”

Dispatch informed us that that would be a chief level decision, and I was happy to buy into their decision making process. “Very good dispatch. We need our superintendent on this scene, stat. This is a patient safety issue, and our patient is in full cardiac arrest.”

The field supervisor, a captain in our division, jumped in. “Dispatch, this is shift captain (insert name here). I am on the way to Medic 13’s scene code one. They need an engine company. Please dispatch one immediately.”

Soon, a DCPD scout car arrived, disgorging two of the single tiniest female officers I had ever seen.

Right behind them came our captain. He (the captain) edged his way through the crowd of civilians (who were, helpfully enough, insisting that we simply “snatch him on up, and carry him on down to the hospital!” (while NOT climbing the stairs to lend a hand!)

Our captain surveyed the four rescuer CPR taking place, and retired to his vehicle to have a chat with dispatch.

Mariel had removed our cot from our ambulance, securing it in their rig, wisely determining that our patient, upon the floor, would fill the entire module. As she returned up the stairs, bringing every backboard strap that she could find, the first engine company arrived.

The officer of that company trotted up the stairs, took one look, and about-faced, running down the stairs. Shortly, he returned with 5 firefighters, and a salvage cover. Everybody heaved, and the cover was stuffed ½ way beneath our patient. Everybody “Ho!’-d, and it was pulled out from beneath him. Now we had a carrying apparatus, and the firefighters set themselves at each corner, Doug in one middle, me in another, Don at the head, and Mariel at the feet, and we slowly maneuvered our patient down the stairs, and into our ambulance. Mariel and I climbed in the back, Don took off to meet us at the ER, and Doug set out.

I had the walkie talkie in my pocket, and I could hear his conversation with dispatch while Mariel and I CPR’d our little hearts out. Doug suggested that another engine company ought to meet us there, and that the ER ought to be notified of our patient’s girth. Initially, they seemed unenthusiastic, until our captain suggested that either they dispatch an engine company to the ER, or the Chief of the Firefighting Division, since he, the fire chief, would be the one explaining everything to the news media.

Engine 5 met us at the ER. TBTCIDC had lashed two cots together outrigger style, and everybody moved our patient onto the cot. Once he was in the ER, our part of the show was over.

We effusively thanked our captain, as well as the fire crew.

Fun And Games · guns · Life in Da City!

“Doc, am I gonna die?”

 

So, TINS©, TIWFDASL©, and we caught a run for a shooting. Being full of excitement, because, gosh, THIS was an opportunity to, ya know, SAVE A LIFE!, we coded our happy way to the scene, there to meet the police. They pointed out the named patient, who, to our surprise, was NOT hovering at death’s door. Rather, he had sustained a small caliber gsw to his lower leg, had intact pulses downstream of his injury, and no evident bony injury. We walked him to the rig, buckled everybody in, and set out for TSBTCIDC.

We had dressed and bandaged his wound, and I was busily documenting same, along with the vitals we had obtained, when he asked me a question.

“Doc, am I gonna die?”

I looked at him, and shook my head no.

“Doc, really, am I gonna die?”

Sighing, I tucked my pen away, and addressed him. “No, you are not gonna die from this wound. You may not even be admitted to the hospital overnight.”

Hearing no further inquiry, I turned, again, to my charting. But, it was not to be.

“Doc, really, I can handle it. Am I gonna die?”

Some people, and one track minds. “Sir, you are not gonna die today, and not from that wound. Really, I’ve seen hundreds of shootings, and your injury is in no way life threatening. Okay?”

He nodded, as if in understanding. I (attempted to) return to my charting.

Shortly, he spake again. “Doc, really, I can handle it. Tell it to me straight, Doc. Am I gonna die?”

I was about over the “Doc” idiocy. “Sir, I’m not a physician, I’m a medic. And, do you really think you can handle the truth?”

“Yeah, I can handle it! Give it to me straight?”

“You sure you can handle the hard, icy, no bullshit truth? Because, if you are really, really sure, I’ll tell it to you straight! No punches pulled, no bullshit, no evasions. Is that really what you are looking for?”

“Yeah, Doc! Tell me the real deal!”

(Ah, well, it appeared that ‘listening to and following directions” was not at the very forefront of my friend’s skill set.) I rubbed my forehead, as if confronting some weighty ethical dilemma. I looked skyward, as if seeking Divine Guidance. I gazed at him, and delivered my response.

“Ok, if you’re sure you can handle it, here’s the real deal! You are not going to die! Do you know why, you are not going to die?”

“No, Doc, why?”

“Because you are not going to live that long!”

The rest of the trip was in blessed silence, as he endeavored to make sense of my revelation.

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

Bradycardia and The Cough

TINS©, TIWFDASL©, nursing in the ED of this community hospital in Northern The Un-Named Flyover State. A gentleman arrived, somewhere in his forties, and he told his tale of chest pain. He shortly thereafter sported the latest fashions in IVs, EKG monitoring, oxygen, and much blood drawn and sent to lab for analysis.

Two things you should know about me. I am a bottomless well of generally useless trivia, for one. For example, the relevance of which will become apparent shortly, I read a bunch of stuff, including a report, years and years and years ago which asserted that individuals undergoing a cardiac catheterization would be instructed that, should they be commanded to do so, they should cough vigorously and repeatedly. This would, or so the article asserted, increase pressure inside the chest, compress the heart, and thereby expel blood from the heart. This was important because occasionally the catheter, introduced into the heart, could produce irritation sufficient to produce fibrillation. (an uncoordinated trembling of the heart, which produces no blood flow. A Bad Thing.)

Once they drew in another breath preparatory to coughing once again, the negative pressure inside their chest so produced would encourage their heart to again fill with blood, which would be expelled with the next cough. This could temporarily produce enough blood pressure to keep things idling along, until the cath lab staff could intervene and set things right.

The other thing about me, is that I am somewhat chatty. (“No! Say it isn’t so!”). Okay, very chatty. So, there I was, chatting with this gentleman, and noting his cardiac rhythm and heart rate as displayed upon his cardiac monitor.

I noticed that his heart rate, originally in the 90’s, was trending downward. (normal is around 60-80). Once it dropped below 55, I stopped congratulating myself on wonderful patient care, and began to worry.

He began to report feeling dizzy and weak. I directed him, “When I tell you to cough, do not ask any questions, simply do it!”

He, of course, asked me why, but at that point his heart rate had dropped below 30 (Very Not So Good!), and I was a bit terse. “Stop talking, and cough!…Cough!…..Cough!….”

I repeated myself at about one second intervals. Now, I am sure that the other nurses heard me, and wondered what variety of insanity had afflicted me. Once they came in to investigate, and I waved my hand at the monitor, continuing my coxswain like commands of “Cough!….Cough!….Cough!….”, they noted his very, very slow intrinsic heart rate. That, coupled with this guy, eyes fixed upon me, coughing every time I commanded him to do so, told them everything that they needed to know, and things got considerably more active in short order.

He soon received a temporary external pacemaker and and an ICU admit.

And we all lived happily ever after!