Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My First Code

Finally, finally, finally. After working at a hospital for ten and a half months, I have witnessed my first code.

Every other time before when the monitor tech paged a "Code zero room so-and-so," I've been trapped in a room somewhere. One time, we had three separate codes on my floor and I missed them because I just so happened to have been sent to ICU for those four hours. Where no one had the decency to code, I might add.

So this time, I was really and truly excited. No patients needed my attention. I wasn't on the wrong floor. When they called "Code zero room 324," I dashed in there as fast as my little legs could carry me.

The patient was a 60-year-old male with various extensive health problems, including diabetes, MRSA wounds, kidney failure, and on and on. The nurse had told me that he lived in the nursing home across the hall from his 85-year-old father. How sad is that?

Anyway, I was standing there agog as two nurses took turns doing chest compressions. Then suddenly the doctor was there, and anesthesia, and four more nurses, and the other nurse's aide on the floor, and we all worked on him. They shot him full of fluids and epinephrine, but the poor guy was just not destined to make it. We worked for a solid half hour to establish normal sinus rhythm and a firm, solid pulse with no luck. We would get a strong pulse.... only to have it slip away. He would go into vtach and we would shock him... only for him to lose it again.

Throughout the whole thing, I was excited rather than disturbed. I gathered the courage to do chest compressions and pumped on his chest for four or five minutes before I needed a break. It's astounding to think that you have the power to keep someone closer to life than to death just by doing that.

After that half hour, the doctor called it and everyone settled back. One of the weirdest but most heartening things was how the relief shone through in that moment. Everyone knew they had given their best, and it hadn't been enough, but they were all cracking jokes as we cleaned up the room. They all kept asking me if I was okay, and I would tell them, "Just fine." It hadn't disturbed me at all. Maybe this was because the patient wasn't one I had taken care of before? Maybe I am just a cold-hearted bitch? I'm not sure.

Now I look forward (not really, but you know what I mean) to a code on a patient I know so that I can see how I react.

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