Saturday, September 17, 2011

The entire patient

is what we treat.

A pt came in to us. Seriously hurt because they had done something stupid when consuming a bit too much alcohol. Well, a lot too much, really. Lucky because no one else got killed. He hurt himself worst of all, but his companion will be feeling the pain for days.  He ended up being surgical to fix some seriously broken bones in his face.

(you ortho-gods, bones, bone fragments, breaking bones, moving bones-def not for me.... I give you credit.)

As a good PA student, I researched his EMR thoroughly. It had been mentioned that he had an ID band on his wrist from our hospital when he came in. I asked him when he was alert enough if this was so, and it was indeed the case- he had been DC'd just a couple of weeks before.  Shocking- admitted for another trauma that was associated with ETOH. And further back, in the past 6 months he had been in our ED over 6 times. Not always admits, but always trashed.

Each time for ETOH abuse/issues. Levels were all over 200. Each time. Some MUCH higher. And most of these incidents were involving a several thousand pound vehicle traveling at high rates of speed. Anyone seeing any red flags?? I was holding his hand, and thinking how much he had cost our system, how close he has come to killing people. According to his EMR, he would spit at MD's when angry. None of that right now, he was a scared kid.

He was younger than my daughter, older than my son. I talked to him about quitting. He said he wants to, but he tried and he couldn't do it alone. I told him this meant NEVER drinking. He said he knows. He said he wanted that. He wanted rehab. 

I accompanied him down to the OR later. He was polite, we kind of knew each other at this point in time. I admit still being irritated with him, and feeling cynical- he was driving without a license,  he was responsible for several other injuries we were treating that day.  What made me think my simple little "You GOTTA stop drinking before you kill yourself or someone else" talk would make any sort of dent in his disease?

A family member was escorted into the room to see him. It was a woman, who right away went to his side and started to rub his back. I introduced myself and she told me she was his grandmother. She asked me a bit about his injuries, and what to expect. I reiterated to her some of what I knew, and what I had told him- his physical injuries were serious, but the most important thing was that he must stop drinking.

She looked right at me and said "He has to learn to love himself first, then the rest will be easy. I want him to get through this- he has a lot to deal with when he gets out of here. My only concern today is that he knows he is loved, and that he is loveable, and that I am here for him. That's my only concern today for him today. The rest will come."

She proceeded to tell him some of that, and I watched her bend over him, whisper to him, rub his back. While he was in and out of awareness, she told me a bit more about him.  She was his dad's mom, that his mom was not a loving person, and that she had said to him after he had come into us that she wished he had died. Her son just had been getting help with an addiction to drugs. "He's stepping upto the plate- it's taken him a long time, but he's here."  Her grandson had worked for the city but had gotten laid off with the latest cuts. When telling me the background, we both were teary. She then prayed over him-for his recovery, the surgeons hands and the calmness that is needed in the OR to make her grandson better. Her faith, despite mine being questionable, filled that cubicle. It was bigger than anything else in that hospital at that point.

His mom came, clearly inebriated. Grandma left then, so the rest of the family could come in.

During his post-op check, he was doing very well. He responded well, wounds looked great. I told him that his grandma had been there- and what a remarkable woman she was. He said he loved her.

I then told him this: To have someone love you so much is a gift. It's a gift very few have. It's provides more riches than most have. It may not put food on the table, but it puts something into your soul, your heart that is just not possible to reproduce. It's not something one should ever take lightly, and indeed it's a kind of responsibility to know that someone loves you that much.

For me, it was a reminder. A chuck under the chin to remember that the story is far more than the EMR might indicate. It's complex, sad, heartbreaking. But there are threads of golden woven through that glint thru the ugliness that permeates so many stories we see. Keep looking for the golden. You might find it.

I'm glad you're here....

Yesterday I observed a surgery that was not performed by one of our surgeons, but one from another service. We had had this patient for as long as I have been there, and has been my patient since getting to our hospital. I asked the if I could observe the day before, and was told to page the attending to ask.

I don't do that. Call me chicken if you want. I'll take that rather than the wrath of an irate attending that is about to perform miracles in the OR on a patient I care about. I want that attending to be in a really good, balanced mood when they take that blade into their hand, not irritated with a student-much less a lowly PA student.

So, I went down to pre-op with the pt and waited for someone who knew something about anything. The resident showed up and I asked him when the attending might be there. He said..."I'm glad you're here. I already talked to him about it- he's cool with it."

I admit- I got a bit hot and bothered. In a good way. Those words made my day. Quite possibly my rotation. Not one other person has said that to me since starting rotations;I miss that feeling of being a valued part of the team. Even as a tech, the RN's would comment on my being there- that they were glad to be working with me that night. I know I make a point of telling people that their presence is a good thing- that I appreciate them caring if I see them do something above and beyond. When teching, I have even emailed a RID (Really Important Doc) and said how much I appreciate their care of a patient. That might have been a bit too "annika" but I don't really care.

So, thank you Dr. C, you made my week. I stayed late to watch the surgery, but instead got a boost of needed energy.


So, as I said in the previous post, I am in surgery.  I am surprised to say that I love the ED part most of all. I mentioned before that I had considered a residency in ED- one focused on Rural medicine that is in NY. I kind of dropped the thought off of my local radar, just because A)money-I need to make some of that green stuff and the sooner the better! and B) thinking that not having the continuity of patient care might limit my enjoyment.

 Nope. Not so. It's actually good- I can care, and deeply care, about getting the patient better enough to get them to the next step of their recovery and that is good. I love the intensity, the need to bring all aspects of my (limited) training to the forepart of my brain, balancing the medicine, surgical aspects in the resus bay. I of course am watching and learning right now. But, my head is swimming with thoughts.  

So, the thought of the residency is back. Strongly. I think it might be great. I think I might like it. And since nothing else has really grabbed me yet during rotations, maybe this is it. Stay tuned.

I also admit feeling like I have not learned nearly enough thus far in my rotations. Not nearly enough. I also admit that I wanted to be at UMMC for many of my rotations. Thus far, I have gotten none of them. Zero. I miss the U, miss the environment that that place provides. There were endless opportunities to learn there- endless. I miss that a lot. I also miss the caring that the U seems to have at the center. I am not seeing that out in the "real" world, and I find that sad.

So help me GOD....If I see/hear of another person slamming a NG tube down someone, without lube, and hurricane spray--forgetting lido-jelly even for a moment as a possible assist-and then wonder why the patient was so miserable and refusing another NG tube, I wish the NG curse on them some day. Because when I asked, I was told "it takes too much time".  Oh boy...If I were not a student, and somehow could mention what I really thought, they'd get an earful.  Say whatever you want, it's the wrong thing to do.

I have seen several surgeries but none of the usual appy, lapchole, bowel obs for me! Nope, was in on a massive lac to the back of the neck where the C-spine was...right... there...and the clot that had formed was as big as a small baby. I kid you not. I have seen orbit repair with screws, plates, mesh. I have seen more I and D's- seemingly the bread and butter of surgery-forget hernias! I have seen an exploration of an orbit from a possible self-inflicted GSW...I'll tell that story at another date. 

I have learned a lot I admit. Most of what I have learned is this: 

  • Who you work with is as important as what you're doing
  • Driving over an hour to work is plain and simple NOT for me
  • I need to be someplace where patient centered care is at the fore-front at all times
  • I need to be someplace where you're striving to always be better, so the patients get better
  • I need to always be able to learn, to push past what I get and enter into areas that I feel lost and need the compass of those wiser than me to survive and thrive
  • Saying I don't know is okay as long as you make sure you will know soon
Till later. I have a hot date with First Aid and Surgery Recall, never mind Casefiles!

The rotations keep rolling

I am currently in my surgical rotation. Parts, I love. Parts I dislike. I have seen a lot of what I do not like in me coming out- dealing with one of the team members is quite challenging for me. I have 2 more weeks. I canwill be nice, and think good thoughts about this person and know at the end of it all, I would rather have me than that person taking care of my patients. And if you "know" me, that's saying a lot.

I finished psych. Outstanding preceptor, but horrible rotation. I am rotating in an area where despair is the norm, and the genetic pool is riddled with mutations. Psych is a hard one for me, because we can't fix it. Not one bit. Our meds might make a difference, but does it really change the illness? No, it'd be a fix, but not a change. In many ways, it's like a cancer, but a never-ending-never-changing sort of cancer. Lifelong CLL. But worse. I admit wanting to fix things, to make things better. Inpatient psych, esp as a consult service really can't do that, nor does it pretend to do this. Perhaps that's why there are so many tools and ways to pigeon hole the patients. A DX is essential, and knowing what their GAF is becomes important. How does axis III change axis II?  I? Perhaps intellectualizing all this allows for the MP to keep some distance, and allows for better care. I don't know, and I know that I am not going into psych.

That's okay. I am ok with that- there are so many things I want to go into, ruling one out is in my best interest right now.