“Call the code!”
My heart jumped into my throat as a stream of ICU nurses flooded our patient’s room. There are no other words in medicine that can freeze your actions as quickly as those three.
“Go get Dr. M,” my resident instructed. I sprinted through the hospital hallways, the thought entering my mind that this might be the closest experience I’ve had to Grey’s Anatomy yet.
Dr. M had just been there, confirming that our patient just needed some extra IV fluids and blood to fix her low blood pressures. Except she had other plans, as her failure to breathe would force us to take her emergently to the OR, now with increased concern for internal bleed from her newly transplanted kidney’s vasculature.
Once stabilized, we mobilized to the OR, where almost immediately upon incision, crimson pools of blood made their presence known. The surgeons rushed to suction off the hemorrhage and identify its source. Luckily, one squirty section of artery was easily found and stitched, and we began our hunt for additional leaks.
“Asystole,” the anesthesiologists’ voice boomed from behind the drape, breaking our concentration. I looked up to see the terrifying flat line on the patient’s heart monitor. My resident seamlessly began chest compressions.
The rest is a blur of chest compressions, pushing epinephrine, giving units upon unit of blood, using electric shocks, crowds of doctors and nurses scrambling to find ways to be helpful, calling medical examiners, moving a cold body to a new stretcher, paperwork, toe tags, struggling to keep it together while the family fell apart.
I was only supposed to be there to help with the renal transplants that night.
Instead, I saw my first code. I did my first chest compressions. I was reminded that though my future job will be to save lives, I won’t be able to save them all.