Saturday, October 22, 2011


This week I had my first patient die. She had a heart attack unexpectedly. It is a surreal experience to see a patient “coding” as they call it. Trying to bring them back is an experience full of chaos, almost violence as CPR is performed hard enough to reach through the ribs to the heart, people calling out loudly, rotating turns doing CPR compressions, pushing medications. Death is such a serious thing. A final thing. An obviously life changing thing. But when your job is to work with people who are sick and could die, it is a very strange thing. When I heard about the patient I was eating crackers. We walked over to the heart center where the cardiology team had been working on her before her heart stopped. When we arrived we briefly saw the masses of people trying desperately to bring her back. Her family was crying in the hallway. We left to get out of their way. I hoped the family didn’t ask me about what was happening to their mom and wife. And then, not knowing what to do next, I went back to eating my crackers. It seemed wrong. It seemed insensitive. But there was nothing I could do for her. Work had to be done. And I was hungry.

This week I also made it to the OR for the first time on Vascular Surgery. I got to perform my only requested surgery, an amputation.  A man had a non-healing toe infection. I performed an amputation of the big toe. I was worried I might think it was a little too gross. Cutting on a draped off piece of  skin or working inside the mouth is something I can do and focus on the procedure. But toes are PEOPLE’s toes. You can’t trick your mind into thinking it is just a procedure not attached to a person. It is someone’s toe. But I did fine--and don’t judge me when I say it was really fun--until I handed the  “specimen” off to the nurse. I realized then, “Oh that is someone’s toe!”

Death of a patient and death of a toe. Big events for the patients involved. Just another day in the life of a resident.


Tawnya said...

wow, that would be hard erin. I always watched er but it was just a show and i knew the people were actors. can't imagine how it would be in real life.

Susan said...

I am so sorry, I love you!

Colt said...

how did you cut off the toe? just a straight saw through or did you make an incision of the tissue first?

nathan n rachel said...

So sorry about the patient dying.

So gross about the toe!

Camber said...

Is it terrible of me to say that I think it would be cool to amputate a toe too? I have to say, of all body parts that get amputated, toes are the most dispensable. Although that can put a stop to an illustrious flip-flop career. Sorry about the patient. It's easy to forget sometimes how serious medicine can be at times. And the crackers...well, life has to go on. I probably would have done the same thing.