Yesterday, I had just brought a patient into the hospital and was making light conversation with a couple of the nurses and one of the nurses, Mary, had asked if I had worked on Saturday. I replied that I hadn’t. She related that she had gotten several emergency patients in a row; one in particular was a teenager that was in ventricular tachycardia. Unusual, but obviously possible. I commented about a particular transport I had more than a few years ago, a young lady with an underlying congenital heart problem of dextrocardia. Again, unusual but possible. As I was driving home from work later that evening, I relived that call in my mind. It made it a bit hard to continue driving.
I had just brought an emergency patient into St. Joe’s West and was preceded by another crew who had transported a 19 year old in respiratory distress. Upon arriving at the emergency room, I was informed by my dispatcher that I would be transporting a critical patient from the emergency room to Children’s Hospital Emergency Room. Stat.
After I finished transferring my current patient’s care over to the staff, I went to the ER doc and nurse to receive my reports and orders for my critical patient. A 19 year old female had collapsed, in respiratory distress, while playing soccer, if my memory serves. She then went into respiratory arrest and bradycardia and was transported by a fellow crew. All of her treatments over the years and all of her primary doctors and surgeons were at Children’s. That was where she needed to be.
Her main medical history was dextrocardia. Dextrocardia comes in two forms. The first form presents with the heart on the opposite side of the chest, usually with no other side effects except that medical professionals have to reverse the ECG leads when obtaining an ECG. The second form is a bit more radical with all visceral organs reversed. My patient had the first form but with an added twist. As it was described to me by her parents, she was also born with her heart pumping blood in the opposite direction, from the left side of the heart to the right. She had undergone more than a dozen surgeries as a child to correct this, but ultimately she still had a heart that was effectively running in reverse, usually causing her to be chronically fatigued.
I went into the trauma room to observe my patient and to see what exactly I was dealing with. A pretty-as-a-flower young lady was laying on the gurney, sedated. I remember her parents being in the room, looking very worried. She was intubated and on a ventilator, and her heart was being paced by a transcutaneous pacemaker (the hospital version of our LifePak ECG Monitor/Defibrillator). She had several medications running, including a sedative (probably Propofol) and Levophed (a vasopressor medication that encourages the heart to be more active and pump more forcefully so as to increase blood pressure). I was also made aware that the staff had been slowly increasing the gain (milliamps) on the pacemaker to maintain heart capture. Plain and simple, this kid’s heart was failing. This transport wasn’t going to be an easy one.
I made all my preparations. Got all my medications switched over to our medication pumps, obtained my ventilator settings and prepared the ventilator. We moved our patient to our stretcher and switched to our ventilator. I synchronized our pacemaker with the hospital’s and made the switch. So far, so good.
“Fly like the wind” was the order from the doc and from me to my partner. Mom was accompanying us, secured in the passenger seat.
We hadn’t even made it all the way to I-94 before I was already increasing the gain on the pacemaker to keep her heart going. I kept Mom informed of what was happening, but to be assured that I wouldn’t give her daughter and her anything less than my very best.
By the time we were sprinting past St. John’s, the gain was maxxed out and I had already increased the Levophed to its maximum limit. My mind was racing, trying to think of anything else I could possibly do to help this beautiful kid with a whole life ahead of her. She made up my mind for me. She arrested. Too far to turn back to St. John’s, we narrowed our sights on Children’s and told my partner to pick it up, speed limiter be damned. I honestly don’t think my partner was ever doing less than 80 mph once we entered on to the freeway.
I started my CPR compressions and ventilations, and started dumping Epinephrine and Atropine into the IV. I remember telling her to keep going, even yelling at her to not give up. Anything to give her a chance. We rolled into Children’s ER and immediately into the Trauma Room to the awaiting trauma team. I stayed and helped until the last, CPR or ventilating or administering medications, whatever was needed. An hour and a half later, we finally stopped.
Afterwards, I went to the quiet room where her mother and father had been waiting to express my condolences. I finally broke down and cried. I had finally left everything on the table that day. Her parents were so grateful for what I did for their daughter and hugged me, trying to console me when I should have been the one consoling them.
It was a quiet trip back to the service area. I was truly exhausted, physically and mentally.
I went to the funeral home a few days later to pay my respects. It’s not something I usually do, but I do occasionally. I’ve found over the years that it helps lessen the burden on the soul and keeps my perspective in check. I found that, regardless of this young lady’s heart problem, she defied the odds, living life like a normal kid should, with an abundance of energy and optimism. She had many friends and family and it appeared to me that she never let something like a broken heart stop her from living every day to the fullest.
As I finished my drive home yesterday, thinking about all of this and through blurry eyes, “The Fire Down Below” by Bob Seger came on the radio. Coincidence? Probably, but maybe not. I realized that that young lady approached her life with a fire and a spirit that kept her going years after what many thought was possible. When she arrested, I felt like I claimed that fire, if only for a little while, so I could do what I needed to do. She deserved nothing less. I needed to give her nothing less than my best. I realize now that I also did it for myself. So I could go back the next day and the next day and every day. Just to give someone else that chance.
Okay, that’s enough for now. I’m an emotional wreck right now. God bless and Bring it!
I am Old Glory,
The Stars and Stripes,
The Star-Spangled Banner,
And The Red, White and Blue.
My Union is a constellation
For each of these United States,
My stripes for each of those
Bold colonies who declared unequivocally
Free and independent of a tyrannical king.
Old Glory Red is for valor
For those who fought and died,
For those who still fight,
Remember them all.
Red is the blood spilt by soldiers and sailors.
Oh, the sacrifices they have made
So that we may live,
So that we are free.
Red is the courage of our citizens,
To stand and defend the defenseless,
To accomplish the impossible,
To sacrifice all for our beliefs,
To follow The American Dream.
Red is the lifeblood,
The very essence of these United States:
Nowhere else will you find such people.
White is the light,
Blinding to all who wish to be free.
The fire that Liberty holds aloft,
Guiding others to our shores.
The New Colossus at the golden door,
The Shining City upon a Hill.
White is the purity,
It is the Spirit of America.
It is the ideal that justice prevails,
It is our treasured freedoms,
The bedrock on which this great nation rests.
White is the spirit of it’s citizens,
The religious freedoms that we hold dear,
Free to pray and to worship,
The free voices with which we utter without fear.
White is the melody of a song,
It inspires like no other,
A chorus of angels,
To inspire and strengthen us.
Old Glory Blue is to be true,
Of loyalty our fighting men and women,
Understand and declare:
“No one left behind”.
Blue is the embodiment of strength,
Of perseverance and commitment,
Of character and belief.
When all hope seems lost,
It’s what an American strives to be.
Blue is our skies and our waters,
Pure and good.
Breathe deep and drink deep,
It sustains us when nothing else exists.
Blue is excellence,
For which we strive,
We toil and we hunger,
We serve with distinction.
Be proud and blessed,
I am you and yours.
I am your neighbor and your friend;
I know no colors but these.
I encourage the fallen to stand,
I protect the innocent and the defenseless,
I show the path to those lost;
I bring faith to those in need.
I am justice when injustices exist,
Be assured that liberty prevails.
I am the strength of hard work,
You know its rewards.
I am the spirit that drives you,
To exceed all expectations.
I am the optimist,
There is always a way.
I am humility and charity,
Giving our last to others that need.
I persist against our enemies,
When you are down and almost out,
With hope and melody,
I encourage you to fight to your last breath.
You see a banner,
Struck in freedom and liberty,
Sewn with hope and faith and love,
Hung with pride and spirit.
I see a people,
Determined and strong,
Charitable and free,
Proud and thankful.
I am Old Glory!
Michael Clinton Ulrich
Whoever you are—you who are alone with my words in this moment, with nothing but the honesty to help you understand—the choice is still open to be a human being, but the price is to start from scratch, to stand naked in the face of reality and, reversing a costly historical error, to declare: ‘I am, therefore I’ll think.’
“Accept the irrevocable fact that your life depends upon your mind. Admit that the whole of your struggle, your doubts, your fakes, your evasions, was a desperate quest for escape from the responsibility of a volitional consciousness—a quest for automatic knowledge, for instinctive action, for intuitive certainty—and while you called it a longing for the state of an angel, what you were seeking was the state of an animal. Accept, as your moral ideal, the task of becoming a man.
Do not say that you’re afraid to trust your mind because you know so little. Are you safer in surrendering to mystics and discarding the little that you know? Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life. Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not omniscient, but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience—that your mind is fallible, but becoming mindless will not make you infallible—that an error made on your own in safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error. In place of your dream of an omniscient automaton, accept the fact that any knowledge man acquires is acquired by his own will and effort, and that THAT is his distinction in the universe, THAT is his nature, his morality, his glory."
— Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Two years ago, I was sporting a football-sized tumor in the middle of my chest. A huge thanks to my doc and to my family and friends for their unbridled support.
"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men and women who died. Rather we should thank God that such people lived."
— General George S. Patton, Jr
"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson