When I got a call one morning at 06h00 to notify me of a stabbed heart in Trauma, I was not filled with trepidation like the last time I received such a call. I thought, “I’ve done this before. I know what to do.”
But I did also get the call while I was busy crushing an arresting person’s ribs, so it took me a while to get to him.
When I arrived in Trauma, the stabbed patient had also arrested. The Trauma docs were already doing compressions. We put in a chest drain. We got him back for a few minutes. I called to theatre, but they were already scrubbed on another emergency. Our hospital only has one emergency theatre after-hours.
As the most junior in the room, I ran to blood bank to get emergency blood.
While I was away, our patient coded again. The doctors and nurses in Trauma resuscitated, again. One of my seniors briefly scrubbed out of theatre to perform an emergency thoracotomy.
We lost the patient.
It’s what I get for thinking, “I’ve got this”.
Every patient is different. This one was a little older than the last one. Maybe his reserves weren’t as good. There was delay in getting him to hospital – not much, but some.
Strangely, the thing that broke me was the blood-bank technician’s response when I returned the unused blood to her and told her that the patient demised.
“I’m so sorry. I thought I was fast enough.”
I told her it was not her fault – how could it be? And she had been fast. But I don’t know if she believed me.
And so we all carry the burden of the patients we lose.