A Day In The Life… [5] Reprint

24 Hours… of ECMO

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Part V:  Past Midnight… Ghost Stories & What-Not

3:00 am

Ghost stories

So it’s 3 a.m. and the STS paper work has become a mountainous blur, our ECMO patient is on “cruise control”, the hive activity is down to almost nothing, and there is an empty room down at the other end (the far end) of the ICU.

Note:  The fake flash I put in there to make it look “Ghostly”

The coffee ran out 2 hours ago and any conversations that are contrived at this hour, are there simply forwarded as a push to stay awake as opposed to a “gettin’ to see how you’re doin’ “ kind of thing.

It is a Sargasso Sea moment for the PICU (a sea so calm it almost stranded the 3 ships of Columbus lore).  But calm is good, and this seems to be as a good a time as ever to try to slip in some shut eye- before the next wave of activity.

As with all things historic and iconic (as this West Texas hospital is), this ICU as brand spanking new as it seems to be, is anchored in a building that has been around for awhile, and has seen it’s share of tragedies and miracles over many many decades.

What comes with tragedies and miracles? 

Stories and legends, that are repeated from generations of nurse as they repeat themselves.  So while we urge our patients to “never go into the light” (at the end of the tunnel) we find ourselves seeing a different sort of a light down at the end of the hallway.  And way past midnight, when the lights are out and we are half asleep, our minds play tricks and we get plenty of help on how to interpret shadows and sighs from our friends at work who love to drum up a little mischief for fun of course (because it’s their job to stay awake on the night shift).

So I burrow myself  in like a tick into a narrow visitor’s cot in the small room at the end of the long hallway.  Curtains drawn, my shape barely illuminated into a shimmering silhouette by whatever light is being refracted like a kerosine lamp from the other side of your tent window.  It’s moments like these when the smallest bug on the window can look like the legendary Chupacabra of Mexican lore.

It was funny to see the wide eyed look of one of the nurses further down the hallway as I passed her to head off to sleep.  She looked at me as if I was a condemned man on my way to whatever horrible fate awaited me in that room around the corner.

4:00 am

Sleep and noises.  That was it.  No goblins, poltergeist, or ghosts.  No wind gusts or icy cold frost coming from my mouth as I exhaled.  I slept and heard noises.  It’s a hospital PICU, not the downtown Hilton.

I awoke in one piece, neck untouched (or punctured) and a twinge in my lower back reminding me of what I had slept on for the last hour.

5:00 am

The Chest X-Ray (CXR)

(A sample Image of a “Normal” CXR)

Every once in awhile comes a seminal moment.  That epiphany we are all gifted to encounter once in a while during our clinical lives,  that moment of clarity when the clouds part a bit, and you can see blue sky and a distant shore.  That was the drama of this morning’s CXR.

After a major procedure the day before, to divert the course of the patient’s clinical progress, it appeared that a dove finally had arrived at Noah’s ark, and it was in the form of  a picture of some lungs that were really clearing up, and doing so at an unexpected pace.

It was a bright moment, and it definitely got everybody’s attention.

6:00 am

Coffee up

Time to recharge the batteries.

7:00 am

Shift Change-

Hello Ashley, Meghan, Lisa, Tiffers, and Shannnon…

Adios to the night shift (we hardly knew ya).  I am totally kidding about the “hardly knew ya’ ” part.

This is the part where a perfusionist on a 24 watch becomes a shift nomad.  Always wandering between cohorts and clique’s… never belonging to one.

We are just reservoirs of information and watch dogs at this point…

The pet you count on when there’s a stranger at the door (or the patient’s in trouble) , but the one you never notice curled at the side of your feet while you type (the patient’s doing just fine).

“What up-  Dawg ? “

A New Beginning …

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