Emergency Room 11

January 1, 2008
By Malcolm Leo Ladines, Plano, TX

Deep brown blood soaked her shirt. She let out a deep bellowing noise, an attempt at coughing drowned out by her inability to breathe. She stared blankly at me, as if she wanted to say something. I fastened her blood pressure cuff on her right arm while the charge nurse tried to get another IV line started. High-pitched tones beeped constantly, drowning out the commands of another nurse in the room. The patient on the stretcher stared at me for a while, and finally mustered up enough strength to groan, “I feel like I’m gonna throw up.” She groaned again, opening her mouth, when suddenly blood poured out of her mouth and all over the floor. The dying patient in Emergency Room 11 made the most impact on my life.

Life seldom goes perfectly, especially in the Emergency Department. However, the experience with the woman in Emergency Room 11 was on the bottom of the list of things that made me retch while in clinical rotations. Two hours of clinical rotations every school day on two-week blocks over the past two years gave me my first glimpse into the life of being a medical professional. The second year of the clinical rotations class focuses on attaining the highest medical license available to high school students: Basic Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT-B. The previous year focuses on earning the Certified Nursing Aide license, or CNA.

Last year, students asked me about life as a clinical student. Did I observe cool surgeries like on Grey’s Anatomy? Had I seen victims of multi-car pileups brought into the Emergency Department by ambulance? Sometimes we do see things such as a helicopter flying in a patient from another hospital or an ambulance bringing in an infant having a seizure, but life rarely throws perfect pitches.

Some pitches end up being curve balls. Working to get our CNA license required us to gain experience at a nursing home for a total of twenty-four hours over a four-week period. As mere CNA students at the lowest position on the hierarchy of patient care providers, we got the worst jobs. The CNA in charge of the hallway paired us with an elderly resident and had us help him or her with the morning routine every day. On the surface, this simply means fixing his or her hair, making the bed, and driving the wheelchair to the dining room for breakfast. However, a deeper look reveals that our job entailed many tasks that were not only difficult but also not as sanitary as one would hope. Changing soiled diapers actually topped the list of easy skills a CNA must learn. Bathing a resident usually took up a lot more time, and sometimes took up all the time spent at the nursing home.

Occasionally life throws a slider, where, simply put, something just happens and it slips by because you cannot do much about it. In the Emergency Department at the Medical Center of Plano, EMS brought in a trauma case of a fifty-three year old man with an intracranial bleed, or bleeding within his brain. I stayed in the room while the physician intubated the man, placing him on a respirator. There followed an awkward silence pierced only by the deep whoosh of the respirator forcing air into the man’s lungs. His wife looked on with a pale, blank expression, while his son, about my age, paced around the room continuously, staring for a while at his father lying on the hospital bed, then turning his attention to me, then staring at his father again. He seemed to be struggling with something in his mind, wondering whether to ask or not. Finally, looking at me with tears welling in his eyes, he asked, “Do you get these kinds of patients often?” I did not have enough courage to say anything in response. I feared that he might not take my response with a grain of salt. All I could think to do was excuse myself, telling the physician that I needed a minute alone. Time just slipped past me, and I felt like I had no control over the situation. Life is never perfect.

Looking back at my two years of experience in the clinical rotation program, I’m pretty sure that if I had a dime for every student who asks me why I still take the class, I’d have enough money to fund my college education. Many of them tried to convince me to take other classes, citing the low scaled GPA because clinical rotations it isn’t an honors or AP class, spring break taken away to supply time needed for the ambulance ride out experience, and, of course, the “ick” factor of stepping in blood, guts, and vomit every now and then. For me, the clinical rotations class has not only been the foundation on which I begin to build my medical career, but also a maturing process. As our teachers told us on the first day of school, we saw things that we never would see in a normal high school career, and we learned from those experiences. My studies to become an EMT-B have not only given me the chance to explore and experience many different fields of medicine but also further motivated me to become a doctor. My experience in the clinical rotations class has taught me that although life does not always throw the perfect pitch, the perfect pitch will come when I achieve my goal of becoming a doctor.

“Patience is bitter, but its fruits are sweet” –Jean Jacques Rousseau

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