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November 19, 2019: More Trauma Drama

Today I did the first of two twelve-hour clinical rotations at Mat-Su Regional Hospital. It was dark when Pete dropped me off at 7 a.m., at the Emergency Department door, and dark at 7 p.m. when he picked me up.

On the drive home I told him about my experiences, not in a this happened, then this happened, then this happened fashion, but rather in an illogical, disjointed fashion, a fashion typical of someone who saw a great deal but had yet no time to summarize and elaborate upon the supposed good bits.

The best I can do is go back and provide a brief subjective account. Later, bits and pieces of this day will become anecdotal. Memory is subjective; we shape it and it shapes us.

So, here’s what happened, sort of. The day began with my being asked by the nurse I’d been assigned to do a medical history on a 17 year old male who was having abdominal pain. My first thought was, you want me to do what? My second thought was, okay, I can do this. So after I introduced myself to the patient and his mother, I did a medical assessment, focusing on the incident and his medical history. The questions came easily to me, as did additional questions.

Winter is finally upon us
Winter is finally upon us

The patient was in severe pain, thrashing about. I took notes, and after went back to the nurse and gave her a verbal patient history. She then said to me that she thought that he’d pulled a muscle. “You think so?” I asked. “I think so,” she said.

I returned to the patient and mother – I did not say what I’d written in my notes, which was that I thought he had appendicitis. This was because I did not want him to start fretting about something that might not be – surgery. Instead we talked for a long time.

Later, I looked over the ER doctor’s shoulder and next to the patient’s name saw the word appendicitis. This was the most interesting thing of all – the patient said that in terms of severity that the pain was a 9. But later, when he was talking to the surgeon, he said that the pain was a 4. He was then much more calm, relaxed, and more detailed when talking about his condition.

This was the only assessment that I did. My nurse supervisor went to admit and assess incoming patients, and so I was then on my own. I spent the rest of the day talking, talking, talking to over a dozen medical patients, in an attempt to get them to focus on something other than their pain. In this respect, the day was well spent. The doctors and nurses and phlebotomists and transport people and medical records people – they were all so busy – there was no time for them to do what I did, empathize and provide limited medical insights.

I wanted to do more for the woman with the year old child with cerebral palsy who’d had seven seizures that morning; for the woman all alone suffering from unexplainable chronic pain; for the feisty woman with chest pain who had been waiting four hours for a diagnosis and badly wanted a cup of coffee; for the fearful elderly couple who’d been brought in separately and were in need of social service input.

And at the end of my visits with all these patients, I wished them the best, and said I enjoyed talking with them. Was this enough? I will never know. My accounts, their accounts, they may differ – no matter, our paths crossed and we are all the better for it.

Next: 321. 11/20/19: Checking in on Tinni

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