April 26, 2012

On a Patient’s Worst Day

Minutes from now, the newly conscious patient will flail softly in her bed and try to pull out her breathing tube. A nurse will be there to stay her hand. Right now, though, she’s slipping toward death. As she was being turned in her bed, her heart rate plummeted, and it hasn’t returned. She’s gone rigid and lifeless.

It’s mid-morning in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Vanderbilt University Hospital. A code is called, and doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners come rushing down wide hallways.