Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A night's work

I smelled like a goat. Well, I have never been that close to a goat but after my two hour nap, not only did I smell like what I imagined a goat would smell like, if I ever got next to one, but I felt a bit like I had been herding them all night.

For the third time in eight months, I took a nap when I got home on Monday. I went straight to bed taking only my shoes off before plunging beneath the sheets. It was almost noon and I set my alarm for 2. I do not want to become one of those people who sleep in the day on their days off. Or in the day on the days I am working, as is frequently the case with some of the other hospitalists.

While the daytime is occasionaly slow, the nights are not. I worked Wednesday, Friday, Sunday last week. Here are a few vignettes.

Just as the nightly news is over two nurses from the antepartum floor came through the doors of labor and deliver pushing a patient on a stretcher. A man who looks to be the husband is following them. Much of the talking I do not understand because the patient only speaks a Vietnamese dialect.

Taking the chart from one of the nurses, I read that her pregnancy is 23 weeks and 6 days gestation (about 17 weeks shy of term) and she has been in the hospital 4 days for an incompetent cervix dilated to 3 centimeters on admission. This was her first pregnancy and the patient had been having pain for 2 hours but was monitored and no contractions were detected. When she began bleeding the nurses rushed her downstairs. No one had ever called me about the pain. Grabbing the portable sonogram, I determined that the baby was a double footing breech presentation with the feet in the vagina. Fetal heart tones were good. Calling for anesthesia, I asked for the translator phone. "Yes, the patient wants a C-section to increase her baby's chance of survival." Quickly the risks and benefits are explained to she and her husband.

We all move to the delivery room where I help the nurses get the patient on the operating table as the anesthesiologist gets the drugs and equipment ready to induce anesthesia. I put a Foley catheter in the patient's bladder while the nurse listens again to a strong fetal heart. Rubbing antiseptic gel on my hands, I gown and glove myself while the scrub nurse and circulator count instruments, and sponges. Placing the drape on the patient, I have another nurse hold the translator phone to her ear. "Tell her we will take very good care of her, I will not start until she is asleep." I can't believe she is not struggling. She is just waiting. Her baby weighs 590 grams (1 pound and 1 ounce) but is doing well in the nursery on day 4 of life. I will have my fingers crossed for months to come.

Next I am off to the emergency room. There is a 16 year old miscarrying. Her parents dropped she and her boyfriend and the older sister off but went to eat dinner because the wait was so long. This girl is bleeding a lot and I cannot get all the tissue out of the uterus so the bleeding continues. Giving her pitocin in the IV slows the bleeding a bit. She will need a curettage to get the tissue out. I am never sure a 16 year old can consent for herself when she is not actually pregnant. There has been much in the news about this in Texas and I want her parents back. The sister is calling them on the cell phone.

While this is happening in section C, a morbidly obese woman in section D has a fever of 103 degrees. She could have appendicitis, gastroenteritis or pelvic inflammatory disease. Of course medicine and surgery think I should admit her for PID. When I examine her she simultaneously vomits and urinates on me. She gets admitted - to surgery. I told them I would follow with them and we agree on antibiotics as I write my note.

The 16 year's parents are back, consent is obtained and I change clothes on the way to the OR. Once this is done, the curettage is easy and she is off to the recovery room. Talking to the parents, the mother is upset and wants to know how this could happen. At first I think she is asking how her daughter got pregnant but I soon realize she is upset about the miscarriage. I want to talk with all these people about how to keep this young woman, who is smart as well as beautiful, from getting pregnant again. The mother and I have a discussion that night. The girl and her boyfriend, who is 17, and I have a detailed discussion the following morning.

I could go on. In one of the routine deliveries, I catch the father of the baby just before he passes out. The patient is 15 and he doesn't look like he shaves more than one a week. His mother and hers are both in the room pushing with the patient during the second stage of labor, from the cervix being completely dilated to the birth of the baby. They could care less about the 'baby daddy.'

All of these events were between the 6 pm news and midnight. Other events happened after that and I was too busy to take my 7 am shower before rounds with the residents. After rounds, I just wanted to get home and get into bed. I hate to sleep in the day but I knew some rest was necessary if I was going to survive to tell this tale.
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