Tuesday, March 30, 2010

can't we all just get along?

Ahhhh, the benefits of being a 4th year medical student. This past month, I have been rotating with the ICU. As a learning environment, it's terrific because I have actually sick patients (as opposed to people trying to get out of work), with actually complex disease processes, with actual attendings who teach!! And if that weren't enough, it's March, and NOBODY IN THEIR RIGHT MIND expects the 4th year student to know anything. (Honestly, after I matched in February, I couldn't tell you where the liver was if you asked me. I think it makes cholesterol does something to alcohol. Not sure, because I ate donuts and drank a lot last weekend. =P) But the bottom line is that I learn a lot, with minimal effort on my part. You just can't beat that. And since I know my life will NEVER EVER EVER be like that again, I am taking full advantage of senioritis.

But occasionally I wind up getting forced back into reality, and why I love this specialty. A few days ago, a teenager was shot and brought into our emergency room. I don't know the details, but the bottom line is that someone felt it was necessary to point a hard, cold, heavy gun at a baby-faced kid and squeeze the trigger a few times. Because that's exactly how kids should be settling arguments. *fume at utter unfairness of inner city life*

I didn't find out about the patient until the following morning, when I came in and overheard all the attendings abuzz about how they were managing him. Apparently he was out with friends and was shot, with multiple wounds to his bowel and also his aorta. For those of you out there in NormalVille, this is the aorta:

In case you still couldn't interpret that, IT'S A HUGE FUCKING ARTERY. AS IN, THE BIGGEST ONE YOU HAVE.

*drool* Anyhoo, our wonderful trauma surgeons were able to take the poor kid into the OR for bowel and aorta repair, and went through like 18 units of blood. I met him a few hours later in the ICU. Granted, the patient was quite critical, and still needed a ton of work done to get him out of the woods. I almost started crying myself when the mother had to be told that it was still possible her child could die. (She went through like 2 boxes of tissues...)

But the point is, he might not. In fact, it looks pretty good considering the severity of injury. In fact, this kid got really lucky that he was brought quickly to a place where experienced people could do a mind-blowing procedure to save his life. It's just amazing, and a little awe-inspiring. I can't possibly imagine how scary that must have been for those surgeons, knowing this CHILD's LIFE depends on a physical ability to cross-clamp an aorta or control bleeding from the mesentary or minimize infection from the perforated bowel. But they did it, and the kid looks ok. It's what I love about surgery. The stuff like that, that's meaningful. And I know that it's not always like that (and some days, it feels like it's rarely like that), but that makes this kind of save all the more special. With a little help from You-Know-Who (no, not Voldemort), this kid will have a life to live. It's special.

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