February 20 2000
1A The Hole
Hope End Street
There has been somewhat of a lull in our correspondence recently? I hope you have not drowned in the pool? Or fallen off your bike on some steep descent or other?
My sojourn on ‘Buttercup’ ward is (thankfully) almost at an end and I am tired out. There have been one or two incidents and one, in particular, has played upon my mind.
It was an evening shift and the only staff on duty were myself, the ward Sister, and a young volunteer (clad in a pink shift). And in the side ward (invisible through swing doors) were two male patients recently admitted with cardiac symptoms. One of them, in my view, looked perfectly okay but the other had rather a grey-looking complexion and kept pacing about the floor.
I did say to the Sister, at this point, that I felt we could keep a better eye on him if he was moved into the main ward, but she said that – as it was an all-female main ward – we could not do this. I carried on with my work and all seemed quiet. And then the volunteer came up to me and asked if I could help Mister X off the commode. It did run through my mind to wonder why a man who was previously pacing about the room was now, suddenly, unable to get off a commode unaided – but it wasn’t until I got there that I realized what had happened.
Mister X had had a cardiac arrest. I shouted for help and the Sister (a very good and decent woman) phoned for the arrest team to come. The arrest trolley was, unfortunately, in a corner and pinned between two diagonally placed beds. But I got it out in the end and the Sister and I commenced resuscitation. I was breathing into the man’s throat at one end and the Sister was doing the cardiac compressions. Just before the arrival of the arrest team I was starting to feel that she was pressing too lightly on his chest . . . (You are supposed to depress the sternum to about one third of the depth of the chest, because the whole point of the exercise is to compress the heart between front bone and back bone in order for it to eject blood.)
The arrest team arrived and I could see the Doctor in charge looking thoughtfully at the Sister as she carried on with the chest compressions.
“Are you feeling tired Sister?” he said. “Perhaps you would like a rest?”
“Oh no,” she said. “I am feeling perfectly alright.”
And so she carried on and the patient died!
I was really quite affected by this Auntie, the moral of the story perhaps being: “Speak Up or else your Patient might be Dead!”
There is more to the nursing role than I perhaps first thought . . . Every so often it appears that one will be called upon to make a stand. And Auntie, I wonder if I will be up to it?
Your conscientious nephew