We had a paramedic call the other day that really got everyone's blood pressure up. It was a Code Blue - someone down in the field, bystanders frantically doing CPR until the ambulance got there. And that was all we knew. We didn't know where they were or how old or what gender or anything. We didn't know if it was cardiac or an accident or a fall or what. We all did a mental inventory of kids and relatives and friends that were scattered all around town and paced around the radio nervously until more details came in. I feel physically sick at times like this. I instinctively pick up the phone to check on my nearest and dearest, and hope to hell they pick up. We all do it. Until the patient actually arrives and you see a face...you worry.
This is something that I never had to deal with at the Big City Trauma Center, since no one I knew was ever likely to be brought in by the medics there. Of course, if they'd had to have been flown in, I would have had much bigger problems, but that forty mile distance was a nice buffer for my nerves. There is no buffer where I am now. This is not a small town, but at times it feels an awful lot like one. There are days that seem like a non-stop six degrees of separation situation, and that can be really hard.
The coding patient came in in full arrest and died after a balls to the wall effort on everyone's part. The family members huddled together in shock in another room as we all chipped in, helping the primary nurse make him presentable so they could see him. I clicked an ID bracelet onto a lifeless arm, and headed back to my patients. There was nothing left to do.
A little while later I was walking a little old lady around the unit to assess her status before we discharged her. She'd been there for several hours and there had been a constant stream of visitors into her room. She and I made small talk and then she said,
"I think my neighbor was in here today. My husband said our whole street was full of ambulances and fire trucks."
She mentioned his name. He was our Code Blue.
"Is he still here?" she asked. "Do you know why he came in?"
Cursing my good buddy HIPAA yet again, I was trying to think of what to say. And as we turned the corner and walked by the curtained room where his body laid, she looked at me anxiously and said,
"Oh, I hope to god he's gone home."