"The Nurse's Spirit" by Dr. Michele DiBlasi
Friday, March 22, 2019
The Nurse's Spirit
By Dr. Michelle DiBlasi
It was my third day as a new hospital employee when at 7:00 pm, the physician in the Emergency Room (ER) called me in for a patient Mr. LJ, who was almost unresponsive. His heart rate was a meager 25 beats per minute, his blood pressure was undetectable. I rushed to the patient's bedside. It didn't take long to understand that there was not much time to try and help Mr. LJ, he was cyanotic and unresponsive. His eyes and face were swollen, his breathing was shallow, he was drowning in his own water.
He was in need of an urgent pacemaker since medication and an external pacemaker alone were not enough to stabilize him. The hospital procedure room closed at 5:00 pm. There was no time to transfer the patient to San Antonio. My mind raced with possible solutions to help Mr. LJ and within a matter of seconds it landed on the phone number of a Cath lab nurse, Michelle Ballard. She is one of the best nurses I've ever had the honor of working with, and over the course of 14 years, she's proven reliable, responsible, and quick on her feet.
Michelle answered the phone in a cheery, "Hi Doc, what can I do for you?"
"Michelle," I said, "I need your help."
"Doc, I'm on my way," she replied, even though she was not on call that evening. My heart filled with warmth at Michelle's willingness to drop everything when she was not on duty and rush over to help someone in need.
I called Eby Adrienne, the nurse in charge at the Intensive are Unit (ICU). "Eby, we need to take Mr. LJ from the ER to the Cath lab for a pacemaker. Stat!" I exclaimed into the phone. "OK Doc, I'm on my way!" she replied. Once again I felt the kindness and dedication that these nurses give, day in and day out, giving as much of their time, their care, and themselves to those who need it most.
In the ER Leslie Montgomery, a young EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) student, immediately volunteered to help take Mr. LJ to the Cath lab. For the third time, I was overcome with emotion. This was going to be an important evening. I could feel it.
Mr. LJ was looking worse by the minute. We pushed the stretcher through the corridors, the noise of the wheels on the slick hospital floor was pounding in my ears. We were yelling over the incredulous sound to exchange information about our patient's rapidly declining condition. Once we made it to the elevator, and the doors closed, an unrealistic calm settled in. Everyone was lost in their own thoughts, although collectively we must have all been worried about the same thing. I glanced down at Mr. LJ, he was increasingly cyanotic, his skin had the bluish-purple discoloration of someone with low oxygen. Right next to the patient, stood Leslie the young lady, her hands tightly gripped the stretcher. She was holding on so tightly that her hands were red while her knuckles looked bright white. Her eyes were locked onto the elevator doors, ready at any moment to start pushing the stretcher once again. My thoughts faded as I sprang into action as the elevator stopped on our floor. We raced to the Cath lab but seconds stretched like minutes- everything was taking far too long. In my moment of stress, I was grounded by Michelle's conviction. She had the look of someone who knew we were going to pull this off. We were going to make it. She took charge.
The voices were overlapping, the movements were fast, the orders were urgent. After all, this was life or death. While I was putting on the sterile gown, I notice Vanessa Neelis a RT (Respiratory Therapist), had heard of our patient and joined in to help. On the operating table there was pacemaker wire, sutures, gauze, and anesthetics. We were ready to start. Mr. LJ was less and less responsive, the monitor still showed a weak pulse. We managed to place the pacemaker quickly and thankfully things started to turn around. The monitor showed neat, white spikes as Mr. LJ's heart rate increased from 25 to 80 beats per minute. The sound of life filled the room and the tension broke.
I watched as Michelle, Eby, Leslie and Vanessa shared a smile as luminous as the rays of sun that break the clouds in the first hours of morning. Mr. LJ started getting his color back, and as he stirred and came to I was relieved to hear him talk. I went to the control room to finish the patient's paperwork. As I looked out onto the procedure room floor there was a mess. There were towels and gauze strewn across the floor, gloves and tools had fallen in the rush.
A weird thought crossed my mind. I envisioned my kitchen with a mess like that after cooking, my wife's face was coming through, the thought flew our of my mind faster than it had arrive and just like that I was back to my paperwork.
Michelle, Eby, Vanessa and Leslie were transferring the patient back onto the stretcher to take to the ICU. I wanted to hug all of them. My heart was filled with warmth once again. I was proud to work alongside each and every one of them. They were my heroes that day. None of them were even supposed to be there, but thanks to their undying "Nurse's Spirit," a life was saved.
Written by Dr. Michele DiBlasi