poured out before bed
“You’re waking up, Ms. Jones. You’re waking up from surgery. Can you squeeze my hand, Ms. Jones?”
The big blue anesthesia resident hovers over her pale face, shaking her hand. Ms. Jones moans and gurgles through her trach tube, rolling her big grey eyes this way and that.
“We’ll get that tube out of you now, OK?” says the resident. “Squeeze my hand, OK, sweetheart?”
He pats her shoulder and repeats his command patiently until she is focused on him. Her fingers press into his weakly, nearly imperceptibly and suddenly her eyes are more sclera than iris as he removes the trach with a small flourish. She chokes out a stunned scream as he suctions fluid from her throat, a single tear tracing her contorted face.
She is trembling, whimpering as we remove the remaining drapes and I reach out to stroke her hand only to realize my glove is covered in dried blood, a mottled maroon where there was once sterile green. Once all the operative materials have been removed, I strip my gear and replace my gloves, take her hand and rub it with my thumb. She stares up at me searchingly.
I don’t know what to say to this woman, whose deepest secrets I have clearly seen, whose emergent C-section revealed progressive malignancy throughout the abdominal cavity, whose staunch warm hemorrhage soaked my scrubs and required nearly 10 units of packed red blood cells to replace, and whose preterm newborn – a little boy, a precious gift tied with a tightly wrapped cord – has just been pronounced dead.
“You’re OK,” Ms. Jones, I lie. “You are doing just fine.” She squeezes my hand as if in disbelief. I feel glad that I am not the one charged with revealing all the bad news to be given.
As we move her limp body to a PACU bed she coughs, and the tips of three maxillary incisors spill out onto the sheets, her grimace revealing the bloody stubs remaining. She begins to wail as if she already knows her losses are much greater than these cosmetic holes. Once we’ve moved the bed to recovery just beneath a giant digital clock reading a red 0416, I scurry to the staff restroom where I desperately attempt to shore up the composure that began to seriously tilt two lost patients before.
– Step 2 CK Throw Back, From Obstetrics