Patient vs. health care provider. I never realised how drastically these two perspectives could affect me.

During a hospital admission I heard someone die. It was one of the most traumatic things I've ever experienced. I was warned the lady was unwell when I arrived on the ward, I was told that she was very vocal and confused because she was at the end stages of her life. Two hours later I hear my nurse yell for a "MET" call to be put out. For those who don't know, MET stands for medical emergency team, maybe you're more familiar with the phrase "crash call". Within minutes there are doctors and nurses everywhere. Alarms sounding. The sound of the bed as they did chest compressions. The two minute pulse checks, calls for adrenaline, rhythm checks, ensuring the airway's secured. Two minutes, four minutes, six minutes. Still asystole. A non-shockable rhythm. Dead.

I lay in my bed with tears streaming down my face. I never thought I'd feel this way but being a patient myself, it made me feel vulnerable. I wasn't dying, but I was ill. And next to me a lady was dying. A traumatic, horrible death. They asked if she had a DNAR in place. She didn't. DNAR stands for do not attempt resuscitation. She was very old, 96 to be precise. They said they were sure it was futile but that they would proceed as there was no DNAR. Those curtains gave her very little privacy, very little dignity.

After about 7 minutes a nurse popped her head round my curtain and said she thought I'd be awake. I crumpled into hysterics and she took me to sit in the nurses station. She hooked my IV onto their notice board so it'd still run, gave me a quick hug and brought me some tissues. It only took a minute but I will remember it for ever. She truly cared. She cared that I was 50 years younger than the next youngest patient on the ward. She cared that I hadn't experienced death like that before. I wasn't deaf or confused or in a drug induced slumber like the other ladies on the ward and she cared that I knew exactly what was going on and was finding it distressing.

They never achieved a shockable rhythm, she was pronounced dead not long after 1am. Once I was back in my bed, I heard the lady's daughter arrive to say her goodbyes, I heard the nurses performing last offices and I watched the body leave the ward and head for the mortuary.

When I'm out on duty with the Red Cross or working in any kind of medical capacity and I'm faced with an emergency, instinct kicks in. There's about 2 seconds of panic and then I know exactly what I'm doing and exactly what I'm telling everyone else to do. Take a patient I treated a few months ago. Rugby injury. Potentially C-spine and chest injuries, oxygen saturations hitting 90 at best, reduced sensation in his lower limbs, laboured, shallow breathing. All in the middle of a boggy field, in the rain. Don't get me wrong, I was glad when the ambulance arrived as he was pretty poorly but I knew exactly what I was doing, to help the patient to the best of my ability. Emotions just weren't there.

I never expected the difference between healthcare professional and patient would be so profound.

Obviously, a medical emergency outside of a hospital setting is very different. I will never be expected to stop CPR or give up on treating a patient. I don't have enough knowledge to know when to stop treatment and when it becomes futile.

Hearing someone die and knowing there is nothing you can do. One of the worst feelings in the world. 


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