Code Red

| life | navy | medicine |

Yesterday started off a day like any other. Smooth running clinic, lots of lidocaine injections, patients walking in and out of the clinic, and the lingering smell of a hospital filling the nostrils of every one who passed by.

I had a surgery scheduled for 1430 on a lady on her thigh. Nothing unusual, just a good old fashioned squamous cell excision. The lady shows up and she is in a wheel chair. I do not really deal with a lot of non-ambulatory patients so it was a small challenge getting her into the seat and positioned to get ready for the surgery. Nothing too major, except for the fact that we had possibly the worst room for the procedure. All of the other OR’s have chairs that sit pretty close to the group so it would be easy for someone in a wheel chair to get in, the OR that we were in had a chair that was almost two feet off the ground. That was the biggest challenge. So, I inject her with lidocaine and numb up the area that we are preparing to excise. The doctor comes in, throws on a pair of latex free sterile gloves and goes to work.

Three minutes later I hear “CODE RED CODE RED EVERYONE CLEAR THE CLINIC!” over the intercom. (For those who do not know, a CODE RED in a hospital is a fire) This was a first for me. I have been through plenty of fire drills in my lifetime but never in the middle of a surgery. The doctor was beginning to lose a little bit of composure and started to freak out not knowing what to do. I attempted to keep the calm and peace. I grabbed a handful of gauze, put some of it in normal saline to keep the excision site nice and moist. Then taped it in on all around her leg so that not a drop of blood was able to get out of the bandage. A fellow employee came in and said “Clear the room, this is not a drill.” To add insult to injury. I was very aware of the fact that we needed to get out of the room.

We get the lady down into her wheelchair, I grab her bags and clothes and haul ass down the hall. Then we realize one little problem. Elevators do not work in the event of a fire. How the heck are we supposed to get a lady in a wheel chair down a flight of stairs? Carry her of course. Me and three other guys picked up the wheel chair and carried this poor old lady down stairs. Looking back it probably was not the safest thing in the world to do, but at the time it seemed like a good idea.

We get her down to the bottom floor and come into a scene of chaos. Nobody really knows what is going on and they are all kind of standing around waiting for someone to take the lead. To make matters worse, it was pouring rain outside.

After a few minutes of waiting around we get the idea to take the lady to the ER since it was still open and finish up the procedure there. So we did just that. Luckily the ER had all of the supplies that we needed in order to proceed. We finished the job under pressure and the lady went home safe and happy.

This was probably one of the most exciting moments of my life. For the first time I felt a sense of urgency, and responsibility unlike any other I have ever experienced. I did not see a fire, but I felt in my gut that no matter what happened I needed to keep this lady safe. I put her life in front of mine and that is a feeling that is hard to imagine or duplicate in a non-emergency situation.

We do not get much excitement in the clinic on most days, so I just had to blog about this one. I felt like I was in a movie or a TV show or something. It was amazing. Nobody likes disasters, accidents or tragedies, but they sure make life very interesting.

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