Emergencies happen 24/7, and in the OR of the community hospital where I worked, we covered emergencies on off hours like evenings and weekends with an on call system. We had to be immediately available when needed, and when I was on call on weekends, that often meant from 6 a.m., Saturday, until 6 a.m., Monday.
My weekend on call plan was to first meet my own basic needs. Thus, I would get up early, brush my teeth, drink a cup of coffee and read the morning newspaper before the phone had a chance to ring.
I had nearly reached those goals on a particular Saturday morning, just finishing an article by a favorite columnist, when I received a call and rushed to the OR for a patient who had suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, a critical emergency.
The aorta is the large, main artery that carries blood from the heart to the entire body. When an area of the aorta ruptures, every moment counts. Depending on the area of rupture, some patients can bleed out fast, and don’t make it to the OR.
Adrenaline high, the surgical technician, surgical assistant and I rapidly opened packs of sterile supplies and instruments, while the anesthesiologist and her assistant readied machines and medications. When the patient was transported to the OR, in my role as the circulating nurse, my focus switched from setting up the room to taking care of him.
Amid the chaos of any grave emergency, I tried as much as possible to be the person who stopped for a moment to support and reassure the patient, staying at their side until they were under anesthesia.
Wheeling him into the room, I introduced myself and began a brief assessment process, determining his name, doctor, level of consciousness and understanding of what was happening. As I identified the patient, I was stunned to realize that he was the favorite columnist, the author of the newspaper article I was reading when my phone rang that morning.
Coincidence, yes, of course, but connection too. I cared about all of my patients, but this connection, to this face, this person, caused me to bond a little more tightly to this one.
Although unlucky to have had a ruptured aortic aneurysm that day, he was lucky in the end.
So happy to tell you that that his aorta was successfully repaired during surgery, that he survived, and that when he did pass away, years later, his death seemed to be part of a much more peaceful event.