A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN ANAESTHESIOLOGIST
I woke up with a jolt and frantically checked my watch. 7.00 am. I heaved a sigh of relief. It was a cold fuzzy November morning in Chandigarh. And a Sunday. And a day where a “normal” person would possibly just bump off again right into that warm cosy bed. As a doctor, I had no such luxury or luck. If fact I had a 12 hour straight shift. In the ICU. I cursed the day I had taken up medicine as a profession. Who knew I would be ruining all Sunday for the rest of my life. It’s like having a baby. Nobody tells you the bad stuff. But, it was all too late. I had sincerely thought about quitting my profession, and opening my dhaba. But I suspected that would fail too. I finally got out of bed and rushed like a lunatic because as usual, I was late.
The colleague, I was relieving was also in a bad mood. Bad moods and anaesthesia. They are like brothers from another mother. Nothing surprising there considering how bad ICU unit gets at night. With 22 critical patients and just one doctor for the entire hospital at night, trust me it was no ball game. I took over as fast as I could and groaned inwardly. Plenty of work pending. In ICU there was always something pending. It was going to be another miserable day. I quickly stabilised the patients as fast as I could. Luckily the staff posted today were efficient. Other days are not so lucky.
I was in the throes of inserting a central venous access for a patient, when the phone rang. The phones are always ringing. That’s not the point. But with that comes the ominous announcement of code blue. Now those who are lucky enough to be unfamiliar with this name would sit back and probably be amused at the choice of the colour blue. Like I said, luck and me had no connection. I had read a quote somewhere “I am so lucky, that if I bought a cemetery; people would stop dying!” I think that had been written by me in some past life.
I ran downstairs to the emergency with my team. They hadn’t bothered telling me what it was. We anaesthesists, aren’t called magicians for nothing. I entered the emergency looking for my adult all around. To my amazement I saw an infant, barely a year old lying motionless on a bed with half a dozen panicky paramedics all around him doing nothing. The first thing I told them is we didn’t have an in house paediatrician so we were all going to jail. It was the fear of a medico legal case. I brushed it aside and rushed to the child and immediately knew. No breathing no pulse and the child was cynosed.
That’s a blue baby for you. I heard someone muttering around me that the kid had fallen into a ditch filled with dirty water. He had drowned and been in water for how long nobody knew. My first instinct however told me that children were resilient by force and I had to try. Screw death.
I started CPR and started instructing everyone around me. By some minor miracle I found an adequate size tube to intubate the infant and inserted it. A gush of muddy water came out the pair of tiny lungs and I handed the bag to a junior to ventilate.
Meanwhile I summoned the family and told them clearly that the child had no pulse and that he might not make it but I will give it my best and they had the full right and liberty to take the infant as we did not have a paediatrician on board. The father was a young construction labourer and on seeing him another problem started nagging me. Irrespective of the outcome, he would have to foot the bill. He looked unlikely to make more than a few thousand rupees per month. Screw the system.
All the paramedics would have to foot his bill. Yes that’s true. But I pushed that thought out as I tried searching frantically for a vein to insert an intravenous access. The CPR and the breaths continued unabated and I was finally able to locate a tiny vein on the foot and start fluids and drugs.
A senior colleague had meanwhile rushed to help and I told her between breaths, the sequence of events. She was smarter and immediately summoned the manager to arrange for an ambulance and to bring him on board. She again summoned the father and took a detailed history as to what exactly happened. She shook her head, which was never a good sign even in medicine. Especially in Medicine. She auscultated the chest, more out of practice than expecting anything and her expressions changed. She held out her hand and asked us to shut up. She had a pulse and we all jumped. Yes, amidst all that circus we had managed to do our job. We had saved a precious life.
The outcome, we could not predict but there as I felt the femoral pulse thumping in that chest, suddenly the long nights, the labour, the urine on us, the sweat, the blood, all made sense. The child jerked. Let the media come now. Ahh, they never will, something good happened. Who wants that in our country? Drum rolls anyone!!
The author, Neetika Sahai, as you would have guessed, is an anaesthesiologist. This was a personal account of a typical day in her life.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wonder Women World.