Class of 2020
Alexis del Vecchio
The Other Room
“They’re doing compressions!” I heard ring through the hall.
I was with a frail, elderly, demented woman though.
She’d fallen, hit her head, and had a lac that you would’ve sworn stretched from her frontal bone to her occipital.
In reality, it was less than the circumference of a dime.
The blood seemed endless, covering her scalp, completely, the way flowers cover valleys or the way snow caps mountains.
I wasn’t present with her I was curious about what was happening down the hall, in the other room.
I inspected her scalp after what seemed like an eternity of gentle wiping, saline and 4x4s.
She only had one wound.
I was done here.
I walked in the other room, unsure of what I would find and if I could be of any use.
I saw the doctor preparing to place a central line and I was overcome with excitement.
It’s always exciting when you see something the first time.
I made myself small, blending in with the wall, quiet and still.
The line is nearly placed.
In my awe, I tuned out the gentle, methodical, rhythmic tone of the monitor.
But, he was beginning to die; bradying down.
“Oh, someone should start compressions” the doctor said.
I stood still, small and quiet.
Disappointed that I ignored the toning.
The nurse turned and asked, “You want to do compressions?”
The answer is always yes.
“Good compressions!” I hear while aided in the attempt to steal a soul from the reaper.
“Your pulse check is in 30 seconds.” I checked my wrist and it’s bare. I recall, now, I didn’t put my watch back on.
“You ready for a switch?”
I nod. I’m tired.
I’d been forcing the weight of my being on to the body of this man whose chest is now riddled with rib fractures
In the center lies his center, his engine, his way to sustain life and it’s not working.
His heart was not working.
His niece arrived.
His heart was beating again, but she didn’t want to see him.
She decided, no heroic measures should be taken.
“He wouldn’t want to live like that.”
It’s decided, we wouldn’t start his heart if it stops, again.
I felt nervous, anxious, unsteady.
“He’s starting to brady.”
“I don’t see any P waves.”
I was standing near the door.
The doctor checks for a pulse, there wasn’t one.
I stood near the door. There’s an officer peering in.
He reminded me of my grandfather now and I wanted to protect his dignity.
I draw the curtain.
The nurse placed her hand on the patient.
“I’ve got nothing” she says.
“If this is it, time of death is 1347”This wasn’t the other room anymore. Someone’s just died here.
“This will be the most impactful thing that I’ll do all year”
I clicked the little blue arrow to send that message, my eyes welling up with tears.
But let’s go back to the beginning so I can make the story clear.
I got an Instagram DM, “Hey love… Can I ask you some medical questions regarding pregnancy?”
I responded as soon as I saw it, “What’s up?” without hesitancy.
“I’ve been having a few complications in my last trimester.”
I’m thinking, “Thank God I had OB/Gyn THIS semester!”
“It’s my blood work… It’s too much medical terminology”
My mind is racing, “What aren’t they explaining to her? She’s educated, she has a degree…”
Moments later, she inserts her screenshots
“What’re your questions?” I asked, watching a UCSF urology lecture, trying to stay focused on the notes I jot.
“What’s your number?” At a quick glance, her AST/ALT are elevated.
Cue the aggressive line of questioning, “Have you been feeling like yourself? Any RUQ pain? Any headaches, feeling drowsy or sedated?”
She’s negative for any neurologic changes, but they gave her a home BP cuff
But who knew talking through something like this with a friend would be so tough.
“This bloodwork is to monitor you for preeclampsia development.”
“Has your doctor called you since your results were sent?”
“No, they haven’t called me since I’ve gotten them back.”
My heart breaks a little. Is this implicit bias? Is this happening because she’s black?
We talked about treatment, monitoring and the possible need for C-section if she starts to deteriorate.
“Well, I just got my hospital bag do you think I should pack it? I was going to wait.”
“I would definitely pack your bag because I think you’ll get admitted and make sure you tell dad to pack his too.”
She called her doctor, she was sent for observation, and labs that are new.
She’s admitted and in less than 24 hours, her baby is born via emergency cesarean at 10:52
Later that day I got a text saying, “You really saved our lives…I love you.”
About the Author: Keiko Cooley
I am originally from Gary, IN and relocated to South Carolina in August of 2010 to attend Claflin University majoring first in the arts and subsequently changing to Biochemistry. It was during my matriculation at Claflin University that I learned of UofSCSOMG and made my decision to be trained through this program. I am excited and fortunate to have been chosen to be a member of the Class of 2021.
Copyright 2014 USC School of Medicine Greenville