A lot of things happen in life. Some of these things happen in our favor and some against us. In medicine, as in life, things happen too. When things unfold in life, how often do we pause and seek for advice from more experienced people? Do we understand the limits of our abilities in the first place? Medical knowledge is doubling every two or three years and no single person can keep up with all these knowledge. The wisdom of knowing when you are in over your head or when the assistance of a more experienced colleague is needed therefore goes unheralded. Another nightmare in medicine is distinguishing the trivial from the serious especially when there is no clear cut boundary. This is where the senior nurse’s experience comes in handy and her sixth sense saves the day like it did yesterday.
The day started off very well. I reported to casualty very early in the morning to learn a few things on how to save life especially when it is an emergency. I found a nurse and quickly introduced myself and then we started walking from patient to patient in the resuscitation room. She was checking on the patients’ vitals and whether the life support machines were up and running. I enjoyed every bit of what she was teaching me especially when she told me never to leave the hospital until my patients are sorted out. I left her at quarter to noon when everything was in place.
I went to pick my bag from wherever it was when I suddenly bumped into a sign “RENAL UNIT”. I don’t think I had something to do the rest of that day so the renal unit was going to be a nice place to spend the rest of the afternoon before going home. I had been here the previous day, got to know the nurse in charge and had him show me the basics of infection prevention during renal dialysis. By the way, I love bedside teachings more than any other mode of learning in medical school. The patient’s bedside is where reality marries or divorces whatever we learn in books.
There we are. The patient before us was a lady in her late twenties. The trainee nurse had dressed her wound at the point of permanent catheter just above her right breast and she was getting ready the machine. I stood aside watching keenly, careful not to miss any step of the procedure. The nurse in charge was also checking whether the trainee nurse was doing whatever was to be done. The senior nurse in charge of the whole Renal Unit passed by to her office at the far end of the unit. The patient was sweating and complaining of a lot of heat in the room. I knew something was amiss but I don’t know what it was. I signaled the trainee nurse but I think she too was in the same shoes as mine.
“Something has told me not to sit down,” the senior nurse said rushing to our patient. I think that is the same thing I could not figure out. By the time she was coming, our patient had sweated profusely and was slowly becoming weak, her eyes half mast.
“She is slipping into hypo,” she shouted, her voice bursting through my fatigue and rising to a deafening crescendo. Hypo in this case meant low blood sugar.
“Get me fifty percent dextrose, “her voice was getting higher.
“Here, “she grabbed it from the trainee’s hand and pushed it in through the permanent catheter. A couple of seconds later she injected some drugs through the same catheter and in less than five minutes, the patient came back to life as if nothing happened. Who said miracles stopped happening? This was in itself a miracle.
“The nurse always has a sixth sense,” she said with a great smile on her face.
“And a seventh one, “I added to ease the tension that was now taking over at the bedside.