“Get blood samples for blood gas analysis,” the doctor was loud and clear. I quickly put on a pair of gloves, took a needle, a syringe and a swab and went to the patient’s bedside. The patient was a lady in her mid fifties, though she looked quite old for her age.She wore a veil that signified her faith, she was a woman who belonged only to her husband.Every part of her body was covered and successfully, every predator was kept away. She was a Muslim.It was evident from how her husband showered and chanted praises to Allah and she responded faintly, “Amina”, gathering all the strength she could amass.
She had been brought in by an ambulance a few minutes ago. Immediately she came, I made a spot diagnosis of her condition, she was in diabetic coma, a medical emergency. We quickly wheeled her to Resuscitation Room B to perform our rituals. These are the times my adrenaline levels shoot high above the roof. I relinquish emergencies. These are the moments when I am pushed to the wall to think on my feet. At such moments, Harrison’s Textbook of Internal Medicine becomes clear in my mind, the current guidelines appear vividly at the back of my mind. I can literally read every sentence and follow them without missing even a full stop. Sadly, these moments are as short lived as the emergencies themselves. How I wish I had such moments in the examination room.
Her husband wore a face of despair that scared me. He gave us the medical history of his wife amidst the sobs that occassionally took the better of him. He looked at his wife and bent down to kiss her forehead making me a little bit uncomfortable. Had it not been for the gas mask that covered the lady’s mouth and nose, this man would have opened a scene that is not common in such a setting. I took her hand, swabbed and determinedly looked for a vein. The lady was morbidly obese. Looking for a vein was like looking for a needle in a stack of hay, not during the day but in the dark of the night. We had to find a vein none the less. We needed to run IV fluids and collect samples for investigation in the shortest time possible.
“Every minute counts young doc, “the doctor we were working with uttered trying to maintain his calm as much as possible. Deep down, I knew he was getting impatient.
“Go for the femoral artery, feel the pulse and draw blood from the point of maximum pulse, “he added. His voice was deep carrying with it the gravity of the whole matter. He had taught me how to do quite a number of things. He expected the best therefore from me.
This was a tall order for me. I had done it before but the situation before me was a tricky one. I felt a barrier between me and the patient. I knew I had to unveil her to access the ever accessible femoral artery. Other times I would do it without hesitation but today was not one of those days. The unwritten rules restrained me from doing what I knew should be done. Then I remembered that I am in the ministry of healing. Mine is to alleviate pain and suffering. There is no way I could let her deteriorate lest I bring more troubles. I had to do it.
‘I know you fear, but just do it, ‘the husband reassured me. He had read the fear in my eyes. He was not ready to lose his wife because of barriers that are created by men. I let him do the unveiling himself. He was gentle with the way he handled his wife and that motivated me. In no time, her thighs were exposed before me. I wasted no time, I went straight for the pulse and then with the needle and syringe, I drew bright red blood. This was obviously arterial blood. It was not different from the tens I had drawn during my Internal Medicine rotation.
In those moments, I felt a sense of oneness with her. Despite the religious barrier, we were all men. This new revelation only confirmed to me that all men are created equal. We all bleed the same. That is the stark reality of life.