Sunday 16 June 2013

A Chance - Part 2


Moving a patient in cardiac arrest isn't easy. He needed to be put on the spinal board, lifted to the bed and wheeled onto the ambulance. All the while, CPR had to continue, as did ventilations and suctioning. Neighbours were holding up fluids and moving cars to enable the ambulance to get closer. The patients wife, son and daughter were stood watching, grief pouring from them. Their pain was palpable for all involved. A neighbour suggested they didn't watch but nothing was going to stop them being by his side. When someone is begging you to save their loved one it is a pretty chilling feeling knowing that you probably can't.

We got him on board, put in the blue call and left. The other FRU took the relatives and we left en mass. 2 ambulances and 2 cars in convoy to the hospital. On route there was no change to the patients condition. As every minute passed, the outlook became bleaker. One hand on the hand rail and one on his chest, CPR continued over every bunch and round every corner. When we arrived at hospital he'd been 'down' for well over an hour. The only thing that could save him now was the definitive care provided by the hospital. If they could find the cause and it was something they could treat and reverse then maybe, just maybe he had a shot.

People watched on in shock as we emerged from the back off the ambulance on to the tail lift bouncing up and down on the patients chest. As the lift was being lowered my eyes met with his wife. I felt a lump in my throat as I pushed back the tears. The six of us, all doing or carrying someone, wheeled the patient into resus to the waiting crash team. There were fifteen members of the hospital staff who swarmed around him. He was transferred to the bed, the anaesthetist took over the airway, a nurse took over CPR, junior doctors begun getting further IV access and blood gasses, a scribe was writing everything down and the consultant insisted on silence for everyone to listen to my extensive handover. 

"62 year old male, witnessed collapse, 1 minute tonic clonic seizure followed by cardiac arrest. CPR started immediately. Initial rhythm was VF, he received 6 shocks and has been in slow, wide PEA ever since. We have a patent airway with good CO2 maintained with suction. He has patent cannula and IO access in the humeral head. He's had 18 x Adrenaline, 500ml of saline and 300mg of Amioderone. He's been down for 1 hours 18 minutes. We've been through the 4 H's and 4 T's."

I stood back and watched. The consultant was fantastic. Clear direction, paying personal attention to each member of his team, giving individual instruction and calming down the junior doctors who were getting a bit flustered. I've never seen a doctor so clear and articulate. He asked us to bring the family into resus which I haven't seen before. Normally they are left outside. They appeared in the cubicle, eyes red and clearly distressed. Blood gasses were sent of, focused heart echoes were done and to be honest I wasn't holding out much hope. He went over and quietly spoke to family explaining what was going on. 

A nurse returned with the blood gasses and handed them to the consultant.

"Right guys, this patient has been down now for nearly an hour and a half. He's had the best care possible. His blood gasses have returned suggesting he's at a point no longer compatible with life. On two focused echoes his heart is showing complete myocardial standstill. I've discussed this with the family and following that discussion, combined with what we are faced with I am of the opinion we should terminate the resus. Does everyone agree or does anyone have strong feelings that we should continue on?"

His statement was met with silence from the 21 of us in the cubicle. 

"OK, with regret, time of death 18:04. Thank you everyone for your efforts." 

The body of our patient was then covered, his face cleaned and airway removed so his family could spend some time with him and say their goodbyes. I was choked up. Everyone was. It is impossible to remain emotionally detached from your patients. Impossible.
The consultant called all the staff outside of the room. 

"Brilliant job guys. You guys in particular (talking to us) did a phenomenal job and thank you to everyone who helped out here. Lets all have a cup of tea, I'm here to answer any questions you may have or if you want to get anything off your chest, let me know"

He then did a full debrief, explaining his decisions, explaining possible causes etc. I've never had a consultant like him. Not only genuine care for his patient and the relatives but for all the staff under him. He didn't talk to anyone like a subordinate, but like an equal. It was refreshing and we all left somewhat lifted by his manor. Today the NHS can be extremely proud.

This job goes to show that death can't be avoided. Sometimes, even when all the cards are dealt in your favour, the house still wins. 

NB: I tried to find out who the boy was. No one recognised him and he left half way through the resus. Our patient only had a chance because of him. I wish I'd got his name. His efforts deserved recognition.


  1. That was fantastic. I love your blog and I think that was your best piece. I am so pleased to hear of such a wonderful consultant. People like this lead and inspire to bring our NHS to the standard it should be. Thanks Ella for taking the time to write and for the amazing job you do. You should be so proud.

  2. This story was so sad. How wonderful to have a 13 year old who knew CPR. It sounds like you all did your best and everyone worked together to save this man. He just couldn't come back. You should all be happy in the knowledge that you did your best. Thank You for all you do.

  3. What a beautiful, inspiring heartfelt blog.. Care at its absolute best.. Let us hope this is the future!

  4. What a beautiful read - I felt like I was there at every point. I felt every high and low and am now quite emotional. You have a real talent for writing.

  5. I found this so moving, being the mum of 2 teenage boys its so lovely to see a positive post about the fact that they can be incredibly sensible and caring. What a fabulous kid. And what an amazing consultant too, after your last facepalm post its so good to see such positivity in the world. Fiona

  6. Ella if you ever find out SJA do a fabulous Young First Aider Award scheme - he definitely deserves some sort of fomalised recognition

  7. Two things. It shows how important it is to get first aid taught at an early stage (school curiculum Mr Gove) (spot the spelling misstakes hi hi) and how important it is we work as a team, that consultant should be held up high as a role model for all a&e consultants.

  8. try local scout groups and local school, also local sja and red cross, they may be able to identify the youngster.


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