Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Calling to Help

Jason Wang with girlfriend, Christian-Marie Dominguez
By Jason Wang

Mr. Wang is a third-year medical student at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in El Paso. 

I’ve been a medical student at Texas Tech Paul Foster School of Medicine in El Paso for three years now. In this time span, I’ve seen approximately 1,000 patients coming in with a wide variety of health issues. This past month, my knowledge was called upon not once, but twice in emergency situations.

On Christmas Day, I was sitting in the back of a plane to Tokyo on my way to Taiwan to visit my grandmother. We were somewhere over Washington state. All of a sudden, the mini-screens on the back of every chair started flashing red with a message, If you are a doctor, please alert a flight attendant immediately. I sat in my seat for a good seven seconds, willing for one of the 400 passengers to stand up and yell, I’m a doctor!

No one did. I poked my seatmate to get out of the way, and that was the quickest I’d ever seen him move the entire flight. I made my way up the aisle and saw lying on the ground a tiny 60-year-old female. She was unresponsive.

At that point the training kicked in, and I didn’t even think about what I was doing. I checked her ABCs while calling for an emergency medical kit and gathering a patient history as well as I could.

It was a hectic 10 minutes. Someone mentioned she might be diabetic. I couldn’t hear her breathing even with a stethoscope because of the vibrations of the big 777 engines. She was extremely pale. I asked for help from a young veterinarian sitting in first class. We got a blood pressure cuff on her arm, and it came back with a reading of 85/55. Eventually I was able to find someone who told me she did have one alcoholic drink with her meal. Her husband was sitting in a different part of the plane and wasn’t aware of the incident until a few moments later.

I processed the 200 bits of information and was able to get her the care she needed. Luckily, we did not need to start an IV. Although I had placed a few during my anesthesia rotation, placing an IV under controlled settings is very different from placing an IV in a plane aisle. I told the vet she could attempt one if we needed it. The lady woke up and was able to recover. The pilot was standing on the side watching me, and we decided that we did not need to divert to Sea-Tac, Wash. The 300 passengers sitting behind me watching the action clapped. After the plane landed, I was thanked by the flight attendants and many of the passengers as well as the patient and her husband.

This past week on MLK weekend, a group of us med students decided to drive up to Taos, N.M., for a ski trip. I went a day after the main group with my girlfriend, Christian-Marie Dominguez, an RN at Providence. We were about 10 miles south of the small town of Socorro, N.M., when right in front of us, about a half-mile ahead, there was a serious two-car accident.

As we drove up I saw that the entire back half of a Ford Taurus had been ripped away, and there were debris and metal and glass lying all over the highway.

I ran out of my car with my girlfriend towards the Taurus. In the seat, I saw an elderly gentleman sitting there, eyes wide open, unresponsive, not moving. I couldn’t asses a pulse. The heavy stench of fuel was beginning to fill the air. We pulled him out of the car and moved him 20 feet away and laid him on the ground. I found his wallet and his ID. Another passerby was on the phone with 911. Another passerby was an off-duty EMT who showed up. Between the RN, the EMT, and the Med Student, we were able to feel his pulse, which was weakly pounding but still stable. He had pinpoint pupils and was completely unresponsive. As we sat there keeping track of his vitals, we waited.

We learned from the other person in the wreck, a young female driving a truck, that he had been drifting on the highway. He had probably had a stroke while driving.
Her face was covered in blood from a cut on the bridge of her nose, but she was walking and talking. I did a quick evaluation on her and decided she would be OK for the time being.

The nearest hospital was 10 miles north in Socorro. His breathing became extremely tachypneic [rapid] and shallow. The EMT pointed out that he now had a blown pupil. I was half crouching in the grass of the median, and my muscles were getting sore, and I could feel the stickers digging into my knees. I was still in a T-shirt; then the cold hit me, and I was shivering too much to feel the radial pulse. The EMT lost his radial pulse on his side. My girlfriend still had her fingers on his carotid, and she could still feel it, weakly. But now his chest was no longer moving up and down.

First one police car arrived. We were able to get a basic mask. More police soon arrived. Two minutes later the ambulance crew arrived. More police came. An 18-wheeler was directed to pull up, and traffic was shut down northbound. We were able to get a cervical collar on him and rolled him onto a backboard and put him in the ambulance.

My girlfriend and I were giving our statements. I turned to look at the ambulance. It was rocking back and forth. The only force that could do that would be chest compressions. He was coding. We watched the ambulance pull away.

Another ambulance came for the female. We left. I stopped in Socorro at a McDonalds so we could gather our nerves. My girlfriend gave a quick prayer for the elderly man. It was a long drive to Taos.

As I lay in bed that night staring up at the ceiling, I realized that even now, at a ripe young age of 23, through the extraordinarily generous actions of Paul Foster, I have already undergone so much training that seeing patients in emergency situations has become incredibly natural even in such a short period of time. Even as a med student, as a first responder other people defer to the decisions we make. I still have much to learn, but by the time I graduate next year, as a physician, I’ll have become a part of the next generation of well-trained U.S. medical school graduates. I’ll have joined the ranks of those who have felt the calling to save lives. I’ll be proud to call myself Doctor.


雨晴 said...

Proud of you. Wish you become a great doctor that will treat patients not only with your trained skill but also with your heart. by cyw in Richardson

Chinh Duong said...

Very nice. Keep it up!

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