Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring. I was so tired of that noise. So many calls came in that night. I had to go in to the hospital to see two patients. One had been healthy just the day before, but now, in the middle of the night she was going downhill so fast. I treated her correctly, figured that there was nothing more for me to do, and moved on to the next one. The second ended up in maternity because she was pregnant, but really needed intervention from the general surgeons for a non-obstetric issue. So, I called them, waited for them, explained it all. And then finally back to bed. Ring, ring, ring, ring through the night. It all felt burdensome.
Then finally the morning came. Alarm went off (which I have set as a harp so that it is far more pleasant than that terrible phone ringing), I just reset it for later. I mean, they can’t really start the surgeries in my room without me, right? I got up with the second alarm. Ate a bite, dressed, then thought I would check email really quickly before going to the hospital. So, I logged on and saw an email from someone I love. I opened it up and read the story.
Even those we love often have big chunks of their lives that we have never known. She told me of how her mother died during the course of her own birth. She had always wondered what it would be like to know her, and always had some void without her. It said a few more things. I found myself getting a bit choked up as I thought about it. Then I thought to myself, “its way too early in the morning to have a tear welling up”, so I pulled it together, took a deep breath, and headed out for work.
The day was filled with many normal things clamoring for attention. But in the late afternoon, something worse than normal caught my gaze. I looked at a patient, and then glanced at her chart. She was very thin, but swollen all over. Her chart registered a blood pressure within stroke range. The note of referral from the day before said similarly high pressures. It had taken her a day to get to the hospital to be seen. I knew she was too early to deliver, but I knew that she was very sick and that I would have no other choice. So, I did what I have been trained to do. IV’s, drugs, labs, catheters, ultrasounds – all orders were set in motion. I gave three doses of medications to bring down the blood pressures, to no avail. Finally, with the fourth dose, came a small but hopeful decline. I stood outside of the pharmacy asking for meds. The reply was that the store was locked. I couldn’t understand why one person would be the only one with a key. So I got mad. I told them to go to the person’s house and get the key, get security, or do whatever it takes to get me that medicine from behind the locked door. He called, but there was no answer. He began to reply, “see it is just unfortunate…” I couldn’t hold back from cutting him off, “I don’t care about fortune, I care about Labetalol” (the medicine I needed). Every fifteen minutes the alarm on my phone would go off, I would call maternity to ask for pressures and give orders. I hardly ever worry about patients, but I knew that she had a good chance of death. And I knew that if I couldn’t get the medications that she needed, I would have to transfer her to another distant facility where she and the baby would both be likely to die.
The medications were finally obtained. The blood pressures had begun to come down. Specific instructions were given to the nurses. I changed the alarm settings on my phone from 15 minutes to midnight. I prayed and fell asleep.
The most interesting thing to me about this patient is not her sickness, for I have seen that many times. But it is the way she got inside me, the way that I was awakened to be poured out. I try to always provide the best care that I know, but she was different. When I looked at her, I still had the words ringing in my heart that I had read in the email the morning of the day that she arrived. I saw in her the story of that lovely woman from home, who had lost her mother so many years before and still had the void inside her. I thought of her as the ultrasound was done, as I prayed with the patient, as I stood at that pharmacy demanding their help. Calls every 15 minutes weren’t burdensome to me this time. I wanted to make sure that this momma was there to take care of her baby. The story that was told to me came just at the right time to make a difference in my attitude, and to give passion to my care. It came just at the right time to remind me how great the value is for every one woman and one child.