Tuesday, March 07, 2006

No Such Thing as Routine

Everyone who is trained in the medical field, either emergency or clinical, is well aware that it is not an exact science. Two people experiencing the same medical condition often will present with vastly different symptoms. Although it is not the job of the Emergency Response Team, EMT, firefighter or paramedic to diagnose the exact cause, there is often a fair amount of detective work needed to determine the best course of action for stabilization and treatment.

And as I was reminded yesterday, things are not always what they seem.

The ERT at my company was called out for a patient who had cut her hand. It looked pretty deep to me, right in the webbing between the thumb and index finger, but at least it was a clean cut. Probably needed stitches. The patient was nervous at the sight of blood, but said to me that she felt ok. Until the fire department arrived.

As I was giving my report to the fire captain, she said "I don't feel so good."

"What's wrong ?"

"I feel dizzy."

All of a sudden, her eyes rolled back, her head tilted to the side, and she lost consciousness. Her body started twitching, gripped in the clutches of a seizure. I held her head to keep her upright in the chair and prevent her from hitting it against the desk. 15 seconds later, she was still, and then slowly drifted back to lucidity.

What started off as a leisurely trip for a tetanus shot and some stitches turned out to be a quick ride to the hospital with the heart monitor and oxygen mask attached.

Was it purely psychological, from the trauma of seeing her own blood ? Was there an underlying medical condition that was triggered by the stress ? We'll probably never know. The doctors will determine that, I'm sure.

Lesson learned: never take anything for granted. The most routine call can very quickly degenerate, right before your eyes.


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