Monday, February 1

Code Blue

I witnessed my first real code at work yesterday.

I was walking down the hallway to go to a call I had gotten to restart an IV (take out an old one and put a new one in). As I neared the end of the hallway, I heard moaning and pained exclamations coming from an open door.

"Please don't let that be the one that needs an IV..." I thought, knowing full well that it likely was the one I was headed to see.

Sure enough it was. "Ok, God, here we go." I walked in the room, introduced myself and asked if I could notify his nurse that he was in pain. I noted a crash cart in the corner of the room and wondered if he had recently been coded.

He replied that she already knew he was hurting, and then began to exclaim, "Ahh, my legs are cramping up again. It hurts so bad."

I tried to calm him down, and then proceeded to the task at hand. As I looked and felt on his arms for a good vein, he spouted off intermittent curses and supplications to God while restlessly tossing in bed. A nurse came to give him some potassium and tried to soothe him; his new nurse for the night shift also came in, talked to him, and then took the crash cart out of the room mumbling something about not needing it anymore. I managed to get a 20 gauge IV in a good spot, hesitated, and then, "Sir, would you like me to pray with you?"

"I don't care," he replied crossly as he turned his face from mine.

"Alright, well," I paused. "I'll go let your nurse know that you're still in pain." I turned to walk out the door with an apprehensive feeling: he's going to code. As I left, I reprimanded myself, "Why didn't you pray with him? Well, then again, he didn't seem very receptive to the idea..."

An hour and a half later while attempting to stick another patient, I heard the announcement over the loudspeaker: "Code Blue, room 363 (*room number changed). Code Blue, room 363." My heart sank. I finished up with my current patient, then walked briskly across the hospital to his room. When I arrived, there were nurses littering the hallway, staring on apathetically. I peered inside the overcrowded and slightly chaotic room. I talked to his nurse who was outside in the hallway and asked if his IV access was good enough since I had just put in the line a little over an hour ago. He replied that it was fine, so I decided not to join the multitude watching helplessly.

I haven't been able to get the image of his face and the nurse doing compressions on his limp body out of my mind. Running fake codes for ACLS certification this morning didn't help matters. I can't help but feel that I should have done more. I should have prayed with him. I should have tried harder to say something encouraging or comforting. I should have talked to his nurse, maybe had them call rapid response team. Mostly it boils down to this: I left that room intuitively thinking he was going to code, and did nothing.

How often do I interact with people thinking that they're headed downhill in a spiritual sense and yet do nothing? God, forgive me for my severe lack of concern for the souls of your children. Even more, God help me to overcome my timidity and act boldly in Your Spirit for their sake and Yours.


Caitlin said...

Big Hug Kristin. And heart courage.

Jason said...

I remember experiencing my first code blues as a chaplain... and the feelings of helplessness. It is still haunting.