“Patient is suspended”
We rushed to the scene and the FRU arrived seconds before us. The patient, an elderly man, was laying on the floor. He wasn't breathing, he didn't have a pulse and he looked dead.
“He's dead, isn't he?”, asked his wife. I could tell by the look on her face that she knew he was dead.
I could only tell her the truth, “He isn't breathing at them moment and his heart isn't beating. We are doing everything that we can for him, but you should expect the worst”.
She nodded, she'd seen the colour of him and seemed resigned to his death.
My crewmate put the defib pads to his chest – he was in 'VF', a rhythm that we shock. So we shocked him and did some CPR, all according to our training. Then we shocked him again, gave him some drugs, breathed for him, shocked him again and eventually (and surprisingly) got a pulse back.
We all looked at each other – this sort of thing doesn't happen to us. Normally our dead patients stay dead.
We packaged him up for hospital, three times his pulse stopped but after a couple of minutes of chest compressions he'd get it back. Surely this wouldn't last, eventually he would die.
His wife seemed confused, but happy. Perhaps he wouldn't die after all.
We rushed him to the hospital, I think he lost his pulse twice more, each time we got it back. By the time we reached the hospital he was chewing on the breathing tube.
The hospital worked on him for a long time – still he didn't die. They tried everything, they even gave him a drug that costs more than £600 in the hopes that it would help stabilise him. They did everything, they thought that he may have had a chance as well.
His wife had hope. The last we heard was that he was transferred to another hospital where there was an intensive care bed. I'm guessing that I'll never learn what happened to him in the end.
I wonder if it was for the best that we saved him. My guess would be that, even if he does make a recovery, he will have some form of brain damage – he went without CPR for too long. The alternative is that he never leaves hospital. I wonder if his wife will continue to hope until he fades away in ITU.
From her acceptance that he was dead, to a probably vain hope that she would get him back, I wonder if it was cruel that our resuscitation was 'successful'. At the time we have no chance to make such decisions, we do what we do and get on with it. It's later, as you see the family around the patient, the monitoring machinery showing life but the patient making no movement, only then do you wonder if it is right.
I can't remember many of the people who die despite my best efforts (the cynical would suggest it's the sheer numbers I see that make it hard to remember). But this one will stay with me for some time.