If you practice emergency medicine long enough, you begin to accumulate a handful of experiences that you will remember vividly until life’s end. Some are outrageously funny, some are touching, and others overwhelmingly tragic.
Explore This IssueACEP News: Vol 29 – No 07 – July 2010
When I practiced in New Orleans, I took care of a young guy who had been injured in a minor motor vehicle accident. He was a very pleasant fellow who joked with us as the nurse and I did our assessments. We stood on opposite sides of the cart. As the nurse and I tugged off his dirty jeans, his multicolored Scooby Doo underwear was revealed. The nurse and I looked at each other and simultaneously, in our best Scooby Doo voices, said, “Rut Row.” The patient loved it. I’ll never forget that story.
Several years ago, while working in a small rural ED, I cared for two young siblings who were fatally injured in a senseless accident. The flood of emotions and the stress of conducting simultaneous pediatric resuscitations were wicked. I knew the children would die, but before stopping the resuscitation, I talked to the parents and asked if they wanted to be with the children before we stopped. They accepted this offer.
Before we went in the room, the mother asked if we had a minister who could baptize her children. We did not. One of the nurses told us that anyone can baptize, so the mother decided that she would do it. We put a towel on a Mayo stand and filled a basin with sterile water. She baptized them and then we stopped the resuscitation.
Normally we have little to offer families but sincere condolences, but for this family we gave them a chance to do something profoundly meaningful in the midst of unfathomable circumstances.
I’ve thought about that day of wonder many times. I have beheld scores of deaths, yet none are more memorable than those. I’ve seen thousands of funny events in the ED but it’s the Scooby Doo story that I frequently retell.
Ages and strange circumstances may be part of why we remember things, but I believe that certain events stay with us not because of the events themselves but because of what we do in response.
For most people, an emergency visit is a rare event so it is memorable for them. People remember their first stitches or how uncomfortable it was to be on the backboard. For us even the big traumas and complicated medical cases usually drift to a corner of our memory.