Yesterday was a tough day.
When I got up I discovered I was in considerable discomfort from what I suspect is a muscle spasm in my lower back. It was severe enough that I considered not going to work. I decided that I would ride it out and see if things got better. They appeared to as the day went on, so I stuck it out.
One of the calls we did yesterday afternoon was for a patient who was being sent from a rehab hospital we deal with daily to one of the skilled nursing facilities that we also deal with regularly. Both facilities have questionable reputations, but under the circumstances we were stuck with them. When we arrived to pick our patient up it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a tough call. Not because the patient needed interventions from us; the opposite, in fact, was true. The nature of this patient’s circumstances were going to make it this difficult for everyone involved.
The patient, a 19 year-old male, was a mess. He was a student at one of the better-known colleges in northern New England. Apparently he had a significant fall – the report I received was that he had fallen five stories. Whether or not it was accidental or intentional is unknown. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter. The injuries he sustained were quite significant; basically, he had what amounted to multi-system trauma as well as multiple organ injuries. He also had a traumatic brain injury, but not for the reasons you would suspect. As it happened, he did not land on his head. But he had reportedly had significant internal blood loss which caused anoxia/hypoxia, which led to injury to his brain. I don’t know any details beyond that, with respect to this particular insult. He also had a broken neck as well as multiple broken bones.
Mentally, he was compromised. He was awake but not alert and non-verbal. He didn’t respond to his name, couldn’t follow commands, and from what I could see, was unable to comprehend what was going on around him. Plus, there were no family members present that could give us more information. And the facility was of minimal help; the best assistance I received while we were there preparing to transport him was from the respiratory therapist I needed information from. The nurses who were working were either unable to or uninterested in giving us a report on what was going on with this poor kid. It fell on to the documentation they sent along with him to tell the story. And just by reading the discharge summary, it was pretty clear that this young man had a very, very long road ahead of him.
As we were packaging him for transport, I noticed that on the IV pole next to his bed a rosary was hanging. When I spotted it, I pointed it out to my partner and suggested that perhaps this did not belong to the facility; it was very likely his or it belonged to a member of his family. So we packed it along with the airway care supplies being sent along with him.
When we arrived at the receiving facility, we got to the room where he was to be placed. It was then that we found the family members who were waiting for him to arrive. We transferred him onto the bed, got him situated, and got out of the room; it was a small room and there were already four people there. Two more and an ambulance stretcher was just a little too tight.
As we were leaving, his mother and brother stopped us and thanked us for bringing their family member to them safely. We replied that it was what we do and were prepared to leave it at that. My partner, however, went to the bag where the airway supplies were and pulled the rosary out of the box it was in. He handed it to our patient’s mother, explaining to her that we didn’t want it to be left behind. Both mother and brother’s eyes filled with tears; the mother thanked us profusely, and the brother said to me, “we really appreciate you making sure this came with him. It means a lot.” I totally understood.
It is very likely that this young man will never go home. And it was made clear to me, yet again, that my issues are nothing in comparison. Plus, situations like this remind me why I do my job. It is not for me; it is for them.