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Medical student to surgical patient: “You can learn a lot from watching. Thank you for letting me watch”

surgery_040714Over on the “This May Hurt a Bit” blog, Harvard Medical School student Shara Yurkiewicz shares her experience of witnessing a common surgical procedure turn fatal after the patient’s blood pressure suddenly dropped and failed to recover.

In the emotionally honest account, Yurkiewicz tells the patient:

[The surgery] was going so smoothly that we were humming along to “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?” It was during the bridge of the song that your blood pressure suddenly dropped. The anesthesiologist called it out. I looked at the monitor and saw numbers flashing in red.

There was a lot of red, actually. Blood in the wound, blood in the suction container, blood in transfusion bags, bloody footprints on the floor. No more than with any other patient. But I think somewhere along the way I learned to take the sight of liters of blood for granted.

I was scared. I stopped watching them stitch and stared at the monitor, which suddenly seemed like my closest connection to you. They called out the medications they were giving you to raise your blood pressure.

After a few minutes, it worked. Your blood pressure slowly climbed to green numbers. I was still shaking as I silently willed the numbers to stop bouncing around.

Unfortunately, Yurkiewicz was unable to will the patient’s blood pressure to remain stable, and the fast-working surgeons were unable to save him. As she says good-bye to the patient, she writes, “You can learn a lot from watching. Thank you for letting me watch.”

Previously: Reality Check: When it stopped feeling like just another day in medical school, Sleep on it: The quest for rest in the modern hospital, Introducing SMS Unplugged and Facing mortality
Photo by U.S. Navy

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