I remember their eyes…

I find it hard to post about “being a doctor.” I think it’s because when I arrive home I want to keep work, at work. It’s exhausting to have your thoughts occupied with “Did I miss anything?” “Did I remember to chart that up for the patient?” “Did I call this person?” when you’re suppose to be relaxing at home and the thought of blogging about work is not exactly ideal.

But these last 2 weeks have been really busy and a lot has happened. I’ve had a few patients pass away and was involved in a Code Blue – which involved 60 minutes of CPR. It’s really a bizarre feeling when you find yourself certifying someone’s death then having to “get back to work” as though nothing had happened. It was only last week I saw this lovely patient live and well and then the week after she’s wheeled in by ambulance non-responsive and barely breathing and 24 hours later she’s gone… Or the gentleman I saw being wheeled into the CCU (Critical Care Unit) with failing kidneys and lungs. His eyes confused with the commotion around him. 48 hours it’s just me in his room and his eyes are like glass.

I didn’t know the man who I did CPR on. There was a Code Blue in ED and all of us doctors ran. This was my first Code Blue… He was a 70 year old gentleman who had just come in. He was non-responsive and his heart rate was dropping. Us interns started CPR. We all stood in a line with gloves on ready to swap when the other tired. Most of us had only done CPR on dummies. It was strenuous and very different to doing it on a mannequin. Suddenly every chest compression mattered – right technique, right depth, right placement- if you were tired you had to swap. There was no use doing lousy chest compressions. I remember looking at his eyes as I pressed down on his chest- silently hoping for a heart beat or a pulse. But it never came and an hour later the Consultant ordered the CPR to stop and called it.

I didn’t feel sad… I felt numb… I think it’s because I didn’t know the man and hadn’t seen him “alive.” I did cry for one patient early this year. My first rotation as an intern. I was working over the weekend so I was looking after everyone in the hospital. I had just met this man that morning. He was doing well his blood looked great. That afternoon his haemoglobin dropped dramatically and his blood pressure starting dropping. It became a Code Blue. He was bleeding somewhere and we had to rush him to theatre where I was allowed to assist. His abdomen was just blood… too much to stop.. he died on the table. Afterwards the nurses on the wards were kind and let me have some time to myself. I cried. I cried for him and for his family. That was the first time I cried for a patient.

You really see the highs and lows of a person’s life in this position which is rewarding and sad at the same time. I’m only 23 and it’s hard to believe that I’m a “doctor” and dealing with these issues while my friends are out there being actual 23 year olds. I don’t feel I’m mature enough for this sometimes.

  1. Anna said:

    You’re such a strong person Leanne. I can imagine the frustration, but you’re actually saving lives, which is a lot more important than what most of us others do.. Sometimes I wish I could contribute more to this world. You’re going to be a great doctor. Keep on fighting, I know you can do it!

  2. Lolo said:

    Leanne <3 <3 <3
    It's a difficult field that you are in. The bads are very bad and tragic but on the other side of the spectrum, so many good things happen. I'm so proud of you that you are helping out so many people even though it's not always a happy experience. Life is never something that is completely controllable, especially things like this. Think of these problems as waves…eventually you'll learn how to surf with the waves and you'll grow stronger. It's tough, but you're gonna do a great job~
    If I ever get sick in Australia, I want you to be my doctor~

  3. Amanda said:

    I don’t know where to start on all the things I want to say… I just want to say that the work you’re doing, it really means a lot to me when I meet doctors who care. Even just reading your blog all these years (I doubt I will ever have you as a doctor), I can see that you really do care, and are a strong and intelligent person – and you CAN handle it. I guess it never just “gets easier with time”. Because you wouldn’t want it to – right?

    Recently there’s been a series of “Inside New Zealand” documentaries that have featured intern doctors. I watched one ages ago about med students first working with cadavers. Apparently that was where lives and career paths were changed – either people could or couldn’t handle it, and dropped out accordingly. My sister isn’t and never was a med student, but for a year she did sports science (she studies in the states, so I guess they have more donations there) and had to work with cadavers. Which I was really shocked and kind of appalled about. They also had to skin and dissect cats. Shocked me, also. Considering what a catlover she is. Anyway, that documentary really opened my eyes about all the emotional and ethical issues that med students had to deal with. And the “Inside NZ” series then followed some med students in their latter years of med school. The really striking episodes for me were when they were 5th and 6th year interns and were on rotations in a hospital (I guess you can relate), and the whole “he was fine and I was the last person to see him and now he’s dead” kind of reflections were really hard to sit through – let alone the prospect of being the one to have to deal with it. And a really poignant moment was when a female student said, “I want to care, but I really just can’t, I just have to pretend, for their sake, but if I truly care, it will destroy me”, contrasted by someone else that said that they care about every patient they come into contact with – because if they didn’t, how are they supposed to do a good job. I couldn’t imagine having to struggle with that every day. So I really respect doctors out there who are helpful, caring (or at least good at pretending), and do a good job. I say that specifically though, because I’ve met some doctors who were arrogant people and carelessly prescribed things and didn’t have a thorough consultation (this is, with regards to antidepressants, so definitely not a good area to be careless in).

    Anyway, hang in there! You are doing a great job, I’m sure. And relax when you get home! You deserve it.


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