When a crash bleep goes off on your first day you know there is only one explanation. You’ve been cursed. That’s it, must be the only option. A crash bleep goes off to inform the on call team that a patient somewhere in the hospital has died or is about to die and it is the crash team’s responsibility to get to that patient as soon as possible and attempt to bring them back. Nothing too complicated then. For me, that happened shortly after the ritual humiliation of my first ward round.
The consultant had spent two hours quizzing me on why patients hadn’t had tests ordered and why medication hadn’t been started. He seemed to be completely oblivious to the fact that it hadn’t been me that admitted the patient and in fact I wasn’t the same person that had been on his ward round the morning before and no, my name wasn’t Dr Sharma. He wore a sharp pin striped suite, white shirt, bright red tie and matching pocket square. His glasses were perched on the end of his beak like nose in a way I always thought only teachers could perfect. Also along for the ride was The Medical Registrar, or Med Reg as he was called by the team. He was the second in command and some might say the most important doctor in the hospital. Our Med Reg looked thoroughly fed up with this role. His bleep must have gone off at least once a minute during the round and each time he came back looking more and more aggravated and when he wasn’t on the phone he was correcting the various mistakes made by the junior staff and apologising to patients for the major flaws in the Consultant’s communication skills. The worst of these flaws came when the boss told a lady who had taken an overdose after having a miscarriage that she should remember to be ‘thankful for her health’ in situations like these. That will surely be enough to stop her wanting to harm herself. Then there was the SHO, the doctor directly above me, and the ward sister. It was the two of them that steered me in the right direction as the morning went on and let me know what I needed to do next to escape the wrath of the Consultant when he returned for the evening round.
After the morning round had finished I was sent to the X Ray department with a handful of request cards. I had been given the instructions by my SHO that I mustn’t just leave them in the request tray, I had to speak to one of the staff there and stress the importance of these requests. The SHO had fed me phrases like, ‘to get them home’ and ‘we’re out of beds’ and suggested I try to use them as much as possible to try and encourage our X Ray colleagues to give into my demands. It was as I walked through the department doors that a screeching noise came from the brick like bleep attached to my belt followed by a voice shouting ‘Cardiac Arrest, Ward 34’ again and again at me. For a split second I felt like I was the one having a cardiac arrest and then the adrenaline kicked in for the second time that day. I threw the request cards down on the reception desk and raced back down the corridor in the direction I hoped Ward 34 would be found.
Racing down a hospital corridor is not glamorous. Within 30 seconds I had hit myself in the face with the stethoscope around my neck at least three times, one of them hard enough to leave a bright red mark on my nose, my list of jobs had flung itself from my pocket in a bid to escape and my bleep had crashed to the floor spilling its batteries in the process. I did not look like a professional at all as I tried to scoop up my dropped possessions. As I ran around a corner I collided full on with the SHO coming in the opposite direction with a smack that echoed all the way back to the main entrance. Both our bleeps went flying, our stethoscopes became tangled and his knee landed firmly in my crotch.
“Where are you going?” he barked at me, breathlessly.
“Ward 34.” I whimpered back at him.
“Shit, I thought it was this way.” He said pointing in the direction I had just come from.
“You’ll know better than me.”
“Don’t bet on it, this is my first day in this hospital too!”
It was at that moment a porter came into sight. He both ran at him shouting “Ward 34?!”
“Keep going that way,” he pointed in the direction I had been running, “and it’s on your left.”
I may not have a clue what to do when I get there but at least I was running in the right direction. Result!
We got there a few seconds later and I can say that there was no comedy about that scene. It was horrendous and it does not need to be spoken about here. After that day, crash calls became second nature but the first one I ever attended, the first time it was my responsibility to bounce up and down on a person’s heart will never leave me. He didn’t survive.
There was no time for a chat, no time for a coffee, no one asked if everyone was okay. It was straight back to work. As I walked back on to the Admissions Unit I picked up the notes belonging to the next patient needing to be seen. I stepped through the curtain to be greeted by a smiling elderly lady and a nurse who turned to me before announcing to the frail patient that “The doctor is here now…” I turned to look over my shoulder to see if my SHO was following me in and then realised she was talking about me.
It was on the evening round later that day that I remembered the X Ray request cards dumped on the department reception desk.
“Now, let us have a look at Mr Oaks’ Chest X Ray.”