STAND UP SIT DOWN LIE DOWN DIE
The next night, after lots of ridiculous little jobs (“my elbow hurts” and “I can’t find my psych meds!”) I was workin with newguy and we walk into a fancy Spanish Harlem apartment to find a little old guy, surrounded by gawking firemen, about to die. Dude was pale as shit, gasping for air, flailing his arms around like he was drowning and couldn’t get more than a word or two out. He definitely had fluid in his lungs, you could hear that raspy gurgling from across the street- the real question was his blood pressure. If you have fluid in your lungs and your pressure’s skyhigh, which is usually the case, it’s very bad- your veins are clenched up tight, you’re heart failing miserably and you’ll eventually drown in yourself. But if you’re ful of fluid and your pressure’s low: you’re fucked. Unless someone puts some dopamine in you quick it’s all over. It’s called cardiogenic shock. That was this guy. To top it off, there was no way for us to give him the dopamine, which tightens up your vessels enough to keep your heart pumping and your pressure up, because the guy had no veins at allll. Nada. I took one look and knew it wasn’t even worth trying.
Here’s the quandary with this situation: no blood pressure means you can’t sit up- any fluid you got needs to be pooled at your upper body, vital organs, so if you sit up it’ll drop to your lower extremities and you’ll die. That’s why people in that situation, including trauma patients who’ve bled out and internal bleeders, all get transported with their feet up, lying flat on their back. On the other hand, people with fluid backing up in their lungs can’t breath, and the last thing you want to do if you can’t breath is lay back- the fluid floods right up your airway and drowns you. That’s why asthma attacks and pulmonary edema patients lean forward in what’s called tripod position.
So here we have a dude with both: no blood pressure- it was like 80 over 50, and can’t breath, and he’s anxious, freaking out, won’t tolerate even the oxygen mask that he so badly needs. So we have the scoop to lay him down in and the chair to wheel him out in but it’s a no win situation either way. He was in a sitting slouch when we got there, so I watch him sit up some and ease onto the chair. He doesn’t look much worse for it and I can tell that laying back further is increasing his agitation, and him getting more upset means his poor failing heart has to work even harder and will sooner collapse. I decide to chair it but have the fireguys walk along side with the scoop just in case he codes and we have to start doing cpr.
He’s spiraling down in the elevator, arms flailing madly like he might take off at any second, water rising higher and higher up in his lungs and everything seems to be going in slow mo, but not in the badass matrix way, only in the whytheFUCKthistakingsolong kinda way. Finally we outside, I toss partner my keys so he can set up the stretcher while I cart homeboy out. Firefighters are scurrying all around me in a frantic escort as I heave ho thru two sets of project doorways and out into the street. We do a quick 1,2,3 evaluation: dude’s still fucked, and then I jump into drivers seat and come up on the air to give the notification: 12xray (that’s our unit number) with a note to Saint Lukes.
I’m throwing into drive, restraining a hot seething curseout as the firetruck that’s blocking us in takes a few milliseconds longer than I want it to to get the f out my f’ing way.
-Go head with your notification, 12xray.
-we have a sixty three year old male, eminent cardiac arrest second to cardiogenic shock, blood pressure 80/50 heart rate 120 respirations 28 be there in 2 minutes.
In my rearview, I see my partner flittering around like a desperate little toothfairy in the back. He’s brandnew and truthbetold, I don’t think the patients gonna make it through the night, but I know the best I can do is get him to the hospital fast as humanly possible so he doesn’t have to get worked up by brandnew dude all by himself.
The *%#*&&#?!! Firetruck has pulled off now and I’m airborne through the windy upper west side streets, winding round the park, hauling ass along 110th and screeching around onto Amsterdam. My sirens are having a temper tantrum, my lights playing rude games in red and white along the Chinese restaurants, coffee shops and saint johns cathedral and then we’re there, breathless, weary, but the dude’s still alive, if only barely.
He didn’t make it through the night tho.