Neal Freeland

Engineering/marketing manager, family guy. My personal blog with a few work thoughts mixed in.

Scary Resident

with 6 comments

So we all have to start somewhere in our professional careers. That’s what a resident is doing: finally applying eight years of post-secondary education to on-the-job training. But do you really want to see this person working on your daughter as she is about to roll down the hallway into her second surgery?

Dr Alopa (not her real name) was a tall and wide resident of Indian heritage with substantial glasses and – I don’t know how to describe it exactly – a schlumpy look. I’m sure she was top of her class in order to get a prestiguous residency at the Cleveland Clinic, but she apparently didn’t really know how to put on her O.R. scrubs. Her hair was sticking out all over and her tunic was partly tucked into her pants on the side. She was assisting the professional and polite Japanese anesthesiologist in preparing Amelia for transfer to the operating room. The resident needed to administer a small dose of medicine and was fumbling with the tubes and pushing hard on the plunger. Nothing was happening. A nurse looked at her uncomfortably, then nervously at us, then back at the resident, and then said "um, would you like me to help?" as she took the plunger out of the resident’s hands. After unscrewing the cap that was blocking the fluid transfer (Doh! Unscrew the cap! Missed that one in med school), the nurse began to push the plunger down. The resident, who had been looking around at something, turned back and said "wait, wait, only 2.5 ml" (half the plunger).

The resident then turned to her next responsibility: detaching the automated breathing machine and connecting the small manual hand pump. As soon as she had achieved the first step in this task, the breathing machine started to alarm. This seemed to startle the resident, who fumbled with the blue hand pump. Her movements quickened, like she knew she was running out of time. Finally, she seated the device on Amelia’s breathing tube and squeezed the blue ball. Nothing happened. It didn’t compress, and no air transfered to Amelia. The resident looked around nervously, and mumbled vaguely to no one: "this blue one is different than the green ones I’m used to" as she tried to cycle a small white valve on the discharge side of the pump. The anesthesiologist finally took note and told her to just press harder. The resident did, and Amelia got her air.

The anesthesiologist then stepped aside, smiled gently and said softly "kisses, goodbyes now". Julia and I each gave Amelia a kiss, and then they rolled her into the operating room. The last thing we saw was the resident squeezing the blue pump. As we turned to walk to the waiting room I noticed that Julia had started sobbing. Visions of dropped scalpels or a misplaced pacemaker overwhelmed her. Fortunately, Mike Fackelmann, an absolutely amazing guy who is the primary O.R. surgical nurse, noticed Julia’s distress. With a confident and commanding air he said "let me go check on her, and don’t worry – I, the anesthesiologist, and Dr Mee are the only people who are going to touch her in there." He then came down to the waiting room to let us know it was going to be ok. It was exactly what we needed to hear.

I remember starting my first gig as an Ensign in the Navy. I had graduated from a top university only to arrive at my ship and feel like a total zero. Shipboard life was tough, and I remember my first boss, the Chief Engineer, hurling explicatives (and once even a chair) at me and saying that he had 19 year old firemen that were more valuable than I was. At the time life kind of stunk, but in retrospect some of the things that happened were pretty funny. Eventually I figured it out, and I’m sure the resident will, too.

Here’s a picture of Mike from Time, 5 September 2005.

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Written by nealfreeland

October 17, 2005 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. Neal – thanks so much for these postings. You guys are handling this amazingly as is little Amelia – I can\’t imagine a little girl and her family going thru so much and coming thru it all with such strength! Please know our prayers are with you. Looking forward to seeing all of you back here in Seattle soon.Love, Chris, Maya and Emery

    Christian

    October 18, 2005 at 12:00 pm

  2. Neal and Julia,You guys have been through so much. My heart goes out to you. I can\’t wait until you are on the other side of this experience, looking at your beautiful daughter with the perspective that only a very difficult experience like this gives you. Hang in there, you will get there. Do you know how long you will be in Cleveland? When Amelia is stronger and you are breathing easier, we could do a day trip just to say hi if you are up for it.Donna & Mark (+Dominic, Mia, Luke)

    Unknown

    October 18, 2005 at 6:24 pm

  3. Neil/Julia, I went to the blog to check in and realized I hadn\’t looked in a while and read all the recent entries. Neil, you are a gifted writer! As i read, I feel I am there and it tortures me! As I read there is a constant lump in my throat and hope none of my associates walk in and see me tearing up. You two are so strong! I see Amelia and think it could be Kaelan there. Why her and not him? I know there is answer to this, but we may never know. It is one of the many questions I want to ask Him when I get there. Be strong. She will be fine. Kaelan will be taking things from her before we know it. God speed!

    Unknown

    October 19, 2005 at 1:34 pm

  4. Thanks for the updates on the blog – sounds like she is getting the best of care. Here is hoping for a speedy recovery. As someone who has visited Cleveland frequently – relatives in Beechwood and Shaker Hts – if you are going to grab a bite to eat, check out:http://cleveland.citysearch.com/profile/11496846/woodmere_oh/corky_lenny_s.htmlYou can\’t get good deli like that in Seattle and sometimes a hot bowl of chicken soup can lift ones spirits.Bruce

    Bruce

    October 19, 2005 at 2:33 pm

  5. Jared and I have been thinking about the four of you everyday. I\’m so thankful for Neals\’ Blog so I feel up to date about what is going on without feeling intrusive and wanting to call daily. I\’m so glad you are in a place where you feel she is getting the best possible care from the best possible surgeon. You will all cont. to be in our thoughts/prayers.Give us a call when you get back to town.Jessie and Jared

    Neal

    October 23, 2005 at 10:47 am

  6. Hey buddy, I\’ve been following along the blow-by-blow. I was in tears reading the one about the resident — that would\’ve put me over the edge. Things definitely seem to be on the right trajectory…huzzah! Lots of love to you, J, Amelia, and of course Zack.xoc

    Neal

    October 23, 2005 at 11:38 am


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