I rarely follow up with my patients. If they are in the ED when I come back with a new patient, I will stop in and see how thay are doing. Or I might ask a nurse or a doctor what was the deal with a certain recent patient from earlier in the day or maybe even the day before, but I am not one of these guys who is always going up to the floors to reintroduce myself to the patient as the paramedic who brought them in. Not that there is anything wrong with it. I did it a few times when I first started. Haven’t for years.

A couple weeks ago, we did a code save. I wrote about it in an entry titled Blanket. It was my third code save this year. By “save” I am using the iffy terminology of a cardiac arrest patient brought to the ED with a blood pressure and still alive when we left the ED.

When it comes to cardiac arrests, unless they are talking to me when I leave the ER, I guess I just assume they die eventually. I was surprised once. I got called for a stroke. I found a man sitting on a neighbor’s garbadge can, where he had been talking to them after driving up in his car, when he suddenly slumped over. We went lights and sirens to the hospital following the stoke protocol. I dug his ID out of his wallet and was shocked by the name. It was the same name as a man I had done in a cardiac arrest a year before. I’d gotten a pressure back, but never thought anything more of it. I just assumed he had died or was a vegetable in some nursing home. To make it an even better story, his massive stroke turned out to be a TIA and he was talking to me before we even reached the hospital. He was in fact the same guy. At the hospital I met his family and they said they had tried to get in contact with me. They had gone to the fire station to leave a message for me, but hadn’t heard anything back. Niether had I. That day in the ER at our little reunion we all shook hands and hugged, and smiled a lot.

With that story in mind, and because on this code — as I have written before, my two partners were a young man going through the EMT class and a two decades of experience plus EMT, both of whom it was their first code save — I thought it would be nice to find out how the lady was doing. She was after all breathing on her own on the way in. I had found out that a week later she was still alive in the ICU although I had no report on her condition.

I began to imagine her alive. I imagined us visiting her back in her home with her family and all her granchildren and great grandchildren around her. I thought how happy my partners would feel. For one it would be the crowning achievement of his career, for the other, an indelible moment that would guide him toward a long rewarding lifetime in EMS.

I went in to see the hospital’s EMS coordinator and ask him if he could look up the three code saves I had this year, particularly the last one, to see how they made out. He said it would take some leg work, but he would be happy to do it for me.

I thanked him, then went out to the car, and just happened to open up the newspaper. There she was on the obituary page. Our “save.” A 93-year old great great grandmother. Died in the hospital. Rest in peace. I saw the coordinator later that day and thanked him for his offer, but told him not to bother looking up the others.

1 Comment

  • Anonymous says:

    If you’re not already aware of it, even if those saves don’t extend a patient’s life by much timewise, often they do extend it enough to give the family & other people close to them some time to say goodbye. Which is invaluable to the family, etc.

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