It was twenty minutes before my crew change when the tones went off. A fall at a local restaurant. I shook my head. I had dinner out plans for the evening that were going to get shot to hell now.
Outside the restaurant we found a polite well dressed man in his sixties sitting on a bench. He was alert, but his brow was slightly clammy. His wife said as they were leaving, he told her he suddenly felt weak, and then his eyes rolled back and he keeled over. Fortunately she was able to ease him down. He was unconcious for maybe thirty seconds, but he was looking much better now, she said.
I asked a few questions. He told me he had no chest pain, no trouble breathing. He said he felt fine and apologized for troubling us. He’d been overworked lately, and probably not eating or drinking enough.
His vitals sitting were normal. We had him stand and I did orthostatics. His heart rate went up ten beats, but his blood pressure stayed the same. He asked what I thought.
It might be nothing, I said. You could go home and take it easy and make certain you get plenty of fluids (And I could make it to Outback in time for a grilled sirlon and a cold Foster’s before they close for the night), and then follow up with your doctor in the morning, but then I added, that’s no guarantee that it won’t happen again. As much of an inconvenience as it might be for you (And no steak for me), my recommendation is that we take you down to the ED. You always have to take it seriously when someone passes out. It might be nothing, but it could be something serious. Best to get it checked out now. You know, better safe than sorry.
Okay, whatever you think is best, he said. I’m agreeable.
We chatted on the way to the hospital. I explained his 12 lead ECG looked normal, his lungs were clear, his blood sugar and vital signs were good. I talked about what he could expect at the hospital — blood tests, another ECG. He asked a few questions, occasionally using a medical term like syncope.
You obviously have some type of medical background, I said.
No, I’m in law, he said, I’ve just picked it up over the years.
He was a nice man, and I had an odd feeling that I knew him from somewhere, but couldn’t place him.
At the hospital, he thanked me for our care and shook my hand.
Later that night sitting in front of the TV finally having my dinner (a sandwich and a can of beer) I did a double take. There on the 35″ TV screen was my patient.
“Been a victim of medical malpractice?” he snarled. “Missed work or suffering needless pain? I’m attorney XXX. I’ll fight for YOUR rights!”
Better Safe than Eating Out.