As I open the back doors of the rig I see the two extra firefighters in the back of the patient compartment. CPR is in progress and having extra people to help out is always better so the medic took a few riders. We help them unload the patient while keeping an eye on IV lines and monitor cables. I hand the monitor to Brittany and tell her to keep close as we roll the gurney into the waiting team of doctors and nurses. One of the fire fighters is “riding the rails” – he’s standing on the bottom rail of the gurney, one hand holding on and one arm applying as much of a compression to the patient’s chest as is possible on a moving gurney.
As the paramedic is giving a verbal hand off to the medical team we disconnect the monitor leads and transfer the patient over to the bed. A flurry of motion ensues as the hospital staff go to work picking up the code where we left off. I take Brittany to the corner of the room where we are out of the way and I can explain what’s happening as the team administers more drugs and shocks the patient a few times.
After ten minutes it’s obvious this person isn’t going to come back to the living. They are going through the last few motions of working a code – throwing the “Hail Mary” drugs at him in the hopes that something was overlooked or an underlying unknown condition is preventing the resuscitation from working. The ED tech doing compressions is a friend of mine and he’s getting a bit fatigued from doing CPR for the last five minutes.
“Hey Nick, you want some relief? My ride-along needs the practice.” Nick gives an exhausted nod of his head as drips of perspiration land on the pale patient below him. Brittany bounds up to the step stool at the side of the bed and trades off with Nick without missing a beat. I coach her on hand placement and compression rate as she furiously puts all of her heart into keeping this man’s heart working.
While Brittany continuously pumps on the man’s chest, I’m standing next to her explaining some of the things she’s feeling and giving pointers. “Don’t worry about the broken ribs, keep pushing, he’s got bigger problems. Give the chest a full recoil, let it inflate after every compression.” I push my fingers into the man’s femoral artery. “Push a little harder, there you go, now I can feel his pulse in the femoral from every compression.”
After two rounds Brittany is completely exhausted but she’s still pushing for all she’s worth. Nick catches my eye as we stand behind Brittany. “They’re about to call it, you want me to take the last round?”
I pull Brittany from the stool as Nick jumps in for the final round of CPR. Nick’s a good man – he knows that we were all just going through the motions on this one but Brittany doesn’t need to be the last person doing CPR when they decide to stop. She did a great job and it’s best to leave on a high note rather than a depressing coast out.
This was our last call of the day and as we take the quiet roads back to the deployment center Brittany has a flurry of questions and observations from her day on the streets. Kevin and I have quiet smiles on our faces as we discuss the day and her performance. Her enthusiasm is contagious and we were just happy to provide her some experiences to help prepare her for the unknown that awaits her overseas.
Back at the deployment center I’m filling out Brittany’s evaluation form where I give her high marks in all categories. Brittany puts her form in the camouflage backpack and joins her camouflaged classmates in the lounge as they compare stories of their day in the Big City. I suspect Brittany has some of the best stories of the group today.
She’s a shining example of the young people that are making sacrifices for our country every day. These are young men and women from across the country who take an oath, put on a uniform, and deploy across the world. Many of them will find themselves in dangerous situations, and maybe some of the things they learned in our Big City will be of use in future deployments.