How to save a life
They let me steer the stretcher from the aircraft to the hospital. It was just about all I was able to competently manage as walking and chewing gum were a stretch for this newbie flight nurse. I was still in the stage where watching my feet was necessary during walking to prevent landing on my face.
Although I felt as uncoordinated as an adolescent teenage boy with a cracking voice, I put on a good game face and strode confidently as a good flight nurse should. The real flight nurse of the crew, was in my wake, chattering to the physician and pilot.
The ambulance entrance to the emergency room slid open on que as we approached, as though our entrance was timed by a director. We were all actors on an improve stage facing dire consequences if we didn’t nail our unwritten lines.
A flurry of purple, smeared with a variety of other loud colors, waddled in my general direction. This purposeful movement was combined with the flailing of arms and a siren-esk voice hollering, “its a code blue! Its a code blue!”
The old, fat nurse distracted me with her panic, and as I turned my head back I witnessed time slow down. Time warped for mere seconds, as someone pushed the slow motion button in my head. The real flight nurse took three gigantic strides to my right. She was honed in on the baby lying limp on the stretcher. She dove, forearms outstretched and in one graceful motion, slid her arms under the little boy’s torso and shoulders scooping him into a textbook sniffing position.
It was at that second that sound returned to my consciousness and the reality of our situation slammed me into action mode. The flight physician was only half a step behind the flight nurse in reaching the baby. They both began asking questions of the staff around them as they began their physical assessment.
The boy’s arms were almost limp, but his brown eyes were still open. Blinking looked like more effort than he could bear. His little chest and belly were struggling in opposite directions, attempting to pull air into his lungs.
The sending physician quietly exited stage left. Actually, she moved out of the way, towards the nurses’ station removing herself from the chaos after answering a few questions. Her report included a brief version of the little boy’s medical history which included seizures from almost birth, a g-tube for feeding, and a recent history of URI. She repeated her belief that the boy was still in the midst of a seizure for which he had received no medications. They had no IV access and therefore had no ability to administer drugs in order to break the seizure. He was too agitated to stick a catheter into one of his small veins.
Everyone else was talking during the physician’s short report. The fight nurse was doing her best to gain information about what had been done so far in treating the baby. Had he received any medications at all? How long had he been having difficulty breathing? Could we please have a BVM hooked to oxygen?
With all of the stimulation, the baby became more restless and anxious. His pallor pinked up a bit as his breathing effort increased.
It was then that we heard her voice over the din. “I keep telling them that I think he swallowed something! Why won’t anyone listen to me?” It was a voice that could only be from a mother.
“He swallowed something 5 hours ago!”
The flight doctor and nurse’s eyes met over the baby. He verbalized his plan to take a look in the baby’s airway while the nurse began asking for rectal valium to sedate the baby.
I yanked open our pediatric bag and prayed I would remember where the laryngoscope pack was. Stuff flew everywhere but somehow I managed to find the little orange bag. I threw it up on the bed as the physician kept his attention on the little boy’s face, lips, mouth and neck. His concentration was intense to being palpable. The flight nurse was in complete control of everything else swirling in the tornado around us, including me.
As the physician slid the laryngoscope blade into the baby’s mouth, his free hand became his mouth piece, shaking as his fingers began snapping at me rapidly. The flight nurse yelled “MAGILS!” just as I realized that is what he wanted. I slapped them into his hand, and with one confident movement he went fishing into the baby’s tiny mouth.
Everyone in the room was watching, frozen in place.
Like a prize fighter, his arm, hand, magills went straight in the air in a victorious jab. Clamped in the end was the prettiest, shiniest green and silver metallic sticker I had ever seen.
Ripping through the silence she screamed, “I TOLD THEM HE SWALLOWED SOMETHING!”