The call came in around supper time. It was for a man having chest pain. On arrival, the man was pale, cool, and he just didn’t LOOK well. He was complaining that he was short of breath, having chest pain which radiated down his right arm, and also said he felt “weak.”
A 12 lead EKG revealed that he was having an anterior wall MI, which is the medical term for a heart attack in the front portion of his heart. I started an IV, and gave the standard medications: nitrates, aspirin, oxygen, and morphine.
Once stoned on the morphine, he was an extremely funny man. We all had some big laughs when we got to the hospital. The cardiac alert I had issued while we were on the way to the hospital had worked just as intended- the man was taken to the cath lab, and he was operated on and the clogged artery repaired in less than hour.
Two years later and 400 miles away, the same man walked into an emergency room and collapsed in cardiac arrest. The ER team was able to restart his heart after only a few minutes of effort, but due to a 4 minute delay in beginning CPR while they moved him from the lobby to the ER, he had permanent brain damage. He never regained consciousness, and died ten days later.
This man had a family, he was important to them. This man taught me the value of money, taught me to fish, taught me to play baseball. He taught me how to live my life. He wasn’t always there, but then again, I wasn’t always there for him, especially when he needed me the most, the day he died.
That man was my father.
I don’t blame anyone for his passing, but I use this case to illustrate that we are responsible for the things that others take for granted.
I tell my students that becoming the best practitioner that you possibly can is more than just pride in your job. Those skills are not just for your patients. They can be for your family. Ask yourself a question: “If my father or mother had a heart attack, would I be comfortable knowing that I was the one working to save them?”
If the answer is no, then why are you here? Every patient you see is SOMEONE’S mother, father, brother, or sister.
It has been more than sixteen years since the day he left. I still miss him every day. It still makes me sad twice a year: the anniversary of his birth, and the anniversary of his death. My dad would be in his eighties now. Even as I approach the age that he was when he passed away, I still sometimes long for his wisdom, his guidance, and the steady knowledge that he passed along. There are so many times that I wish I could seek your guidance.
Dad, I still remember that day when I was 12 years old, and we were standing in the back yard burying my pet. You put your arm around me as we dug the grave together, and you said to me, “I know it’s hard, but he knew you loved him.”
That pet is long gone and largely forgotten. However, I still mourn your passing.