Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Boys and Girls Arrive and Leave

     A friend wrote recently about the inequalities that women face in the military.  I agreed that women should be treated equally, as long as those women who want equal access put in equal effort.  I had (and continue to have) difficulty articulating (without coming across as a male chauvinist) my gut feeling that when it comes to certain types of physical work women will never be mens' equals.  What I meant was that while there may be some women who are physicially large enough to compete with men, most women will not by virtue of their physique.  This inequality only applies to a very small number of jobs in the West, for example, fire man—I mean firefighter.

     How many firewomen—I mean female firefighters have you ever seen?  Female cops?  Wait, that's interesting: law enforcement is highly associated with testosterone, yet women have entered law enforcement in numbers. 

     How about doctors (real doctors; not PhDs)?  Being a doctor used to be presented on tv and the movies as a macho, life-saving job—especially surgeon—but now there are lots of female doctors. The surgeon who operated on me was a woman.  

So, now what do we do?

We need to all take a week off work, and read Louanne Brizendine's book.

As for all you men out there; stop having heart attacks.

     I couldn't believe it.  This was the third weekend in a row that we had a full-blown Code Blue in the ER with an adult male younger than me in full arrest.  Okay, the guy the previous weekend went into hypovolemic shock caused by internal bleeding brought on by his love (the love that dare not speak its name) of Jack Daniel.  But, the other two—including the guy they wheeled in this weekend—simply had their heart give them the middle finger.

     This guy bore a remarkable resemblance to my brother-in-law: overweight, hairy bald guy in his early 30s.  This guy was 35.  Ambulance called to tell us they're bringing him in, and the ER Doc serenely watched while the nurses set up the med trays, the respiratory therapists set up their equipment, and I stood there, scratching my ass (I already set up the portable x-ray machine just outside the door).

Wait, wait.  Rewind!  Let me start at the beginning.

     I was having a really good shift.  I was reading a good book in the radiology front office, when a request came out of the printer for a newborn baby girl to get her clavicles x-rayed.  This happens all the time.  When babies are born, sometimes the OB-GYN uses forceps (really big tongs, like the ones you use when you're bar-b-cueing) to pull that sucker out.  Hey, sometimes they just don't wanna come out.  Can you blame them?  So I look at the request, and think to myself, Well, I'll take an x-ray and it'll turn out like it always does: no broken shoulder.


     I pushed the portable x-ray machine (an unwieldy 500 pound monster that patients often think is a vaccum cleaner or carpet cleaner) into L&D, and there she was: a pink, naked little girl with a full head of black hair, screaming her ass off.  I gave the nurse a lead apron, and she held Pinkie while I pushed the button.  Okay kid, let's take your x-ray, and show these dummies that you're okay.

I tell the nurse, "Hey I'm gonna leave the portable here in the hallway.  Just in case."

I jinxed myself. 

I ran the cassette, and immediately noticed that her left clavicle was broken clean through.  Clean break, midshaft. 

Food for thought:

(1) It happens.  It's part of being born, if you're an upright hominid.  (Don't say that to any pregnant women in your vicinity, though).

(2) There's nothing you can do about it.  Operate a broken clavicle on a newborn?  Stupid, dangerous, and completely unnecessary.  When adults break their clavicle, they put your arm in a sling, send you out the door, and wish you good luck. 

     Okay, but now I gotta go back, and take a 45 degree cephalic view, to make them happy.  I go out in the hallway, strolll back to L&D, and turn on the portable.


Aw, shit.  Now what do I do?

Here's the problem:  in any hospital, babies get priority.  Period. 

Okay, well, I already x-rayed the baby, and clearly established that her shoulder is broken.  It's non-life threatening.  She's okay, she's not going anywhere.  But, I really should do that second view, to close out her care so that the OB-GYN can tell the parents, "Her clavicle's broken, and we ain't fixin' it."

But there's a Code Blue in the ER.

Fuck it, I headed for the ER.  That's when I arrived, and saw everybody standing around with no patient in Bed One.  The parking lot door flew open, and usual scene unfolded with firemen wheeling in a guy while doing chest compressions, dumping him onto Bed One, us taking over, blah blah blah.  Apparently Junior was in the back of the house, his parents heard a thud, and found him down, in the bathroom. 

One good thing was that there was a bunch of young nursing students in their white uniforms (I hated when they made us do that, when we went to school), and the ER Doc and nurses made sure that each one of the newbies got a chance to spend five minutes doing compressions on Junior's chest.  Nothing like a little real-life hands-on experience.  I'm sure that this was the first time in their young lives that they ever did such a thing.

I realized that with all of the kids thumping him, I wouldn't be doing compressions on the guy, so I ran outta there, and cranked out Pinkie's 45 degree view of her clavicles.  Ran the cassette.  Perfect.  Sent the images via the internet to the radiologist,  and went back to the ER, where I discovered that there were zero white uniforms, all the students had disappeared, and Junior's dad was standing there, watching while the nurses and the ER Doc kept on working.  After half an hour of pumping Junior full of everything in the cabinet, and zapping him 3 times, the ER Doc called it.  We're done.  I think Junior's dad already knew where this was going when he called 911.

Still sucks.

I can't picture msyelf in his shoes. 

My presence served no useful purpose, so I tip-toed out of the ER. 

What I saw floored me.

I literally walked away from the bedside of a guy who just died, and was greeted in the hallway by the sight of a young woman in a wheelchair, being pushed towards the hospital exit by a nurse.  The woman held a newborn in her arms, and her husband was carrying baby supplies.  They slid out of the building into the warm summer sun, and went home.

Life goes on.

If I wrote a scene like that in one of my stories, other writers would kick my ass for assembling something so contrived.

Okay, so I'm a fat guy.  Do I want to die of a heart attack, too?  Nope.  I already had a doctor's appointment (she's a 'she') set up for this week.  Told her I want full blood work.  Haven't done it in a while.  I'm fat and out of shape, and over 40.  The lab paperwork is in my car.  Blod sugar, cholesterol, the whole 9 yards.  I'm going tomorrow morning, before work.  I need to stick around long enough to make sure my Little People go to grad school.

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