Saturday, March 10, 2012

Four chambers of the heart

I have one shred of internet.

This time in my life is surreal. Our lodgings are so tranquil and removed, wooden houses settled into deep snow on a road of thick ice and frozen mud, the gold-floored yurt, a tree house, a hot tub in with a view of starlight through tall pines. The surrounding is in such stark contrast to what we are learning every day, the photos of brain matter and split skulls and shattered windshields.
We run into the woods carrying oxygen tanks during the day, finding our patients crumpled around trees, breathing rapidly with sucking chest wounds painted on with thick make up, and it's incredible how fast all our ABCs and patient assessment triangles evaporate. In the classroom I can carefully pen out what each of the DCAPBTLS stands for, but when I'm faced with a broken spine and dropping blood pressure- a fake broken spine and staged dropping blood pressure- I don't know what to do. Or, more accurately, I know what to do but I can't remember which order to do it in.
Here's why it's so surreal. Because everything we do during the week is staged, but on the weekends it becomes real. Two of the boys took the first clinical rounds last night, Friday night, as the rest of us were out in Leavenworth drinking beer in front of the outdoor fire at Icicle brewery. They returned early in the morning and we saw them over breakfast. They were pale and excited. They'd had a gun shot to the head and a full hospital lock down. They described seeing brain matter, blood, massive amounts of cerebral spinal fluid. They told about seeing his vitals drop and his blood pressure drop to nothing, and then they had to cut the clothes off of the corpse. They described hearing the family screaming in the waiting room, a gang fight that subsequently broke out and the endless amounts of cops streaming in and out. There was also a car crash, but that took the back burner in terms of excitement. 

Meanwhile, we soaked in the hot tub in the fresh, chilled mountain air, fell asleep in our clean beds, and waited for our turn.

It's a funny mix we've got here in the woods. Late the other night, cramming for our first big exam, the FBI agent and the nuclear submarine man patiently went over the respiration process and the four chambers of the heart with me, over and over. Yesterday, Libby and I killed Tate many times over as he slipped into shock and we forgot his blood pressure, forgot to regulate his temperature and almost strangled him with a cervical collar. Girls are a rare commodity around here. When I go into town, I put my grandmother's opal ring on my left ring finger. Yesterday night at the bar in Leavenworth, a young man was asking over and over, "Where are you from? What are you doing here?" over and over, so much so that we thought he might have a head wound. And then he leaned closer and whispered, "I know how old you are. You're 23....going on sexy." My friend Tate, recognizing my symptoms of distress, draped his arm around me and said coolly, "I see you've met my wife?" I smiled, leaned into him, and flashed my left hand to the boy with the would-be head wound.
Later on, as we were leaving, a boy almost barreled me over he ran full speed down the empty street. Then, a few ahead, he tripped and fell flat upon his face, arms splayed, and lay still. Alright! I said to myself. Go time! "Are you okay?" I yelled, running to his side. But then my patient, my very first patient, jumped up with a startled look and a bloody nose, and kept on running.

Which is exactly how I've felt the past week. Disoriented, unsure of my footing, running, going somewhere, going very fast.   

No comments: