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I wasn’t looking for a Christmas miracle. I don’t think I believe in miracles anyway and whatever laws govern our universe, they don’t care if it’s a holiday.
It was 2pm on Christmas eve when a man in his early 60’s was brought in to resus. He’d had a cardiac arrest at a sports stadium. As far as places to have a cardiac arrest go, this wasn’t the worst one; there was a doctor, there was a defibrillator and he had a shockable rhythm. We received him with a beating heart, so we set about stabilizing him and carrying out necessary post cardiac arrest workup.
His family arrived in Christmas jumpers; a wife, two sons and a daughter. While we were still in resus, another cardiac arrest arrived. We dealt with that one behind the curtain right next to them. When I came back, his wife looked at me and said ‘that person didn’t make it, did they?’ I didn’t know what to say, but his daughter said ‘mum, the doctor can’t tell you that’. I was grateful.
They knew that patient hadn’t made it. They didn’t know he was exactly twenty years younger than their relative.
The consultant had asked me to try to extubate the patient and the family asked if they could stay. I gave them the talk about patients not ‘waking up’ like they do on TV, that he might be agitated, that there would be some biting or coughing on the tube and he might look uncomfortable. They insisted they wanted to stay, so I let them.
I pulled the tube out and watched his family wince. His wife turned away when I suctioned out his mouth. He was extremely agitated. I waited for it to pass, but it didn’t. He writhed around like a confused and angry bear. He pawed at his lines and made repeated attempts to lunge himself out of the bed. Nothing settled him, so before I left that evening we made the decision to reintubate him. His family left, deflated.
The following morning, I asked the nurse to stop his sedation first thing and joked that I was pinning all of my happiness for Christmas day on this man waking up beautifully.
At 10.30am I walked passed the bed and he was drinking a cup of tea.
At 11am his family knocked on the unit door, I was nearby and let them in. ‘How is he?’ his son asked, holding his mother’s hand. ‘Oh’ I said ‘well, last time I saw him, he was having a cup of tea’.
‘Are you joking?’ asked his daughter
‘No’, I reassured her, ‘I would never joke about that’.
They ran down the ward to where he sat upright in bed on Christmas morning.
I know this wasn’t a miracle; it was a shockable rhythm, an early defibrillation and an otherwise fairly healthy male.
The thing is, when I watched that man’s family running towards him, I felt happier than I had ever expected to at work, on Christmas day. Their joy filled me up, even as I stood amongst all my other critically ill patients. In that moment, it felt like a wonderful gift I had never expected and somebody might just suggest that that part really was a Christmas miracle.
Me? I am far too sensible for that.
By the Secret Doctor
Read the blog and follow @TheSecretDr on Twitter
Brilliant thank you so much