Monday, April 12, 2010

When Your Life ALMOST Flashes Before Your Eyes

One day, recently, there was a disturbing hissing sound in the O.R. from one of the gas tanks. A huddle of O.R. personnel got on it right away and tried to trouble-shoot for several minutes.

All of a sudden there was a loud popping sound, like a pistol going off, and the hissing crescendoed so that we could barely hear each other above it.

The surgeons and I exchanged looks, eyes wide. They stopped what they were doing. We all turned to the culprit tank and tried to see, tried to understand, what was happening. Meanwhile, the people on the team whose task was to make sure the equipment was functioning properly were still hard at work doing their job. The rest of us were ready to offer our teammates help but were also limited by our obligation to stay physically close to our areas of responsibility - for me, the patient's airway, and for the surgeons, the patient's surgical site. A technician was called from outside to assist.

I started to feel nauseated. I put an oxygen mask on myself as a precaution - the last person who needed to feel queasy was the person in the O.R. directly responsible for the patient's safety - and set about making sure my patient was still okay under the drapes. Breathing tube: check. Monitors: check. Eye covers: check. IV access: running. Warming blanket: on. Vital signs: stable.

My thoughts went whizzing around in my head like ricocheting bullets. What's going on? What can I do to fix it? What if we have an explosion - do I throw myself over the patient or on the ground? Boy, it would really be a bummer if we all went up in flames in here...I have so many things I wanted to enjoy with my husband and kids...

Thankfully whatever valve needed turning or tweaking got tweaked, and the deafening hiss stopped. As it turned out there wasn't any major or prolonged danger. But the incident reminded me that all those things we are trained to be vigilant for in addition to patients needing resuscitation - fires in the O.R., falling objects or projectiles, unexpected chemical hazards, aggressive patients, falls, and the like - are real possibilities, and that we really can't take our training or teamwork for granted.

1 comment:

Jo said...

Wow! That must have been quite scary, even if only for a few moments. I'm glad that nothing serious happened and that you were all ok.