Thursday, July 15, 2010

trauma!! in the med school lecture hall?!

Personally, one of the interesting aspects of working as an emergency radiologist is hearing the stories of each patient as relayed by the ED physicians.  It not only provides pertinent clues in the search for possible pathology, but also at times can add zest to a long night of mundane ED films.  For example, one evening the flavor of the night was "falls". Practically everyone and their cousin that evening had fallen down and came to pay a visit to the ED.  And thus began the parade of different ED docs handing me some films and giving a variety of one sentence histories:

ED doc:  "Patient fell while playing video games."
TR: saying nothing, but perplexed look on face as this pre-dated the invention of Wii
ED doc:  "Oh, he was drunk."

ED doc: "Fell off balcony."
TR: "Alcohol?"
ED doc:  "Yes."

ED doc:  "Fell off chair."
TR: "Elderly person?"
ED doc:  "Nope, intoxicated."

ED doc:  "Fall from standing."
TR:  "Alcohol?"
ED doc:  "No, elderly patient."

ED doc:  "Fall down 30 stairs."
TR: "Alcohol?"
ED doc:  "No, completely sober.  Young female med student who fell in the lecture hall after a long day of classes."

This last one could have been a true history, my history in fact, if it wasn't for the intervention of a good future friend. 

It was the second week of medical school, a very exciting time, and the end of the day after several hours of lectures.  The lecture hall had a long series of tiled steps probably about 60-70 in total.  I had sat a little more than half-way up, packed up my heavy book bag and notes, and started the way down.  It was thrilling to be in school, but good to know that the long day was over.  After travelling down three stairs, there were two classmates on my right, male and female, chatting alongside the steps.  But as I continued descending, suddenly I realized that my foot was somehow misplaced and had missed the stair. "I'm falling!!" I thought in horror!  My thoughts raced as I teetered on the other step and braced myself for the ugly horrible fall.  Not only would it be very embarrassing but it would also be very painful as well.  It was a long way down, and the steps were hard.  Time stood still.  I heard the female student gasp as she realized what was happening.  But there was nothing I could do, no railing to grab, no way to shield against the fall except with my arms, and not only that but the huge bookbag at my side was a strong weight throwing me forward.

Suddenly, a hand grabbed my arm and pulled me back from the brink.  It was a miracle.  It was the male classmate.  How he was able to be in the midst of a conversation, hear his friend's gasp and then turn and catch me in less than half a second, is still a mystery.  I turned and thanked him profusely, still in shock at being saved from a terrible fall.  His female friend was in shock also, and the two of us looked at each other laughing nervously while acknowledging that significant injury had been averted.  The guy however, was humble and kind, but unaffected. No big deal. Just another day in his life of saving people I supposed.  I walked away from the lecture hall feeling very grateful, but still numb and in shock.

Fast forward to third year, and he and I were on the same rotation together and became friends.  He's a very likable guy, always ready with a joke and making people laugh and feel at ease.  One day we were talking, and the incident with the stairs came to mind.  "You know, you saved my life," I told him, "It was a miracle!" And then related the details.  "Really?!" he said, surprised.  And then in his usual lighthearted candid tone added, "Then it really was a miracle, because I never came to class!"  And we laughed.  He said it so humbly and kindly.  No big deal.  Just another day in his life of saving people.  He became an ED doc, by the way.  How appropriate.  Thanks again Dr. K... 

Please feel free to share if someone has ever saved you from danger or done something positive to better your life.


© 2010 amara/aag musings of a trauma rad