Saturday, April 25, 2009


I just rediscovered "Swervedriver"... and fell in love all over again.

The live version of "Duress" absolutely kicks ass.

That is all.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Notice to all current owners of handguns...

EDIT TO ADD:: All future readers of this post, disregard the "(note: concealed/open carry is not an option in my State)" part of the following post.

In other words - I'm looking towards your opinion regarding your recommended "carry" weapons (be the concealed or open); or otherwise.


In any case, here's the original post ------
... that means YOU AD! And LawDog! and... all others :-)

My permit has finally arrived.

Here's the deal -- I'm having a SUPER hard time picking out what I'd like to own (note: concealed/open carry is not an option in my State).

I'm looking for something self-defense-ish (but not limited to). I've shot/tried the following -

* S&W 14 6" barrel 38 special
* S & W M&P (both the 9mm and 0.45 - I prefer the 9... didn't like 45 wasn't too comfortable)
* Colt M1911
* Springfield XD
* Sig Sauer P220 (have to re-evaluate this one)
* Glock 19

That's about it... I have a 90 day window period.

Please recommend your favorites and why.
Oh and anyone who can recommend a place I can get my hands on a good M1 Garand, please let me know!


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Med Error

My first med error (and as things go in ones career, the one I VIVIDLY recall the most) happened when I was orienting on days, my first job as a brand spanking new RN on an extremely busy ortho-neuro-gyne-med-surg floor (years later, my co-workers and I took to calling our unit 'The Dump'. Anyway...)

I had an absolute KICK-ASS preceptor who'd been working there for decades. She was smart, talented, hard-working, dedicated and blessed with a dry sense of humor She rode my ass mercilessly all shift long, every single day at work. Her simple rationale: "I'm not trying to be a 'nag' but I'm trying to give you an idea of how really hard this job is. Make use of me, my time and expertise the best you can NOW... because in 6 weeks or less; you'll be ON YOUR OWN".

She scared me poop-less.... but she also made me sit up and take notes.

Now, all "background story" aside:
I was on my last shift of week 3 of orientation. I had a 79 year old post-op ORIF of the Left ankle. I'd gotten through the initial 4-hour period window of post-op patients with their constant monitoring... heck, I'd even gotten 70% of my documentation done. I grinned to my cocky self and thought 'this is going good'.

As are many patients who are post surgery, pt. developed nausea and vomiting. There was a standing order for Droperidol (Inapsine). I drew up the right amount, checked it against the MAR, and showed it all to my preceptor before walking into the pts. room to administer it.

I administered the dose with no hassle, flushed the port and after reassuring the family that the medication should help, left the room to chart.

15 minutes later, as I'm walking by the pts. room, I notice that she seemed drowsy. "Maybe pt. is just tired." I told myself; "After all, pt. has had a long day." I congratulated myself on the quick intervention to resolve pts. nausea/vomiting and my head ballooned with grandiose ideas of what a 'kick ass nurse' I was going to be.

Well, as they say - pride commeth before a fall.

Half an hour later, as I was walking by rounding on my patients, I noticed that the pt. I'd administered Droperidol to seemed to be in a REALLY DEEP SLEEP.

My "still-cocky brain" somehow managed to tarry a tad bit longer to ogle its fine work. Ahhh, she's resting so comfortably....
That was when the "other" brain's screams became more audible.... "she's not breathing! She's not breathing! She's not bre...." (and so on)

!! PANIC !!

Klaxons went off in my "cocky brain" and my bladder did it's best to burst past my sphincter and empty itself in a glorious waterfall onto my shiny new white scrub pants...

I somehow managed to "rush into the room" while also not outwardly appearing to "rush into the room". My mind was racing the speed of light and winning, while all my lungs could do was echo the "Oh my god! Oh my God! Oh my God" chorus... as my heart proceeded to jump out of my mouth and take off for parts unknown.

Outwardly, while I did my best to not appear to be the nervous debris that I was, I attempted a feeble smile at the family as I managed to croak "I'm just here to make sure XYZ is all right"... while my stomach was doing somersaults worthy of an Olympic gymnast medal.

The pt. was a 'little hard' to arouse. But to a noobie nurse like me, anything less that "full arousal" was = "comatose". Even though my heart was incognito, I could feel its rate climb into the Ionosphere. A cold, icy ball materialized in what was left of my stomach....

"Cocky-brain" had been replaced by "Panic-brain". "I killed the patient" seemed to be the medley of the moment - interspersed with "you are an idiot" and "how stupid of you" and various other choice epithets [I'm omitting a few phrases (ok, LOTS of phrases)]....

Miraculously, from somewhere in the depths of my foggy (non panic-ky) brain, I latched onto an idea. I walked outside and brought back a portable pulse-ox machine. This way I'd have an idea of the pts. heart rate and oxygenation while I manually counted the respiratory rate and the blood pressure.

My initial readings were fairly "normal" (i.e. not too deviant from pts. known baseline and previous vitals)... save for the respiratory rate. For the rest of the shift, it hovered around the 12-14 mark (while the other signs stayed stable).

For the remainder of my shift (6 hours), I was in that room as often as I could (sometimes as often as every 5-10 minutes).

Throughout all this drama, my preceptor kept mum - except to encourage me to check in on that patient as often as I could while also hounding me about my other patients.

By the end of that shift, I was a wreck. I was convinced I'd nearly killed the patient. I had worse than a "lowlife no good slacker" opinion of myself. My report off to the night shift was very somber and gloomy.

As I plopped my weary butt down to chart after the shift, my preceptor mosied over and nonchalantly said "you want to talk about it?"
Dejected, head downcast, I mumbled "I'm so sorry. I don't know what happened. One minute pt. was fine but the next minute.... well; I don't know what to say!"
She simply asked "Well, what do you think happened? What do you think caused the pt. to become that way?"
"I really don't know", I stammered. "I wish I did!"; I said, somewhat emotionally.

"Walk me through it. Walk me through your interactions with that patient during the shift".
And so I proceeded to describe it all, in painstaking detail.

"Do you think any of the medications you gave the patient over the shift might have caused that?"

*Blink* *Blink* "Why, now that you mention it, the whole damned business started after I medicated the pt. for nausea!"
"Well, what did you give?"
"Inaps.... wait a minute!"
"How fast did you give the Inapsine? Did you give it slowly over a good 1-2 minutes?"

I thought real hard. And then it hit me - in my eagerness to relieve my pt. of nausea/vomiting; I might have slammed the medication in too fast. 0.625 mg didn't seem like "a lot" to my dumb-brain... but I'd forgotten to take other criteria into consideration. Not to mention the cardinal sin of administering a medication I wasn't too familiar with - especially with regards to effects AND side-effects.

My face turned a beet red: "I... uh... might have... ummm ... given it a little too fast".

My preceptor smiled and winked at me and said: "Lesson learned".
I was thunder struck!! "WAIT!", I sputtered; "you KNEW all along??!! WHY didn't you tell me???!!!"

"Because I'm here to teach you and you're here to learn. Knowing you, I'm rather confident that after today - you will never give any medication without knowing what it can and cannot do... and how to give it appropriately. Being a nurse is more than charting meds and giving them as ordered - as you've no doubt learned today."

She then reached over and patted my back and said: "Don't beat yourself too much over it. I was observing the patient all along too. Your subsequent reaction to the patient's status is commendable - if a little inefficient. But, you're learning and you attempted to do the right thing; which is what counts any way. Someday, I'll share my own 'learning lessons' with you. But for now, finish your charting and I'll see you tomorrow".

It has a mark left in the only place that counts. No matter how old or how experienced you get...
You never forget it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"Old Lady With The Low Heart Rate"

I think this one is one for "the books". Y'know? The 'stash' of interesting patients/encounters that you file away some place?

Last week I was assigned to one of our two "Acute side" pods [2 nurses to deal with a theoretical 8 beds.] Naturally, given the state of Emergency Departments these days, those "8 beds" can 'stretch' to 12, 14 or 16 (this is the "acute side", mind you) depending on how many patients you can cram in before you're 'forced' to go on Divert... and of course, you don't get any additional "help" when you're over loaded. Management seems to think that it's ok to staff 2 nurses to 8 beds even when 6 of those patients are on vents...

... but I digress.

Anyway, my partner and I are already dealing with 13 patients (6 in rooms, 7 in hallway stretchers - some "sharing" hallway assignments) when we're curtly informed by the charge nurse that one of our room patients needs to come out because there's a lady out in triage with a "low heart rate and no discernible BP".

My partner and I look at each other and practically play 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' to decide which one of our "critical patients" in our rooms has instantly become 'less critical' so that they can sit out in the hallway while we treat this new patient emergency....

Ok, Ok. Just kidding. We pulled one of our semi-stable chest pain patients (the one we deemed to be at the lowest risk of all our patients) out of his room to open up a spot for our new patient (but we DID play rock-paper-scissors to decide who would pick up the new patient and I DID lose...)

So I walk into the room as the triage nurse and a tech assist the patient to the stretcher. I introduce myself to the patient and her husband (they're both about 90+ years old) and I note that the patient can still walk, albeit with assistance... and that she's still talking.

Triage had told me that the patient's HR was about 30 bpm and she couldn't get a BP.

Not the kind of behavior I'd expect from someone with such a low HR and no BP!, I thought to myself.

As she was settling in, getting undressed and hooked onto the bedside monitor; I asked my questions while surreptitiously assessing the pt. Radial pulse indicated a HR of 28. To confirm, I checked a carotid... also about 28-30 (with super-long pauses between beats). I used my stethoscope to check out her lungs and heart sounds - nothing exceptional other than her irregular bradycardia, with long pauses.

I did a manual BP - she was 55/20!

But she's sitting up and talking to me! Her only complaint is "feeling a little dizzy, like I've been feeling off and on this week except tonight it got worse".

Well, I'll say!

Of course, while this was going on; other things were stepping into high gear. Someone showed up with the EKG machine, someone else started hooking her up to the bedside transcutaneous pacer and a paramedic student started looking for a vein for an IV in her arm. I requested that he get an 18 gauge in her Right A/C and to come grab me if he had any trouble.

The patient shoo'ed all us 'men' outside (especially her husband) as we were trying to get her undressed for the EKG/monitor. She managed a wry smile and said "even after all these years, I'm still modest about myself around him". That elicited a chuckle from the two female techs and a grin from me.

"Well, you got nothing to worry about from us M'am. We'll make sure he doesn't catch a sneak peak", I said with a grin; which elicited a good belly laugh from her.

I figured it was time for me to step outside and talk to the husband.

"Hi Mr. Smith. While we're getting your wife settled in, I'd like to tell you what we're planning to do. First we'll hook her up the the bedside monitor so that I can keep an eye on her heart and other important signs even if I'm not in the room. Some of my colleagues are going to do an EKG, a simple electrical "picture" of her heart to see if there is any abnormality. Other colleagues are going to start an IV on her and draw some blood at the same time to test and see if she is or has suffered heart damage in the near past.

Do you have any questions so far?"

"No, I don't", said Mr. Smith.

"What I'd like to ask you though is your perception on things", I continued; "What made you bring her to the ER tonight. Has anything changed over the past week or was it something that happened tonight? Were you engaged in any activity which is not the norm for the two of you? Any strange/different food or drink? Medications?"

When I mentioned medications, Mr. Smith calmly tells me, "I think she took one too many of her BP meds. That explains her symptoms and her bradycardia. I don't think it's anything serious but given her bradycardia, I thought it best to get it checked out".

Now, normally, I don't have 90+ year old gentlemen use the words "symptoms, bradycardia and BP meds" in the same sentence... much less articulate them in a manner as to suggest a medical diagnosis!

Before I could ask the husband where he learned them neat words, out comes the paramedic student with a grin on his face as he hands me a bunch of vaccutainers containing blood samples. "Here you go Spook! 18G in the Right A/C, just like you requested".

As I was thanking him, the student turned around to face the husband and exclaimed, "Mr. Smith! Say, you wouldn't be the same Mr. Smith who was head of cardio-thoracic surgery at Sprawling Metropolis Trauma Center, would you?! I've heard so much about you! My Dad was a paramedic and he used to talk about you all the time!"

I swear I saw the old gentleman in front of me *blush* and mumble, "Yes. I was. But that was a long time ago".

Well, that probably explains him knowing all them words, eh?

Right when I was about to say something, the tech walked out with the 12-lead EKG report. I quietly stopped her and took the paper copy of the EKG to show it to Mr. Smith. I let him take a quick look at it, before I hurried over to the ER doc to show it to him.

Both the ER doc and I now approached the patient and her husband, to explain things as to where we stood. The ER doc was convinced that while her condition was serious, it didn't warrant an immediate pacemaker implant or surgery. Her lab work seemed to indicate no emergent abnormalities and he was inclined to agree with the husband that the pt. had probably taken one too many pills by accident.

The plan was to admit her to remote telemetry overnight - just in case.
While the ER doc was talking with the admitting consultant over the phone, I saw Mr. Smith quietly sneak into his wife's room.

They held hands for a while. Looking into each others eyes. Saying nothing... and yet 'speaking' all that need to be 'said'.

A little while later, I saw him get up, gently lean over and give his wife a heartfelt kiss. He brushed her hair off her face, while they were still holding hands. Then they said something that I couldn't hear and her bent over to kiss her again.

The look they had on their faces was just... well, indescribable.

[I did feel guilty that I witnessed what was obviously meant to be a tender, intimate, private moment between the two of 'em].

Mr. Smith slowly shuffled out of the room, taking care to close the curtains and shut the sliding door. He ambled over to me and said "Thank you for all your help today son. I'm loathe to leave but she insists I do. She says that I need my rest and that the dogs would get antsy without us."

He paused.... and looked down...

"Trust her to be more worried about me and the dogs even as she's lined up in a hospital!"

I walked over to Mr. Smith and bent down on my knees so that his eyes could see mine. I took his hands in mine.

"Mr. Smith, you're wife is as concerned about you as you are about her. But at this point in time, there's not a whole lot else you can do for her. I won't dare to presume to tell you how how things ought to be, but Sir; this hospital has strict visiting hours. As much as I'd love to bend the rules, you and I both know I can't."

He looked up slightly. A striking face; worn by the ravages of time, worry and care. A mist occluded his bright grey eyes.

"I've never been away from her. Ever. She'll be terrified. I know she will!"
That last response sounded less like a statement and more like a plea...

It nearly broke my heart.
"Hold on Mr. Smith. Let me see what I can do to..."

Just like that, I saw him shake his head. Take a few deep breaths in. Then he looked down to meet my eyes - his steel grey fiercely boring into my liquid brown.

"You take good care of her. She's all I have left!" I felt his hands clench mine, as if reinforcing his desperate plea.

"We will, Mr. Smith", I mumbled; "I promise".

He nodded assent, and then slowly shuffled off.

Leaving me all alone, to contemplate the loving bond that is shared between a man and his beloved wife....