SUFA – SUCCESS vs. FAILURE
There were new indications that the patient was improving. Then, an hour after my morning exam, his blood pressure dropped and his heart abruptly stopped.
For an hour, we performed CPR and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) — we ran the code – but his pulse and blood pressure never returned.
We initially could not contact his family, as it was the first time they’d left his room since he was admitted. When they returned, I told them that the patient had died.
His sister then looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “What did you do? Why didn’t you save him like before? Why did you let my baby brother die?”
I explained that we tried everything possible to save his life, but that his body was not able to fight anymore.
Despite my words to his family, I personally felt like a big failure because I was not able to save this patient.
I was the same age as patient’s sister and I imagined how I’d feel if this was my brother.
Later, the autopsy revealed that the patient’s brain had herniated. In other words, his brain had so much swelling, it would not fit in his skull anymore.
The brain herniation was a complication of the high body temperature caused by the cocaine the he snorted over two weeks earlier. Unfortunately, brain herniation is not preventable or treatable.
Though this young man was not my first patient to die, his death was definitely the most traumatic for me to handle emotionally.
After struggling with this patient’s death and managing many other critically ill patients since then, I finally realized that patients with exactly the same conditions might live or die — regardless of what I do as a healthcare professional.
I believe that we, as healthcare professionals cannot take all of the credit for those who survive. And I also believe that we should not take the blame when patients die.
I believe that we should look at each patient — regardless of the outcome — to find ways that we may be able to improve our care for the next patient.
SUFA – SUCCESS vs. FAILURE is both a challenging lesson and an important one. Please join us next week to discover what MABA – MAINTAIN BALANCE means…