“This is the one who will keep you busy tonight.”
These were the words of my partner in the ICU, signing out a woman who was suffering from ongoing bleeding from her gastrointestinal tract. She came into the hospital for a routine endoscopy. Suddenly, she started bleeding. She not only “kept me busy,” but I did not leave her bedside for my entire shift – more than 7 hours.
Her bleeding was relentless. Despite everything I was doing for her, she kept bleeding. We gave blood transfusion after blood transfusion. She kept bleeding. I sent her to the Radiology suite to get an angiogram and have metal coils placed inside the blood vessels. I was there in the suite, and I watched the blood vessels get blocked. She kept bleeding.
I had the Gastroenterology specialist come back and look into her stomach again with a camera, to see if he can do anything to stop it. She kept bleeding. Finally, after virtually emptying the blood bank and trying everything else, I called the General Surgeon to come and take her to the operating room.
The only way he could stop the bleeding was to take out her entire stomach.
She was in terrible shock, and she required multiple medications to support her blood pressure. I had to keep her deeply sedated on a breathing machine. And yet, she survived. She was then transferred to the University for more advanced surgery to connect her intestines to her esophagus.
She survived, and I pray she will have a full recovery from this horrific illness.
With the relentless waves of COVID-19, it is so very easy to give up hope and say, “Why even bother?” It is so very easy to “just swim down” and succumb to hopelessness and despair. And yet, cases such as these remind me that, there is still joy in the ICU. It is not all death and despair. By the grace of God, I am still able to help someone survive critical illness and live another day to be with family and others whom they love.
With COVID clouding over all that we do in the ICU, I have to remind myself that I can still do good and help people. It is not all doom and gloom. Yes, I had a long shift taking care of this patient, and it was exhausting – both physically and mentally. At the same time, it is so thrilling to know that my patient – who I thought was going to bleed to death – survived and will hopefully do well after this terrible affliction. This case has helped me combat and resist the hopelessness that COVID can easily instill.
Even in the midst of another COVID winter, there is still joy in the ICU. I can still help people heal and not helplessly watch them die. I will always try to remember this case and not despair. There is still joy in the ICU.