Richard Mabry: Medical Error

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Richard Mabry Medical Error
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    Medical Error
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    Английский
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Medical Error

Richard L. Mabry


1

Eric Hatley's last day alive began routinely enough.

He paused beside his brown delivery truck, shifted the bulky package, and turned in a tight circle to search for the right apartment.

Shouts filled the air. Firecrackers exploded all around him. A dozen red-hot pokers bored holes through his gut.

The package flew from his arms. He crumpled into a privet hedge at the edge of the sidewalk, clutching his midsection and recoiling when his fingers encountered something wet and slimy.

A wave of nausea swept over him. Cold sweat engulfed him.

Eric managed one strangled cry before everything faded to black.

Dr. Anna McIntyre bumped the swinging door with her hip and backed into Parkland Hospital's Operating Room Six, her dripping hands held in front of her, palms inward. "Luc, tell me what you've got."

Chief surgical resident, Dr. Luc Nguyn, didn't look up from the rectangle of abdomen outlined by green draping sheets and illuminated by strong surgical lights. "UPS driver, making a delivery in the Projects. Got caught in the crossfire of a gang rumble. Took four bullets in the belly. Pretty shocky by the time he got here."

"Find the bleeding source?"

"Most of it was from the gastric artery. Just finished tying it off."

Anna took a sterile towel from the scrub nurse and began the ritual of gowning and gloving made automatic by countless repetitions. "How about fluids and blood replacement?"

Luc held out his hand, and the nurse slapped a clamp into it. "Lactated Ringer's still running wide open. We've already pushed one unit of unmatched O negative. He's finishing his first unit of cross-matched blood. We've got another one ready and four more holding in the blood bank."

"How's he responding?"

"BP is still low but stable, pulse is slower. I think we're catching up with the blood loss."

Anna plunged her hands into thin surgical gloves. "Lab work?"

"Hematocrit was a little over ten on admission, but I don't think he'd had time to fully hemodilute. My guess is he was nine or less."

Anna turned slightly to allow the circulating nurse to tie her surgical gown. "Bowel perforations?"

"So far I see four holes in the small intestine, two in the colon."

"Okay, he'll need antibiotic coverage. Got that started?"

Luc shrugged. "Not yet. We don't know about drug allergies. His wallet had ID, but we're still working on contacting next of kin. Meanwhile, I have Medical Records checking his name in the hospital computer for previous visits."

"And if he's allergic-"

The nursing supervisor pushed through the swinging doors, already reading from the slip of paper in her hand. "They found one prior visit for an Eric Hatley, same address and date of birth as on this man's driver's license. Seen in the ER two weeks ago for a venereal disease. No history of drug allergy. They gave him IM Omnilex. No problems."

The medical student who'd been assisting moved two steps to his left. Anna took his place across the operating table from Luc.

Luc glanced toward the anesthesiologist. "Two grams of Omnilex IV please."

Anna followed Luc's gaze to the head of the operating table."I don't believe I know you. I'm Dr. McIntyre."

The doctor kept his eyes on the syringe he was filling. "Yes, ma'am. I'm JeffMurray, first- year anesthesia resident."

A first-year resident on his own? Where was the staffman? "Keep a close eye on the blood and fluids. Let us know if there's a problem." Anna picked up a surgical sponge and blotted a bit of blood from the edge of the operative area. "Okay, Luc. Let's see what you've got."

In the operating room, Anna was in her element. The green tile walls, the bright lights, the soft beep of the monitors and whoosh of the respirator, the squeak of rubber soles as the circulating nurse moved about the room-all these were as natural to her as water to a fish or air to a bird. Under Anna's direction, the team worked together smoothly. Conversation was at a minimum, something she appreciated. Do the job in the OR, talk in the surgeons' lounge.

"I think that's got it," Luc said.

"Let's check." Anna's fingertips explored the depths of the patient's belly with the delicate touch of a concert violinist. Her eyes roamed the operative field, missing nothing. Luc had done an excellent job. He'd do well in practice when he finished his training in three months.

Anna stepped away from the table. "I think you're through. Routine closure, leave a couple of drains in. Keep him on antibiotic coverage for the next few days."

Luc didn't need to hear that, but she figured the medical student did. She might as well earn her assistant professor's salary with a little low-key teaching.

She stripped off her gloves and tossed them in the waste bucket at the end of the operating table. "If you need me-"

"Luc, we've got a problem. Blood pressure's dropping, pulse is rapid." A hint of panic rose in the anesthesiologist's voice.

The scrub nurse held out fresh gloves, and Anna plunged her hands into them. "He must be bleeding again. Maybe one of the ligatures slipped off."

"No way," Luc said. "Everything was double-tied, with a stick-tie on the major vessels. You saw yourself; the wound was dry when we finished."

"Well, we've got to go back in and look." Anna turned to the anesthesiologist. "Run the IV wide open. Hang another unit of blood and send for at least two more. Keep him oxygenated. And get your staffman in here. Now!"

Jeffsnapped out a couple of requests to the circulating nurse before turning back to Anna. "He's getting hard to ventilate. Do you think we might have overloaded him with fluid and blood? Could he be in pulmonary edema?"

"I want your staffdoctor in here now! Let him evaluate all that. We've got our hands full." Anna snatched a scalpel from the instrument tray and sliced through the half-dozen sutures Luc had just placed. "Deavor retractor." She shoved the curved arm of the instrument into the edge of the open wound and tapped the medical student's hand. "Hold this."

Anna grabbed a handful of gauze sponges, expecting a gusher of blood from the abdomen. There was none. No bleeding at all within the wound. So why was the blood pressure dropping?

"Pressure's down to almost nothing." The anesthesia resident's voice was strained. "And I'm really having trouble ventilating him."

Dr. Buddy Jenkins, one of the senior anesthesiologists, pushed through the swinging doors. "What's going on?"

Anna gave him the short version. "Blood pressure's dropping, pulse is climbing. We've gone back into the belly, but there's no bleeding. And there's a problem ventilating him."

Jenkins moved his resident aside, then slipped a stethoscope under the drapes and listened for a moment. "Wheezes. And no wonder. Look at his face."

Anna peeked over the screen that separated the patient's head and upper body from the operative field. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw the swelling of the lips and the red blotches on the man's face.

"It's not blood loss," Jenkins said. "He's having an anaphylactic reaction. Most likely the blood. Did you give him an antibiotic? Any other meds?"

Anna's mind was already churning, flipping through mental index cards. Anaphylaxis-a massive allergic reaction, when airways closed offand the heart struggled to pump blood. Death could come quickly. Treatment had to be immediate and aggressive.

"He had two grams of Omnilex," Luc said. "But his old chart showed-"

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