Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just another day in the ER...

“It was the wildest thing, ever,” Sam said. ‘It was so scary, but everyone just snapped to action. They just did their jobs, moving on auto. ”

My co-worker, Sam’s mother works in the ER of our local hospital. Sam told me of a day she had been visiting her mother at work. Everything was running normal, they were even enjoying muffins someone had brought in. The EMTs had a free moment to chat leaning against the ambulances, when a “gang drop” occurred, which is when a gang will drop off a member who has been shot, cut, or otherwise injured, to the ER. The hospital is required by law to treat them.

They rolled the guy in. No one was shouting like they do on ER, or even talking, except the nurse who was quietly relating the specifics to the doctor. They asked the usual questions to the patient, like “Do you know your name, and do you know what day it is?”

“It was almost like watching bees. Everyone was moving. They all knew what they were doing. It was very fluid, very precise. It seemed very natural. He was in and out in a matter of 60 seconds. They knew what to do quickly and how to do it.”

This is a prime example of one of the benefits of the brain stem. The adrenaline produced will spur you to action, and it is your reptilian brain which will cause you to perform your duties unfettered by nagging thoughts and second guesses. Which ordinarily might be good, but not when time is of the essence.

Let me make a disclaimer, these are trained professionals. This stuff is second nature to them. They KNOW what they are doing, they save lives many times a day. You wouldn’t want me, in my untrained, very stressed out, reptilian mode, anywhere near you with a surgical knife.

I asked her if she was scared [I know I would be]. She implied that the calm manner of everyone else eased her fears. “I wasn’t scared, but worried about my mom. They knew exactly what they were doing”

She said Everything went back to normal when he left. I hate to leave you hanging. I wish I had a more conclusive ending, but no one knows what happened to him afterward. Did the gang pick him up? Did anyone follow up, make sure he was safe? Did he remember anything? Did it change his life for the better. I wish I knew….

Thank goodness the people in the ER are used to this, and know how to react to a literal life or death situation. Not only does it save lives, but it gives us laypeople a practical, up-close look at the stress response in action.

c. 2011
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