Wednesday, July 04, 2007

This is Not a Patriotic Essay*

I've never before been with someone when they coded.

My sister had surgery on Monday the 2nd of July. The surgeon removed 2 1/2 organs and did a repair.

Yesterday was walking day--the first day post-op, when it's good for the patient to get out of bed, briefly, to keep the lungs clear and prevent blood clots from forming.

F, the handsome, shaved-headed Latino nurse, successfully got her onto her feet even though she said she couldn't do it, that she felt faint. She sat back down. He persisted, and she finally stabilized herself enough to get up, take a few steps to the window, then back again. She seemed to have her eyes shut a lot of the time.

When she got back to the bed, she sat, then her eyes rolled and she went limp.

F caught her and yelled out for the other nearby nurse. They called a code.

The rest is somewhat of a blur. I got myself and my stuff out of the room as fast as I could, knowing that a crash cart was coming. The room wasn't big enough for me, my computer roller, the bedside chair, and the 10 or 15 people who came to answer the alarms and quiet "Code Blue in ICU." Knowing the code is for your loved one is weird!

I had the most surreal feeling watching from the hall. I wasn't frightened--she'd been assured in a priesthood blessing that her trials would be as a small moment. That, of course, could go either way, but God is in the details.

I did pray. I reminded God of the blessings she had had. I told Him how much her disabled husband needed her, as well as her children and grandchildren. I reminded Him that her grandson was absolutely positive that she would be all right, since he had fasted and prayed for her. His young faith didn't need to be shaken, I told God, particularly since he's in a less-than-ideal home environment.

Someone asked me if I wanted to go sit in a waiting room instead of standing in the hall. I chose to do that, and she led me to the Consultation Room. I suppose that's where people sign consent forms for donating their loved ones' organs, but that's another story.

The kindness of the personnel brought me to tears, but I was remarkably calm throughout.

When order was restored, my sister was sent for a CT scan of her chest to check if she had "thrown" any pulmonary embolisms, that is, if any clots had moved into the blood vessels of her lungs.

F mentioned a possible cause of Sis passing out as something that on the fly sounded like "basil bagel." I think that's "basal," and there might be a "v" in there as well. I'll ask someone about the term later. I believe it has something to do with blood pressure.

I was asked to sign the consent to put dye into her blood system for good contrast on the CT scan. It might make her feel warm afterward.

F told me later that it was a questionable code but they had to call it--I suppose because that gets the personnel the patient needs together really really quickly, and that's good. He said she had a pulse throughout, but the problems were her not breathing, some tachycardia, and general lack of responsiveness.

My sister doesn't know why she got a code called on her. She wonders why all the excitement over a fainting episode. Because of her pre-op anxiety, I've downplayed the event to her. I won't be the one to tell her she was in the vicinity of passing over.

Sister's husband called me a guardian angel. I'm just glad I was there to keep her calm.

* Here's an excellent one.


  1. Marsha!
    I believe the nurse referred to a basal vagal(sp?) response. The vagas nerve is the one that stimulates and regulates the heart beat. I witnessed my sister-in-law experience a vagal response during the birth of her 5th child. It is very disconcerting to see someone you love lose conciousness. I was startled to watch her blood pressure drop to 58/25. Sometimes, traumatic events (such as surgery, pain, excessive stress)trigger that nerve to do strange things. But the staff acted quickly and within minutes, Janelle was doing fine. Your siser is in my prayers...along with you and the rest of her you!

  2. Thanks, Kari. I believe that's what the nurse said. I appreciate your prayers.


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