My first real CPR experience…changed the course of my life.

My first real CPR experience…changed the course of my life
By Simon R. Downes

Every doctor, nurse, and member of the medical care team can recall their first real experiences with a patient. There are many in my memory which stand out, but this one seems to have been a turning point in my career path.

I was working as a PACU nursing assistant in Mission Bay Hospital in San Diego. Most of my duties were limited to restocking the autoclave in the O.R., picking up patients from the waiting room and bringing them to the surgical prep area, and caring for patients after they came out of surgery. This was mostly just putting their pulse oximeter back on when it fell off, helping to change beds, and catching patients’ vomit in tiny blue kidney-shaped bowls (I was really good at this…with precision timing!!).

Anyway, every now and then, we would hear a Code Blue on the PA, and all available staff were called to the room in case there was a need to help with chest compressions. As one of the lowest peons in the hospital, there was little chance I would ever get this type of experience, but I kind of just had it in my head that it was something I wanted to do someday.

(At this time I was enrolled in law school, and I had taken this summer job in order to see if I really wanted to be a lawyer more than anything else. However, I was finding that the more I worked in patient care, the less I wanted to study contracts, torts, civil procedure etc..)

I remember the day well when I heard the Code Blue on the 3rd floor. I am sure I wasn’t supposed to go there, but it was a slow day, and so I boldly took a chance.

When I walked into the back of the room, there was a small huddle of doctors and nurses around a very large gentleman, whose heart had stopped. I creeped closer and saw that everyone was taking turns performing chest compressions on him. I was surprised to see how exhausted everyone had become…it was certainly not like what I had seen in the movies!

At the time, I was lifting weights four times a week, and I guess I must have seemed like the obvious choice to take over. “Hey you!..Do you wanna help us out?” “Who me?”..(I thought, oh no, now you are really in it, Simon!!..Should I tell them that I have never worked on a real person..just dummies for my CPR card??)
 I assumed the position, right over him, and his eyes were grey, looking backwards, I felt scared, but started my 1-2, 1-2…like a robot acting in slow motion, trying to remember scenes from Marcus Welby, M.D., or Emergency!…or something, and then I remember it, just like it happened a moment ago, the attending doctor shouting in my ear “No!! Do it like this!!…(he slaps his hand on the bed hard) 1!! and 2!! and 1!! and 2!! and 1!! and 2!!…I became that rhythm immediately, and must have went for about 7 minutes before being relieved…I had sweat rolling down my face…”Man, that was so tough!”, I thought….and then I heard the announcement on the PA.

…”Paging Dr. Simon Downes to the recovery room STAT!” The recovery room nurses had figured out where I was, and decided to play a prank on me. I backed away from the huddle slowly, and faded away. The man died shortly afterwards, and I could not forget his face for months, even now, I see it clearly.

I just want to say to him “I am sorry that you died”, but thank you for allowing me to try to save you”.

Two months later, I quit law school, moved to San Francisco to be an ER Tech. at Kaiser Permanente, and enrolled as a graduate student in SFSU for chemistry and biology…Wow, life really does turn on a dime!

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