The first day of my ER rotation is one that this doctor will never forget

Text message:

Me: “Mom you alright? I just heard that there was an explosion at the Pepsi Center.”

Mom: “What are you talking about? I am fine, everything is OK over here.”

Earlier that day:

It’s the first day of my first ER rotation as an intern.

I had endured months on medicine, neurosurgery and the medical ICU. I am finally home back in the ER. I am hoping that today will be a somewhat slow one, so I can ease my way back into the swing of things.

As I walk around the department, I begin to notice that everyone is moving around frantically. I find the senior resident. Without saying a word, he hands me a vest that reads: physician. “What’s going on?” I ask him. He looks at me and chuckles. The Pepsi Center blew up.

I turn white, which is pretty hard to do for a brown guy.

Before I can ask him more questions, he confidently heads off to coordinate with the attending running the trauma side. I text my mom quickly as she is visiting, and my apartment is only a couple of blocks away from the Pepsi Center. All of a sudden, the trauma doors fly open, and a line of about twenty gurneys start pouring in. People are covered with blood and are screaming as they get shoveled into the ER. All the beds in the trauma bay fill up. The department is in utter chaos. This is a nightmare.

I follow the sickest looking patient. The lady on the gurney is screaming. I can’t tell what’s going on, but she looks terrible. Her extremities look mangled, and she is a bloody mess. There is a shard of glass sticking out of her eye. I follow her into one of the trauma rooms. I am fired up and ready to spring into action. Inside the room, there is a senior ER resident, a surgery resident, and a nurse. Don’t just stand there; I keep thinking to myself: do something. The senior ER resident makes an assessment and then announces that the patient needs to be intubated. He grabs a laryngoscope and an endotracheal tube. I don’t understand what’s going on. The patient isn’t even connected to the monitor, yet the nurse is reading off vital signs from somewhere. They are not even really bagging the patient.

Don’t they want to adequately preoxygenate prior to intubation? This resident must be a real cowboy. He goes for the intubation but fakes it. Then I look at the patient and realize that she is still awake. The senior resident announces that the patient needs to be rushed to OR 2. The gurney is clicked into drive, and the patient is rushed out of the ER.

I look around the ER. Something weird is going on. There are people with gory makeup shooting the sh*t and laughing. This makes no sense. Is this some kind of prank? This is really messed up. I finally catch my senior resident again. What the hell is going on? He looks at me as if I am totally lost, which I was, “Dude that was a disaster drill.”

OK, so now on to the real work.

Zahir Basrai is an emergency physician who blogs at the Physician Grind.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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