In a previous post, I alluded to the idea of eliciting fear in our patients who get radiographed. Sometimes that fear can be transferred to us… Recently, my friend Calvin and I were restraining a 17-year-old spayed female hound mix on the x-ray table. We took a right lateral chest film to confirm that her previously placed nasogastric tube was in place. After taking a glance at the image, we could tell that it was in the trachea and needed to be re-guided through the appropriate tube, namely, the esophagus. The emergency and critical care specialist who was in charge of her case came into the room and attempted to readjust the tube before leaving the room to attend to another matter for a minute. Calvin and I waited in the room with the dog, but we noticed that she was no longer breathing and her body shifted to one side and stiffened.
Concerned that she was “coding” (undergoing a life-threatening emergency), I froze for literally two seconds in absolute fear that this dog was going to die right in front of our eyes. Then I had Calvin remain with her as I ran to get the doctor. Soon, all three of us were her running her over to the ICU on a gurney. Her doctor pushed the red emergency button in the ICU, which sounded an alarm in the whole hospital. Within seconds, interns, residents, technicians, and students descended onto the scene and played an active role in doing what they could to stabilize her. Our canine friend did not survive the episode. I witnessed the doctors do all they could, short of opening up her chest. Fifteen minutes of CPR came and went, and the electrocardiogram showed no electrical activity. I think back on this experience with sadness but also leave it with a takeaway that I should resolve to not blink an eye the next time I see a patient in clear distress and run for help.