Friday, December 20, 2013

The Christmas Card

I wait patiently this time of year for a certain person to send me a Christmas card.

Over ten years ago, when I was working as a firefighter/paramedic, I went on a CPR call. This was the most unusual CPR I've ever worked. The patient was found awake with defibrillator pads on his chest that were placed by a bystander who was a nurse. She saw my confusion and said that she had shocked him several times and performed CPR - he would "wake up" after each shock.
My partner and I quickly did a 12 lead ECG. It wasn't pretty.

We rushed him into the back of the ambulance while the patient told me what happened. He said he knew  when "it" was coming and then wouldn't remember anything, feel extreme pain and then wake up.
As we were throwing a quick IV into him, the patient quietly said, "Uh oh, here it goes again."
His face turned bright red and he coded. We shocked him and immediately afterwards he yelled, "AAAAAARGHH - don't DO THAT AGAIN!!!"

Our eyes were as big as saucers - I've never experienced that before. During the ambulance ride, he coded a few times more and each time, waking up yelling and then apologizing to me for being rude.

"AAARRGH, you did it again."
"Well, you did it again. Stop doing that!"
He laughed, but I could see the fear in his eyes.
"We're going to get through this. We're almost at the hospital. Just stay with me, okay?"
"Okay." And he held my hand.

Later, we were told by the cardiologist that he had what's called "the widowmaker", a 99% occlusion of the left anterior descending coronary artery, more than 90% of people with this type of occlusion die.
The patient and his family visited our fire station about 2 months later and thanked my partner and me for saving his life. It was a very nice gesture since most of the time, we never get to find out what happens to the patient after they leave our care in EMS.

Since that year, every Christmas, my patient and I exchange Christmas cards. I look forward to hear from him every year. I have never done this with a patient before our meeting or since. There was something special about this patient and we bonded during that unfortunate call.
I received my card the other day and my special patient is enjoying another year with his family and grandchildren. His card reminds me that what I do matters to people and sometimes I need that to recenter myself.
I needed that reminder this year and I thank God for him still being in my life.


  1. Thank you for sharing. What you do and the way you do it does matter. You have the unique gift and privilege of touching people's lives at very critical moments. They are so very blessed to receive your care. Please keep your chin up and know that you are making a difference. I can only imagine the number of Christmas cards you would receive if every person you have helped through the years knew how to contact you!!! ;) Merry Christmas Medic2RN!

  2. Thanks Kelly, I appreciate your comment.