Friday, March 18, 2005


I walked in to Patient K's room today to find him extubated, alert, responsive, and comfortable. He still needs the support of the ICU, but he was no longer in critical condition. In fact, I downgraded him to stable.

Three days ago, I received a 911 page at about midnight from a nurse on the surgical floor. I rushed to the bedside to find Patient K, gasping for breath, hypotensive, tachypnic, tachycardic, diaphoretic, and pale as a sheet. There were three nurses standing around, doing nothing but wringing their hands in panic. Patient K was in profound septic shock and knocking at death's door. I felt that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that often accompanies sheer terror, but did my best to appear calm in front of the nurses and the patient.

He needed significant support, and he needed it fast. I immediately brought him down to the ICU, intubated him and resuscitated him. I spent the remainder of my call night at his bedside, doing everything I could to bring him back. To stabilize him enough to take to the operating room.

While riding down to the ICU in the elevator, I looked at Patient K in the eyes and told him with all honesty that he was in trouble. His eyes remained locked onto mine. This was nothing that Patient K couldn't figure out on his own. I'm sure he knew it as well. Between gasps of breath, he begged me to save him.

He underwent an emergent operation later that morning.

Well, fast forward three days in the ICU, and I've just downgraded him from critical condition to stable. I walked in to his room, told him that he was doing great, and that if he continues to improve, he'll most likely leave the ICU in the next few days and go back to the surgical ward.

"Thank you, Doctor." He held out his hand, "Thank you for saving my life."

I looked at Patient K, took his hand and dropped my eyes, "No Mr. K, I didn't do anything. All I did was provide you with what I thought you needed. You getting better was between you and God."

Mr. K held my hand tightly, "Well, then God was working through your hands." He started to cry quietly, hiding his tears from his daughter sitting nearby, "Doctor, you saved my life. I owe you my life."

I squeezed his hand back, thankful for his gratitude, and humble in his praise. Mr. K will never understand that watching him recover and walk out of the hospital will be the greatest gift he can ever give me.