It was 7 pm. I’d already had a big day at the hospital with surgical rounds in the morning and a busy clinic in the afternoon.
But my on-call night of surgery was just beginning. As I sat in the hospital cafeteria, in front of a plate of rice, broccoli and chicken, enjoying my first forkful of rice, sighing with relief at a welcome rest, my pager went off. It was the emergency room calling me for a 61year old patient short of breath. I had to come immediately. I grabbed my dinner plate, stashed it in the on-call room where I had a bed, then rushed to the ER. The technician had already done an X-ray which showed fluid in the pleural cavity. The patient needed a chest tube to drain the excess fluid out of his lungs.
As I got ready for the procedure, my pager went off again. Surgical ICU messaged that a patient who’d been operated on earlier for gunshot wounds to the abdomen had a sudden drop of blood pressure.
I told the nurse to page my attending physician to decide whether the patient was bleeding internally and would need more surgery. After placing the chest tube, I run to the ICU, only to learn I needed to scrub in to re-operate on the gunshot wound patient.