Success Being Relative

By Marcy Phipps, RN, a regular contributor to this blog. Her essay, “The Love Song of Frank,” was published in the May issue of AJN.

blood bags/ by montuno, via flickr

We trouped in from the parking garage through the fading starlight of early dawn to find most of night shift gathered in one room. Portable surgical lights added to the overhead fluorescence, casting a striking glare on the scene. The patient was ominously flat: his positioning and pallor an instant indicator of his perfusion status, which was confirmed by a quick glance at the monitor. His blood pressure, we said among ourselves, was “in the toilet.”

He’d been in a motor vehicle accident and had suffered a prolonged extrication. There’d been a fatality at the scene. He wasn’t my patient (although he was everyone’s patient, really), so I’m not the one who got the long report. I didn’t know each and every one of his injuries, but I knew the only one that was relevant at the time—his liver was badly fractured and he was bleeding out. His abdomen was hugely distended and firm. He was cold to the touch, and his skin bore the expected pallor of a man in shock.

We worked the way we always work in such situations. […]