Good evening everyone, and welcome. These Life in the ER posts are a new project of mine-for the purpose, perhaps, of catharsis. Or you may just get a good laugh out of it. I will be chronicling on a semi-regular basis (because s**t, I can't stick to a schedule) the life of a lowly pre-med student working in the ER.
An intro: I'm an overworked, overtired, energy-drink-and-cigarette-fueled pre-med student attending classes and working full time in an ER in New Mexico. Among the colds and sore throats and heroin addicts (endless...endless heroin addicts) the occasional relevant and (god willing) interesting narrative pops into my head. I've looked for a place to dump these onto the unsuspecting public for ages, and I've chosen your pants. You're welcome.
Today's topic: Oh my god we're drowning in the Flu
There comes a time when working your third 12 hour shift in a row that you cease to feel tired anymore. At exactly that point in time, an ambulance will come screaming into the bay with a patient that you need to attend to right. now. A man in his 40s, looking like the worst kind of sick, is brought into the room with a chief complaint of "altered mental status". To be honest, I'm not sure if mumbling incoherently before passing out is considered a mental status at all, but we'll go with it. His family is very quick to mention that he has liver problems, because he has spent the majority of his 40 odd years of life drinking like a fish. Therefore they assume that his collapse in the shower and subsequent unresponsiveness are the result of said liver issues. We triage, we take his temperature. 105.3 Fahrenheit. That's a bit of a problem. The questioning ensues: Has he been ill with a cough/runny nose/body aches/fatigue and on and on. Family state yes, he has had a cough. He hasn't felt well for several days (well, less well than usual for a person with liver failure, anyway), lays in bed most of the day, seems weak. Next question: has the family had flu vaccinations? No. They have not.
Let me explain, in brief, why this is a gigantonormous issue here. This patient cannot get a flu vaccine himself, because he is a sick, sick man at baseline. He relies on people around him to vaccinate themselves so he doesn't catch the flu from, say, his immuno-competent wife/son/neighbor who "really doesn't feel that ill so we'll go to work anyway". When you invite a gap into that net of protected people, we get a guy with a 105.3 F brain-cooking fever wheeling into the ER. We intubate, resuscitate, and apply generous amounts of tylenol suppositories (y'know, because he wasn't doing much of the swallowing pills voluntarily thing). After this particular case the flu floodgates opened, and we've been seeing nonstop cases since. Let me assure you, the strain coming down from Oklahoma into Texas and New Mexico is straight vicious. There is a plus side here, every single ill person I see has not received their flu vaccine. Which means if you got your vaccine you're golden.
No moral to the story, I'm not the type of person to shove that s**t in your face. Stay safe! -Caustic