Just Some Broken Ribs

Just Some Broken Ribs

The phone was ringing incessantly. I barely woke up. In my pitch dark bedroom, the ringing phone was the only light source. I slowly grabbed my phone while involuntarily rubbing my eyes. I looked at the caller I.D. It was my father. And what time was it? 1:30 am! In a typical day, this might be an early hour for me, but I was attending a local Emergency Medicine conference that day; so I went to bed early.

I cradled the phone between my ear and shoulder. My father’s voice was fussy. “Someone lies unconscious on the street,” he said hastily. “Can you come and help us?” I asked him to call for an ambulance by that time. He said that he already called. 

While I was preparing in a hurry, my heart started to beat faster and my mind swelled with CPR guidelines, syncope algorithms and my past experiences.

My home is down the block from my parents. I ran there and saw a crowd gathered around a man who was lying on the street. When I passed through I realized someone was doing CPR. I have spotted my parents standing in the crowd and my eyes met with my father. He pointed my younger brother, a trainee surgeon also lives in the same area and was taking his turn on the CPR and checking his pulse. I rushed near them and he filled me in with all they know about the citizen at that point.

The first responder to the cries of the patient’s wife was an ambulance driver with ten years of experience. He said he pulled the patient out of his vehicle. He laid down the man in his 50s suffered from heartburn for the last couple of hours and was about to go to the hospital but lost his consciousness as soon as he started the engine. Since the man wasn’t responding, the former driver started the CPR. About 3 minutes later, my brother showed up along with my father and he took the turn while they kept checking for any response. He said that the rhythm never lasted longer than 10 seconds. So I asked them to keep it up and I took my turn till the ambulance shows up.

It was clear that the patient endured a heart-related condition, probably a myocardial infarction. And I knew by experience that with a proper CPR and early defibrillation, these patients have a high chance of returning of spontaneous circulation, and survival.

The ambulance arrived in a couple of minutes. Paramedics jumped out of the vehicle and rushed to the scene and recognized that I am an Emergency Medicine resident at the State Research and Education Hospital. They let me control the situation. The first rhythm was read on the screen as ventricular fibrillation (VF) and we delivered a shock and started chest compressions again. With the equipment they’ve brought, I intubated the patient while they monitored him with the defibrillator from the ambulance. The nearest hospital was 10 minutes away, and we have shocked-compressed for at least 4 or 5 times in an ambulance moving fast. IT-WAS-HARD!

We have arrived at the hospital. After 10 minutes of additional CPR and proper mediations, spontaneous circulation of the patient returned spontaneous circulation. And a control ECG was consistent with Inferior MI. In a couple of minutes, we were in a different ambulance, headed to the nearest hospital with a coronary angiography unit and ICU.

I took a deep breath after we have delivered the patient to the ICU safe and sound. It was over, for now. One week later, he returned to his home with full recovery, without any neurological sequelae. They were very thankful.

Later on, I’ve heard many funny words people were chattering about this incident. One has particularly given me the giggle. It was coming from an ENT specialist. He said, “So that was no big deal, they probably overreacted and caused him a couple of broken ribs.”

Yeah, there were just some broken ribs… and a life saved.

Further Reading

Cite this article as: Ibrahim Sarbay, "Just Some Broken Ribs," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, August 16, 2019, https://iem-student.org/2019/08/16/just-some-broken-ribs/, date accessed: November 17, 2019

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