"I don't just read Pulse, I adore it." --Donald Berwick MD
I had been in London on business all of seven hours when my son, Tom, called me at two in the morning from our hometown, Sydney, Australia.
"Grandma's had a fall. She's been taken to the hospital, but she's all right."
My mother's having a fall was nothing unusual; she had always been an unpredictable fainter. My husband and children and I called it her party trick, making light of it to soothe her embarrassment.
She had no recollection of these episodes; one minute she'd be seated at the table, and the next, she'd be lying on her back on the floor, her feet propped up on a chair, with the family smiling down at her as if she were Sleeping Beauty awakening from years of slumber.
We are a medical and nursing family--I'm a retired nurse, and my husband, brother and sister-in-law are doctors--and we'd long since had her undergo exhaustive tests to check for serious underlying conditions. The tests had revealed nothing other than a slow heart rate and an occasional drop in blood pressure.
It was my first day at my new job, practicing a new specialty. Having spent fourteen years as an ICU physician--including a four-year pulmonary/critical-care fellowship in this very hospital--I had just completed a palliative-care fellowship. Now I was the hospital's palliative-care consult attending.
When I set eyes on the patient in room 1407, my first thought was: THIS LADY NEEDS TO BE INTUBATED--STAT!
The only trouble was that my job was to ease this patient's passing, not to prolong her life.
The team had told me that Mrs. Zelnick, an eighty-two-year-old widow, was dying from pneumonia and didn’t want to be put on life support.
a treasury of compelling stories and poems.
Includes The Resilient Heart , Babel: The Voices of a Medical Trauma and Confessions of a Seventy-Five-Year-Old Drug Addict. Foreword by Maureen Bisognano, President of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
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