One of the responsibilities of the Emergency Department where I used to work was to attend medical emergencies (or ‘codes’) elsewhere in the hospital. We would dispatch a medical emergency team (known as a MET team), comprising a senior doctor and nurse.

When their pager goes off they respond by pushing this rather big trolley known as a crash-cart (for reasons that will soon become obvious) bristling with advance life support equipment and drugs to the scene of the emergency.

But this scene is nothing like what you see in a TV drama.

We don’t take off running down the corridor with the doctors coat flapping behind them like a super-hero cape.

We walk to our emergencies. Its safer that way.

When I was young and stupid, I did run to emergencies.
We didn’t have such a large crash-cart back then. In one hand you picked up a fishing tackle box full of emergency drugs and cannulation equipment, with the other you grabbed the defibrillator (which was pretty heavy let me tell you) and off you sprinted.

It was like an electronic banana peel.

One night I was running to a code, full tilt down a long underground corridor that leads from one of our hospital buildings to another.
As my arm that was carrying the heavy defibrillator swung past my hip it knocked the pager from my waist. The pager bounced off my knee and fell to the ground breaking open. The very next step… I trod on it.

It was like an electronic banana peel. For some reason known only to Motorola, its old pagers were packed with like a hundred little small ball bearing electronic springy thingies, and I skidded along on one leg for several metres on the now disintegrating pager, arms flapping out to the sides.
One of the paddles of the defibrillator came loose wrapping around my flailing legs.
This was not going well.

I landed heavily on my back.
Once I finally collected myself and sat up on my elbows, I could see that I had broken the pager, broken the defibrillator and broken the world record for the slowest response to a medical emergency.

Another time, one of my colleagues was on the MET team that responded to a man who had jumped through a large sealed window on the ninth floor of the hospitals main building. He landed on the roof directly above the hospital main entrance.

This was not going well.

Initially, for some reason,  the code was called up to the ninth floor (which this gentleman had long since left). Our MET team, thinking it would be far quicker than waiting for the glacial lifts to arrive, humped up the stairs (right past the crumpled roof), arriving totally exhausted only to find their patient was all the way back down where they had started.

To get to him the nurse and the doc had to break another thick window on the first floor and clamber out onto the roof. They were totally exhausted by this point. And they fully expected the man to be dead. The roof had partially collapsed under his impact leaving him laying at the bottom of this human shaped crater. His arms and legs hanging up and out over the lip.

Somehow, the crumpling of the roof must of cushioned his fall, for as they climbed out to him he lifted one arm triumphantly to the heavens and proclaimed,
I know I just jumped 9 floors…but, I think I feel OK.

Crap. Now what do we do?
The nurse was checking the poor guy over and figuring out how the heck they were going attend to the delicate task of extracting him off the roof whilst maintaining spinal precautions, when an enormous jagged section of glass that broke free from the window way up on the ninth floor sliced down like a guillotine just centimetres from where they were crouched.

Nurse and doctor looked at each other, and without a further word of discussion, they dragged the protesting man unceremoniously by one arm and one leg, out of his crater, across the roof and back through the window.

And then of course there was the time I sprinted with the crash cart to a code way, way, way over at the other end of the hospital.
I was a young nurse back then and I thought I looked pretty cool, at full tilt, bouncing the cart strategically off walls and medical students, and yelling at little old ladies on their hopper frames to stand clear.

Yes, this is what being an ED nurse is all about.
Stand clear people!
Super-hero’s coming through!

By the time I got there, I was so utterly out of breath and shagged-out that I could do nothing to help. So instead, I staggered over and vomited into the physiotherapy pool.

Nope, you don’t see that on TV.


Another true-ish story from my 35 year career as an emergency department nurse.

Posted by Ian Miller

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