Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Curtail the complaining

Tuesday: Salad Nicoise

Reflections from the Backcounter

I live a privileged life. I live in the greatest country in the world. I have a job, I have my health, my children are healthy and still I find the opportunity to complain and wail about injustice and the unfairness of things that happen in my life. I have food, I have a home I have a car and still I complain about my fatigue, my workload and my stress. I need to wake up. I need to reflect and I need to be thankful. Friday night woke me up and realigned my priorities.

I was at the horseshow, preparing for my daughters event when I became aware of a commotion. Initially, I did not register that my name was being called but within a few seconds, one of the barn hands came barreling into the barn bellowing my name and telling me to run to the washrack. I ran over to the wash rack and saw one of the barn hands lying on his back in the muck, seizing. If you have never witnessed a grand mal seizure it is quite unnerving and as expected this poor guy had created quite a stir and there was a large crowd gathered around watching him convulse.

Although a seizure is a very dramatic event to watch , there is very little to do for a person who is seizing in the field. Most seizures are self limited and will stop on their own. The most important thing is to keep well meaning good samaritans away from the patient and ensure that there is an adequate airway. Beyond that there is not much to do until the seizure runs its course. In this case the poor man had seized, keeled over backwards and struck his head on the cement slab of the washrack. My job was to stabilize his neck and protect his airway until the medics arrived. We got him on a backboard and just waited for the ambulance. While I was kneeling in the horse poop, mud and soapy water that defined the wash rack, I noticed that this poor victim had a large scar on his head. Obviously, he had had some type of brain surgery. Although he worked for one of the horse farms participating in the show, no one knew his full name, no one knew his history and no one was there to look out for his interests. He did not speak English and his fellow stable hands only knew his first name and that he had suffered a head injury in a car accident in Mexico two to three months before. Help arrived and he was loaded into to ambulance for transport to the nearest hospital.

The episode left me shaken, not for the obvious reason...the medicine was straight forward and the care delivered in an appropriate and timely manner. It was the moral and ethical questions that caused the discomfiture. I realized that the show horses in the barn were most likely receiving better medical care than this young man who had suffered a traumatic brain injury. His accident of birth made him a citizen of a country that does not provide for its citizens the quality of care that we as Americans expect and feel is our right. It saddened me. I hope he has enough money to pay for his seizure meds, I hope he is alright, I hope that there is a better solution to the inequity of resource allocation. I hope but I also realize that sometimes all you can do is get down on your knees in the muck and do what is needed at the moment.

He was back on the job the next morning. Earning a living and doing his job. I have no right to complain about anything.

I need to wake up, I need to reflect and I need to be thankful.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Events such as this have the ability to completely re-align our perspective, don't they? Your lovely story is proof that there are angels among us (even if they happen to be complaining!)Your patient was so fortunate that you were close by in the mud, soapy water and poop (is this a recurring theme, or what?), and though his family can't thank you in person, I'm appointing myself as their spokesperson and thanking you on behalf of everyone who has received care at an accident scene from a Complaining Angel! Some of the greatest words ever spoken reassure us that we are never alone; your actions spoke truth to that eternal power.