Never off duty

People often ask if I frequently take care of sick or injured people when I am not at work. In fact, it happens all the time and it’s no big deal. However, one time in particular I shall never forget. My wife and I were attending a musical in San Francisco (“Les Miserables”) and the show was about to begin. We noticed a commotion suddenly over to the right of the theater and up in front. There were people standing up around a man who appeared to be down on the ground. I made my way over and found that the patient was a 350 pound man, unconscious, laying flat on the ground in full cardiac arrest. I must say that being in this situation, with absolutely no equipment on hand was very frightening indeed. I began to attend to him, and fortunately, paramedics arrived immediately. The patient needed to be  intubated (have a tube put into his airway), but he had just finished a large dinner, and most of that was bubbling up into his mouth, making intubation quite difficult. I was able to just get a glimpse of his vocal cords, and passed the tube. We gave him epinephrine, atropine, and his heart starting beating again, and he started moving around. We loaded him onto the gurney and moved him out to the ambulance. At that point, the entire audience broke out into applause and cheers, either because we had saved the man, or because they were just happy the show was going to start. I looked up and realized we had been in full view of the audience the entire time. It was the only time I have ever been applauded for my work–and I must say, it felt great.
At intermission the theater manager found me. He said he wanted to thank me for helping the man, and he gave me an envelope. Inside were coupons for two free drinks. I had a glass of wine and thought about what a strange world we live in.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Shane 11.14.08 at 11:23 am

It is a very frightening but at the very same time nice story.there’s no doubt that you are ‘never off duty’.

Rachel 11.14.08 at 1:08 pm

Great story.

I imagine theater managers prefer that theater-goers not die on their premises. (It’s not good for business.)

Hope you at least got to enjoy the show.

Your ER Doc 11.14.08 at 4:11 pm

I definitely think about it now when I go to theaters, and other crowded places.
Weddings are the worst, lots of old people, alcohol.
I’ve actually considered bringing in a crash cart. . .

Canuck Med Student 11.14.08 at 5:11 pm

Two stinkin’ free drinks for saving a man’s life on the premises of his theatre? He should have handed you the keys to the building, or at least free box seats. Way to go doc, and great story!

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