Miracle Moments Miracle Moments In Work Life

E SUDDENLY STOPPED breathing and his face began to turn blue. He was certain he was dying as the lights started to dim while he struggled helplessly and gasped for breath. The patient’s frantic physician immediately called a Code Blue…“Doctor, Heart, Doctor, Heart!” Emergency personnel from all departments came running from every direction of the hospital with stethoscopes bouncing around their necks. Some were pushing the large, red crash cart. They were at his side within seconds…the doctor had arrested!

Taking his own advice about the need for regular check-ups, the doctor had spent the morning going through his annual physical examination. His final test was a Cardiolite Stress Test. A colleague and long-time friend was in attendance when the otherwise healthy heart surgeon crashed and nearly burned.

Like a call going out when a police officer goes down, a physician in a personal medical emergency brings medics and colleagues running from every area of the hospital. Soon, there were more than twenty-five people in blue scrubs and white lab coats jammed into the small EKG room, all trying to be of some aid in this emergency rescue.

The hospital chaplain was called and he in turn put out a call to notify the surgeon’s family members. Hospital security was called, and all of the usual wheels of protocol were rapidly put in motion for the disastrous turn of events in what was a routine procedure.

The surgeon’s throat had suddenly closed and he was unable to breathe air into his collapsed lungs as he rapidly began to suffocate. He was in shock and respiratory arrest; he was losing consciousness, descending into a deep, black vortex. He was frighteningly convinced of his own mortality as he wildly thrashed around, gasping for air. The distraught staff, trying their best to restrain the doctor, immediately began resuscitation maneuvers. They placed IV lines into his now-purple arms and injected epinephrine, steroids and anunophylline. An oxygen mask was placed over his nose and mouth, but the doctor kept pulling off the mask in his panic and confusion because of the profound hypoxia he was now experiencing. His oxygen saturation fell from 100 to a critical low of 68. He was two minutes away from brain damage.

Slowly, as the drugs took effect, his lungs began to inflate, his heart rate stabilized, and he slowly…slowly came back to life.

It was not a heart attack, but an allergic reaction to a drug…anaphylactic shock…a reaction that can kill just as surely as a knife cutting off oxygen to the lungs.

The surgeon had been to the other side…not quite to the other side of life, but to the other side of medical treatment. He had witnessed first-hand the panic and terror experienced by some patients. He had felt the helplessness and desperation that is known only to those who are at risk of losing their life.

Never one to have a cavalier attitude toward the anxiety of his patients, the doctor has now developed an even greater empathy for their suffering. Nothing will ever be routine again. Once we have faced death and survived, nothing will ever again be the same.

Dr. Charles Moore has recovered and is once again in fulltime practice as the Surgical director of Cardiac Transplantation and Cardiac Assist Devices at the CHRISTUS Transplant Institute.

Barbara Davis
CHRISTUS Transplant Institute
San Antonio, Texas