This evening I spent the last 4 hours of my shift working very hard to fix one patient.
She came in following a fall with angina (heart pain). We found she had a low haemoglobin (bad), an acutely high creatinine (bad – means kidney failure), a very high blood potasium level (bad – can cause heart arrhythmias) and a metabolic acidosis (quite bad – means blood pH has become acidic which stuffs up all the chemical reactions that rely on a steady pH balance).
I spent the 4 hours doing all manner of things, in order to slowly move her from our initial assessment of “Oh crap, this lady might be going to die” to “Well, she looks better, and feels better, and her blood test results have improved. She might be able to go home after a few days in hospital”.
And she was a kindly and deserving old lady (not that most patients aren’t deserving, just some you can’t help feel are more deserving than others), which makes the suspicion that you may have earned her a few more months or years to spend with her family and friends all that more satisfying.
I found myself quietly grinning all the way home. This is what I love about my job.
(In fact I ended up seeing an uncharacteristicly small number of patients this shift, but they were all more-than-averagely-deserving individuals with interesting and non-straight forward problems, so the whole day was pretty satisfying – I even got to give a kid a piggy back ride up to the kids ward).