It wasn't so much the lack of staffing as it was the acuity of the patients. And it wasn't so much the acuity of the patients as it was the cluelessness of the residents. And it wasn't so much the cluelessness of the residents as it was that every single damn thing that could go wrong, *did*, usually all at the same time, which was of course right around lunch.
Elizabeth called me into one of her rooms to ask if the leaking from around a JP drain was normal. Yeah, sometimes it is. . .but that drain site was leaking a little more than I would strictly consider okay. So, as Deidre packed Surgi-Cel around the area, trying to stanch the worst of the leaking, and Elizabeth called the resident, I tried to figure out where the blood was coming from. No go. There were enough holes in the poor patient to make any of them a contender, and no obvious source of blood.
Which means that the blood was coming from *inside* the patient, not from the hole the drain came out of. This is always bad, because it means that you have to re-open the surgical site and see what the heck is going on.
In came the resident. He looked at the drain site and said, "Walp, looks like the bleeding's stopped for now." I looked at him from across the bed and said, "On the outside, maybe."
And just then the patient turned his head and coughed out a fountain of bright red arterial blood from his trache.
Which is how I got blood up to my elbows. The patient is fine, by the way: a quick re-exploration of the area showed a small artery hadn't been properly dealt with during the surgery and had reopened--nothing that a few stitches, or something, and about six units of blood couldn't fix. When I saw him the next day he was relatively pink-cheeked and cheery.
What I've not mentioned until now is that, as all of that was going on in the room (and you know how it is, with Get me a suture kit please and Can somebody please call the fellow and Hold this there and tape that here), there was a person just next door whose head suddenly blew up like a beach ball for no apparent reason, and a person down the hall whose MAP (mean arterial pressure, a measure of how well you're perfusing) dropped into the 20's (bad), and another person who leapt out of bed over the bedrails despite having a dense right hemiparesis, and the fire alarm went off.
Just then the helicopter crew showed up, bagging a person who'd fallen off of something tall and hit his head and been transferred to us.
Run that tape back and play it over and over for two more shifts. This is why I took a five-hour nap today and will order a pizza tonight.