Have you ever regretted saving a patient?
Yes. The paramedics brought her in from a nursing home and they had been doing CPR for a while. The patient had been in and out of perfusing rhythms the entire time. She looked very old and frail and chronically ill. I asked the medics if she had a DNR order and they just rolled their eyes. The lead medic told me that they asked the same thing but the nursing home staff couldn’t locate the paperwork and because they couldn’t be sure they initiated resuscitation.
We didn’t have anything on record either but I wasn’t really committed to CPR and shocking and all the drugs necessary to keep this poor woman alive when her quality of life was likely so bad. I decided to give one round of drugs and then stop if there was no response. We did just that and much to my surprise she responded. Her heart started out slowly and gained momentum. Within a couple minutes she had a stable blood pressure. After a while she even began to attempt breathing on her own.
It wasn’t long before the family arrived and told us that the patient’s wishes were to NOT be resuscitated. They told us that she would never want to be kept alive this way and demanded that we stop the ventilator and medicines. So, I did. Despite stopping all support she continued to live. Ultimately, we admitted her to the hospital and she continued on in a sort of half-life state. This went on for days. Days!
I went to see her and the family a few times when they were there in the hospital and just felt terrible for them all. They were unhappy with me but they also understood why we did what we did. Ultimately, they sort of took it out on the nursing home staff and not the medics or me.
In the end, she died with her family all around her. Several members were able to travel in to say goodbye before she passed because of the hospital course. I suppose it all worked out the way it was supposed to. I still regretted it though.