Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Past ICU stories

Today was just an okay day – the whole ICU thing sorta blew over, so it was alright. Dr. Stefanski basically said that no female student should ever go into the ICU alone, and he, Boipelo and I all went in to the ICU as a group to see our patient today. And the doctor was very civil. They both told me all these stories about this ICU doctor. Boipelo told me that when she was an intern, she had a patient in the ICU, and this doctor said “go away, and never talk to me again! I don’t talk to interns.” And that’s just crazy! Often an intern is the only person taking care of the patient!

Dr. Stefanski also told us a story about how he had this critical asthma patient that he transferred to the ICU. The ICU doctor refused to use epinephrine on this asthma patient, who was breathing like 50 breaths per minute and really struggling. And for those of you non-medical people, epinephrine can be a huge life-saver for asthmatics – it can open up your airways until the attack has died down a little bit, otherwise patients can literally suffocate to death. Anyways, the ICU doctor refused to use it because he said it was never done, and there was no proven benefit. So Dr. Stefanski got two big legitimate papers that described in large multicenter randomized studies that epinephrine was of benefit for severe asthma attacks, and he gave them to the ICU doctor. The ICU doctor just threw them away. Apparently, the patient kept going in her awful suffocating state for about 3 or 4 days, and then the ICU doctor finally said, okay, she’s not getting better, maybe we should try the epinephrine. And the day they finally tried it, it was basically too late – the woman was so tired from breathing so hard for so long that her body just gave out and she died. I would say that this ICU doctor was personally responsible for this woman’s death, which was very preventable.

Oh, and in case anybody cares, his name is Mkubwa. So if you ever bump into a Dr. Mkubwa that runs an ICU in Gaborone, Botswana, I hope it’s not as a patient.

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