• Life-In the blink of an eye- Dr. Stanley Franklin

    Cruising on the ocean blue is an excellent way to have a relaxing, leisurely vacation. That is what I exactly did recently traveling through the Panama Canal. I had a lot of time to think about work, play, and the enjoyment life can bring; but not for everyone. The ship I cruised on has approximately 1000 passengers, with about 400 vacationers eating dinner at 6pm and another 400 eating at 8:30 pm. So, you have got to consider what may happen to an unlucky older individual trying to eat all that food! Just as I finished ordering my dinner, an announcement came over the loudspeaker (this rarely happens) requesting urgently an anesthesiologist and a general surgeon’s assistance. I got up quickly and immediately went to the sick bay located on deck 5. The scene I came upon was dramatic. The small room was crowded with the ship’s doctor and several nurses working feverishly on a elderly female patient laying on a hospital bed with both arms hanging over the sides, lifeless and still; her face was grey, pale, and ashen, and already had the horrific appearance of death. The scene reminded me of my days in the ER, like a MASH unit working on disaster after disaster. This unlucky individual apparently had an allergic reaction to a food allergen and went into laryngospasm where her airway became compromised and breathing became impossible. She was brought to the medical office where she promptly became unconscious, and vomited her dinner and aspirated her food particles into her lungs, making the ability to survive unlikely. Her pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen levels slowly drifted downward and I had the gut wrenching feeling that death was all but inevitable on the high seas hundreds of miles from the nearest port. The ship’s doctor was frantically trying to intubate the passenger and establish an airway but without success. The general surgeon that appeared, quickly performed an emergency tracheotomy ( incision in the trachea or windpipe) to allow oxygen to get into the lungs and subsequently put a tube in her windpipe which was attached to a respirator. Ordered chaos and terror was obvious on everyone’s face; it was a messy ordeal, but the surgeon got it done with the assistance of the nervous, tremulous nurse assisting as best she could. I assisted and spoke with her spouse, who was sitting quietly, dazed, confused, watching and wondering whether or not this would be the end to a disastrous freaky accident. But, the surgeon and the staff pulled it off! The Captain, who was standing by, was told to either get a helicopter in ASAP, or get to the nearest port; He went full speed ahead and arrived in port 3-4 hours earlier than planned and the EMT was waiting to take the passenger to the nearest trauma hospital where apparently she survived without any brain damage. I was shaken to the core. Later, I reflected on the events I witnessed. In the blink of an eye without warning or premonition, life can be snuffed away, cruelly and indifferently at any place, at any time, to anyone. My brain was seared with the events that fateful evening and I now have a better appreciation of how tenuous life is; I will enjoy more the miracle of our everyday life on earth more robustly, and cherish each new day that has never been touched before in a more satisfying and grateful way. Enjoy, enjoy, and enjoy!

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