Physicians Anonymous

Death and disease

Death and disease (1)

Today’s two-part article is written by a guest writer, PA supporter, and Family Medicine Resident, Dr Bryce Bowers, MD. 

In Part 1, he describes a harrowing incident in the ER. In Part 2, the shift continues without a moment to take a breath.

Trauma 1

“She’s dead.”


“They drove up, threw her out of the car, and left,” the nurse said.

I was standing by triage as a flurry of panicked bodies rushed by me.

Not more than 10 seconds later did I see something I’ll never forget.

That same set of panicked humans were pushing a lifeless body that lay in a crumpled heap on a wheelchair.

“Trauma 1!” I heard them yell. “Let’s go! Let’s go!”

Time to shine

I stood. Frozen. Trying to process all that was going on.

Then I felt a large palm on the upper part of my back.

“Come on, kid. It’s your time to shine”.

I followed the hand of that nurse into the trauma room. It seemed like there were 100 people there. As if watching a chaotic ballet, they moved around with disordered yet purposeful movements, following the tune of their training.

I found myself in line. Quiet, totally in my head, and panicking. I could feel the perspiration seeping from my armpits.

“Ahh. Ahh. Ahh. Ahh. Staying alive. Staying alive…”

That’s all I could think about. That’s all I needed to think about.

“Switch compressors on my count!”

Staying alive

“Staying alive…Staying alive….”


And then the chorus ended.

I stood over a lifeless body. Hands clasped, moving my arms to the rhythm of that song which seemed so ironic right now. My training kicked in as I simultaneously felt like I was having an out-of-body experience.

I overheard amongst the chaos that she was 16 years old.


I didn’t have time to think about that. Right now I was the main driver of pumping blood to her lifeless body.

“Good compressions!”

Right now I was the main driver of pumping blood to her lifeless body. “Good compressions!”

Good compressions

The sweat underneath my armpits got heavier. More started to form on my brow. Each time I pressed on her chest, I felt her sternum collapse, and her ribs start to break.

“Please wake up” I begged her silently. “Please”.

“Switch in….3…2…1….Go!”

I was pulled off the chest. I wiped the sweat from my brow.

As I turned away I ran right into my attending. In his hand was a small drill, about the size of his palm.

“Here. Take this. Let’s go.”

Ducking and diving between people in the room. We made our way to the leg.

“Here”. He said. “Go all the way in.”

I put the drill to her leg. Pressed the trigger. And into her bone went the intraosseous line for IV access.

I got back in line for more compressions.

But I never went again.


The code was called after 30 minutes. There was a moment of silence as we all collectively mourned the loss of this young, beautiful 16 year old girl.

But the moment was brief and fleeting.

There were other patients waiting to be seen.

As I walked out of the room, I felt the urge to look back one more time.

A profound sense of grief and despair washed over me as I watched the sheet being draped over her face.

I pulled the curtain from the trauma bay back to the main corridor. At that moment all I wanted was nothing more than to run into a dark room, curl up into a ball and cry.

Instead my attending met me, face to face, chart in hand.

“Room 32. 12 year old, rule out appendicitis. Go see them, please.”

I walked into that next room to see the next patient, wondering if they too were on the verge of death.

Please, no. I couldn’t handle that right now.

We continue this moving story in Part 2 next week.

In the meanwhile… Heroes need help, too.

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