The medics brought in a 41-year-old man whose wife found him unresponsive in bed next to her in the middle of the night. She didn’t know what to do so she called her sister-in-law who was halfway across the country in Dallas, Texas. The wife didn’t speak English so the sister-in-law called our 911 system for help. It’s unclear if the man was actually dead when his wife discovered him. But any chance of reviving him was gone by the time the paramedics actually got to his home.
By doing CPR and injecting him with adrenalin, the medics were able to get some electrical activity to show up in his heart. They transported him to us, continuing CPR. I used an ultrasound machine to look at the man’s heart. There was no pumping activity, which means there was nothing anyone could do. He was dead.
I then had to go tell the man’s pregnant wife and three and five year-old daughters they no longer had a husband and father. That is the worst part of my job.
When I got to the private family room used for difficult conversations like this, I followed my usual pattern of introducing myself and sitting down. The chair I took happened to be next to the older of the two daughters. With the help of a Vietnamese translator, I told the wife her husband was dead. As I did s, I tried to show sensitivity to her and also to the girls. I was surprised to note they showed no emotion at all. When I looked at the older girl, touched her on the shoulder and told her I was sorry, she smiled at me. I wonder, as the years go by, what kind of memory she will have of that event and of me.
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