Standing in front of the Grady Hospital entrance on my first day of volunteering, I looked up at the sky and prayed, “God, please give me a sign that healthcare might be the thing that I am meant to do.” Little did I know, I was going to witness an encounter that was nothing short of a miracle.
Later, I was walking out of Emergency Triage in the Emergency Medicine Department, looking for empty stretchers, when I noticed something. The hallway that was originally full of doctors, nurses, and physician assistants was empty, and the doors to the resuscitation room were open.
Being curious, a medical assistant and I walked closer to the resuscitation room to see a crowd of healthcare workers assembled around the stretcher in the middle of the room. One of the nurses motioned us into the room, and we quickly entered and stood stoically in the corner.
Moments after we entered, EMT technicians rushed in with a patient. One of the EMTs performed chest compressions while the other explained, “Female patient, cardiac arrest in her house, no pulse…” Both the EMTs and the hospital staff moved in to carry the patient from the EMT board to the hospital stretcher.
I watched as residents and nurses worked together giving chest compressions, inserting breathing tubes, and monitoring her vitals, while the attending physician gave orders. I looked around to see if anybody was freaking out like I was, but everybody was completely focused on trying to revive her. The looks on their faces were a mixture of concentration, focus, and concern. I noticed that they alternated shocks from the defibrillator and chemical doses from the anesthesiologist to help kick start her heart rate. After the fifth shock, there was still no sign of a pulse.
In my head, I thought, “Are they going to call the time of death? Am I going to see someone die for the first time?” I didn’t know how to feel, and the attending appeared to be a bit distressed because they were running out of tactics. “I don’t know what else to do at this point,” the attending said. “We will try one more time, and call it if there’s no change in her state.”
The workers did the defibrillator and the chemical dosages once more before someone checked her pulse.
“She has a pulse! Bring one of the oxygen tanks!”
My eyes widened. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. To see somebody that was almost pronounced dead regain a pulse after forty-five minutes of unconsciousness seemed too good to be true–Almost like a miracle. In no other profession does one get to save lives on a regular basis, or restore hope to situations where hope was thought to be lost. I was hooked.
I was so impressed to see how the ER staff kept calm in the midst of such a high-pressure situation. They’re the soldiers on the front lines, the first ones rushing towards the unknown, instead of running the other direction because of fear. I love how Emergency Medicine emphasizes teamwork among the nurses, physician assistants, and doctors alike. Without knowing what kind of cases are going to come through the door, these healthcare professionals must be knowledgeable in numerous areas of healthcare to treat all patients at all hours of the day.
Growing up in a healthcare focused household, I explored different healthcare professions halfheartedly. Since my dad was a nephrologist, my mom was a pharmacist, and my eldest sister was in medical school, there was a large amount of pressure to follow in their footsteps in healthcare. I was searching for direction, so I thought about becoming a pharmacist or a physical therapist, but nothing sparked that fire…until I was placed in the Emergency Medicine Department by a random referral from the person who interviewed me for a volunteer position.
If you have any hesitation about a career in healthcare, volunteering at a hospital, a clinic, and shadowing a physician are great ways to start. Here are a few options:
Option #1: Research different hospitals in the surrounding areas for volunteer programs, and check periodically to see when the application periods are open. The best months for fall semester would be July through September, and November through January for the spring semester. The sooner you apply, the better your chances are to get into a program.
Option #2: Ask your family’s doctors for an opportunity to shadow in their office. Whether it’s for a week or a month, this is a priceless chance to observe, follow the doctor on their rounds, and ask questions when the time is right. Option #3: Send emails to several practitioners, or call their offices to set up shadowing arrangements. The more doctors you contact , the higher your chances are of getting a positive response for future opportunities.
Like that patient that I encountered on my first day of volunteering, I too, have been reborn. Walking out of that resuscitation room, I felt myself changing as a newfound vision for my professional life started to materialize after years of uncertainty. As I came back each week to volunteer, the tiny shadow of a dream began to solidify in my heart: I wanted to become one of them.
About Ngozi Ihenacho
Ngozi Ihenacho is a sophomore Biology major at Georgia State University. She attended Mercer University for her freshman year where she served as Class President and Freshman Senator for the Mercer University Student Government Association for the 2013-2014 school year. Ngozi is currently involved in undergraduate research for the Department of Microbiology in Atlanta, GA. Coming from an healthcare focused Nigerian family, Ngozi hopes to use her future medical education to pursue healthcare internationally and bring her skills to poverty stricken rural areas.