It was the second week of my volunteering in the Emergency Department. After a long week of classes, I’d drive over to one of the local hospitals on Thursday nights and escape the world of academia. To me, it was an opportunity to put my assignments and overtime studying into perspective. The excitement of hearing rescue calls and medical jargon gave me an extra ounce of motivation. I was constantly on my toes waiting for a staff member to offer me a little peak of what it’s like to care for patients.
One night, around 06:30 P.M., the red phone at the nurse’s station rang and I could hear the EMT report: Driver struck a deer, deer flew and hit the patient, vitals are stable, will see you in a few, over and out.
I looked over at the call station with a puzzled expression on my face, the nurse recorded the report and walked toward me gently smiling, “So, you want to be an ER doc, well I got something for you to see.” Immediately my heart started to race from both excitement and apprehension. This would be my first time seeing a patient. I found myself feeling conflicted, “Did I prepare enough for this? Would I be able to handle it? What if I got scared?” For a moment I wanted to disappear, to be invisible and solely observe what was going to happen.
Soon enough a conscious, shaky, and frightened patient came through the ambulance bay doors. The patient was completely pale, utterly confused, and oh, covered in what the EMT told us was deer blood. For a moment I was frozen, not sure what to do in this situation. I was completely paralyzed by my racing imagination. As one of the clinical technicians passed by me she glanced over and frantically said, “Well don’t just stand there, come help me.”
I entered the room and she handed me a medium-sized emesis (vomit) bin. Holding the bin was, of course, my role in a procedure like this, which I learned during my orientation, but my nerves were kicking in and I’d forgotten. When we walked into the trauma room, I looked over at the patient and took a deep breath and felt overwhelmed.
“Yasamin, come over, I’m going to wash the patient’s head and neck,” the tech said as I nervously looked over the patient from head to toe. I thought to myself, “How hard could this be? I mean, I’ve watched Untold Stories of the ER enough times, right?” As I cautiously found my way to the top of the stretcher, the initial fear within me had escaped. I became energized, I felt invincible.
I firmly planted my feet on the white tiles and was ready for the procedure. The tech picked up a cleaning solution and started puncturing holes in the plastic cap so that she could use it to wash the deer’s blood and debris off of the patient. This would make it easier to see any injuries, get a better assessment of the wounds, and make sure the area was clean before any stitches or staples could be used to close them up. With every hole she punctured through the cap I felt my excitement exponentially increase. I thought to myself, “This is it Yasamin, feel the adrenaline rush through you, emergency medicine is your calling.”
The tech delicately separated strands of light brown hair from the scalp wounds. With each stroke of her hand, I found myself more focused on the intricate cuts that oozed with fluids. My breaths grew farther and farther apart. My heart became heavy and sunk deep into my chest. I looked away, closed my eyes and took a deep breath, I whispered to myself, “hang in there, just breath, just breath.” I tried to distract my mind by going over the cellular mechanism of the patient’s immune response in my head.
Once the procedure was over, I still felt off. I felt defeated because I hadn’t handled my first patient experience better. Leaving the patient’s room for the nurse’s station I felt my temperature drop, yet I was sweating profusely. After every step the room got darker and the walls started closing in on me. My mind and my body became detached. I sat down on a computer chair and the last words I could make sense of were, “She’s going down, she’s going down.”
I slowly opened my eyes and realized I had been lying unconscious on the cold floor. The moment I realized what had happened, I jumped up and tried getting myself together only to get stopped by the charge nurse who tried to calm me down. I felt horrible, maybe a little embarrassed, too, but mostly horrible because I had become a distraction rather than an extra hand for the staff. They already had a bag of ice, a cool can of ginger ale, and a recliner ready for my recovery. I was now a patient. My ego had fallen apart in the fastest way imaginable. I sat back on the squeaky recliner and sipped my ginger ale, and after a while, my body finally reached normalcy. A few moments later, the accident patient passed by me on their way to CT. We made eye contact and managed to exchange a smile seeming to tell each other that everything was going to be alright.
That night was probably the most eventful part of my first semester of college. I decided it wasn’t the end of my medical career, or a proof of incompetence. The initial excitement I’d felt was reassurance that I was in the right place. It was a test of my will power and I would get better. It was a pebble on my journey to conquer mountains.
About Yasamin Rahmani
Yasamin Rahmani is an undergraduate student and a peer mentor at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. She is currently pursuing her Bachelors of Science in Biology, and aspires to become an Emergency Physician. Yasamin’s parents are immigrants from Kabul, Afghanistan, and, after spending a small portion of time in Tashkent, she moved with her family to Moscow where she spent majority of her childhood. At the age of ten Yasamin moved to the United States, where her affinity for the field of medicine came to fruition. While moving from country to country, Yasamin refined her language skills and is fluent in Farsi, French and Russian. Aside from her passion for medicine, Yasamin takes part in cultural understanding and historical research about Afghanistan. Some of her publications include co-authoring Afghan Proverbs Illustrated Russian-Dari, from which all profits are donated to literacy courses in Afghanistan, as well as co-editing Art through the Ages in Afghanistan. Yasamin hopes to use her diverse background and her love of medicine as tools in the rapid globalization of the field medicine. During her free time, Yasamin significantly enjoys writing, dancing, volunteering and being involved in philanthropy projects.