This story is a sort of sequel to “A good name”, and it’s about a good friend I will call Dr. H. He was the most senior medical officer in a hospital I worked in years ago. Though not much older than the rest of us, he had been there the longest and was the most experienced. He was in charge of the doctors, barring the MD of course. I remember the day I was interviewed and offered the job on the spot, he doubted me. He had to go and confirm from our boss, as everyone else was asked to go home and await confirmation.
Being in charge did not mean that he was obnoxious. On the contrary, he was pleasant, punctual to a fault, dilligent, and very disciplined. That also meant he expected the same of others. You could count on him to lend a helping hand with difficult cases. He was the only one who would refuse to leave after his shift till the patient was stable. Others would say “Dr. N, you’recapable”, and scurry off. Dr. H would roll up his sleeves and get to work. We actually believed he was excited about complicated cases, because, he would never complain. Also, he knew how to keep other staff in tow, as he would write a query at the slightest provocation.
On the day in question, he was on call with 2 nurses on duty. The senior nurse was a trained midwife, the type we all hustled to work with. Not only was she very experienced, you could go to sleep with her on duty. She would only call you when absolutely necessary, and would have everything you needed prepared. We all had a crush on her, sort of. Lol. The other nurse was an auxiliary nurse. In our defence, she was 1 of only 2 such nurses, and was always on duty with a more qualified nurse.
Dr. H got to work and was told a lady in labour was in her room.
“”Why is she not in the delivery room? Please bring her down so I can examine her”, he said. With that he did a round on all the other patients and went to the call room. After a while (I don’t know how long), he picked the phone to ask why he had not been called. No reasonable explanation was given. He repeated his instructions, and waited again. Much later, he got angry at the delay, and stormed out to ask what was happening. The sight that greeted him was members of staff running helter skelter. He traced the commotion to the ward of the lady in labour and this is what had happened.
The auxiliary nurse was left to monitor the lady, while the senior nurse rallied the security men to get a stretcher to carry her from the room upstairs, to the delivery room. During this time, she had the bearing down urge and told the nurse in the room. That one looked, saw the head of the baby, and took off. According to her, she went to call the midwife.By the time they both got back, the baby had slipped out, and was dead. The senior nurse tried in vain to resuscitate that baby, to no avail. Dr. H got there and took over. That child did not make it.
The father of the child was furious. He swore revenge. The auxiliary nurse packed her bags and left town that night. My MD reviewed the case the next day. The bereaved family had already sent a lawyer to collect their pound of flesh. The mood in the hospital was sombre. It was the first time we lost a child in that manner, and for it to be traceable to Dr. H of all people. The hospital was able to negotiate an out of court settlement running into millions. Neither Dr. H nor the nurse was sacked. Also, they did not pay the compensation. Dr. H had visited the family and apologised for everything that went wrong. The mother of the child really wished to get it all out of her mind, but her husband insisted on legalredress, not that I blame him.
Lessons I learned. No other doctor could have got away with such a costly error. If I build a record of always doing above and beyond, it will speak for me in the day of reckoning. Secondly, I must not ignore warning signals. People need close supervision. He ignored the warning bells that went off in his head when his order was not obeyed the 1st time. Perhaps, he wanted to assert his authority, forgetting that people are fickle. Thirdly, even if you are inexperienced, there must be something you know how to do. The auxiliary nurse could have asked the child’s father to help her call the midwife (why did she not use the phone?), rather than leave the room. My presence can save the day. If she had just caught that baby, the story would have been different.
So, I shared this story, for I find it unforgettable. Of course we are imperfect. No one is above mistakes. Our only prayer is that our mistakes do not cost lives. Dear muses, remember integrity protects. You can decide today to build a track record that will deliver you in the day of trouble. It consists of daily decisions that become a pattern.
I will do a post soon on emergency procedures. Many Nigerians are helpless when there is an emergency. While it is good to pray, a knowledge of CPR, and other simple procedures, can save a life where there is no doctor. Have a great week.