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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

CPR - To Terminate Or Not To - That is the Question

Unlike with many other resolutions I figured out that today is the first day of the month only after resolving to be productive today. As a part of that I woke up about an hour early and started seeing my babies in ground floor general ward. (Oh, did I forget to mention, I'm in charge of Paediatric patients since more than a couple of weeks now).

But I hadn't even figured out why Atenolol was prescribed to the child with hepatorenal syndrome and not so high BP when I was informed that I had to cover general OPD in Kenchanahalli hospital today. As I had the experience of missing the van going there for being a minute late last time, I didn't take risk and ran away after instructing the nurse to withhold Atenolol.

It was only when I was halfway over the bridge that connects our hospital to the other side of Saragur that I realized that the Atenolol was not for BP, but to control the heart rate - tachycardia and gallop rhythm. I told the consultant paediatrician about how dumb I had been and he said it also helps in relieving portal hypertension which our child had.

Anyhow, Kenchanahalli is a nice break from the hectic Saragur hospital. Serene, silent, and sleepy. I could spend up to half an hour talking with each patient and understanding their problems.

It takes only half an hour of talking and a spot capillary glucose reading of 352 to make a grandmother who has been visiting our hospital for as long as I have been alive to confess that she has not been taking the teneligliptin 20 mg tablet for the past one month (along with the glipizide + metformin combination, pioglitazone, enalapril, hydrochlorthiazide, metoprolol, and ecospirin) because our hospital didn't have it in stock the last time she came (one month ago).

It takes only half an hour of talking about various reasons to quit smoking, instant and late benefits of quitting smoking, complications of continuing smoking, showing images from Google images of healthy lungs and smoker's lungs and talking to his daughter and her husband about how they can help to convince a 60 year old who had come with a bidi (which was momentarily destroyed and thrown into dust bin in line with the practice inherited from our consultant physician), a match box in his shirt pocket (which was involuntarily donated to the canteen) and amoxycillin tablets in trouser pockets to quit smoking.

It takes only half an hour of history taking, examination, and consultation over phone (and whatsapp) with consultant to convince a family (and myself) that their newborn who was vomiting milk through mouth and nostrils and not opening her eyes like she was in shock half an hour before, but opened her eyes and mouth and started crying the moment the ambulance reached hospital, is stable and okay and to learn that Epstein Pearls are nothing to worry about. Another 15 minutes ought to be spent to check on the mother who had Tetrology of Fallot and CCF, to listen to her heart murmurs and the wonderful story of how she had to undergo emergency LSCS because she was a short primi, the adventure they experienced in going to Jayadeva hospital to be declared fit for surgery, and how much money they had to pay to the workers who pushed the trolleys or handed over the just born child to the family waiting outside. All that and I was about to send them home with just a home remedy of preparing saline water and pouring a couple of drops into each nostril as many times as possible to relieve the nasal blockage (because we had ran out of saline nasal drops) and luckily I remembered I could prescribe Vitamin D3 drops for babies or I would have sent them back empty handed.

Medicine is exceedingly fun (and sometimes horribly sad) when you can spend more time with the patient (and family) than what is required to just figure out the diagnosis. Realizations like these are easy to come by when you walk through the now empty corridors of Kenchanahalli hospital where the soul of people behind SVYM always remains.

But I did not have time to revel in such thoughts. As a part of being not resolute, I had been postponing the task of drafting a CPR protocol for our hospital. I had to finish it somehow. But wherever I search, I couldn't find a definite answer to the question of when to terminate resuscitation (or efforts at resuscitation). AHA who is the authority on CPR leaves it at that multiple variables should be taken into account. An Indian CPR guideline didn't even acknowledge this question exists. Someone in Japan had done an analysis based on survival rates and figured out the factors that coincided with prolonged survival or vice versa and set an algorithm for termination. With no definite answer, I resorted to the diplomacy that everyone seems to be following. My protocol draft says that the team leader should make a decision based on a list of variables and that they should continue CPR if they can't make a decision (in the hope that something changes to make the decision easier, or help comes in the form of a senior doctor who can then take the decision).

While returning to Saragur in the Maruti Omni ambulance (this car model is so versatile I want to buy one and set up a mobile clinic in the Himalayas later in my life) I was looking at all the clouds with golden lining because the Orange sun was setting behind them and thinking that I should definitely resume the habit of journaling.

And my children were all fine except one of them is at the lowest point of Dengue thrombocytopenia and looks so sick he could fall down and disappear if someone didn't hold him up. And the guy whom I withheld Atenolol for? Seems like there is no way to figure out his exact BP. He is too long for a child so we might be tempted to not use the Paediatric BP cuff, but his arms are so thin that an adult cuff would go twice or thrice around his arm. Not to mention that there are two kinds of machines - the adult one with mercury and the Paediatric one with aneroid technology. Mix them up and you get 4 combinations. And we were getting different values for each of these configurations. Finally, I decided to assume that his BP was not too low because he could sit up without giddiness and I could feel the dorsalis pedis artery inside his grossly swollen foot.

The decision to terminate CPR or not might not make a huge difference in many cases, the patient would die anyhow with the sorry state of our health facilities and infrastructure. But a doctor is forced to be iron minded and make tough decisions every day. Wish them great luck.

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