Sirens wailed as the ambulance pulled up to the emergency room doors of Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Desert, California at 10:25 on a cool February evening. Paramedics hastily pulled the stretcher out of the emergency medical vehicle and rushed it into the hospital.
Nurses flooded around the patient. One pushed an IV into his wrist, while another searched him for a MedicAlert bracelet or another form of ID. Still another rushed to the front desk to get some more assistance. Soon the entire hospital heard a staticky buzz and the page, "Dr. Edward Calvert to the Emergency Room, please. Dr. Edward Calvert to the Emergency Room please."
As Dr. Ed Calvert rushed from his office on the tenth floor, where he was looking over patient files, back in the Emergency Room, Nurse Andrea Robertson was shouting, "Get me a blood pressure reading, a cardiomegaly test, and hook him up to cardiology machine, STAT."
At that very moment, the Emergency Room doors flew open and several police officers and several very anxious and crying people rushed in. The officers stood off to the side and beckoned to Nurse Andrea to come over to them and answer some questions. The other people rushed around the patient, and, while getting in the way in every manner possible, started murmuring things like, "Johnny, this is your Mother, talk to me please" and "Oh, Johnny" and "Dear God, let him be OK."
Nurse Andrea, gathering that they were family, said as patiently as she could, "We are conducting some tests right now. He should be fine; however, could the family please sit in the waiting room?"
Obediently, the distraught family members filed sullenly into the waiting room, and the nurses resumed conducting their tests. That is, all the nurses except for Nurse Andrea, who walked over to the police to ask some questions.
After a few minutes, Dr. Ed Calvert bustled into the Emergency Room, his long white lab coat fluttering behind him. He very briskly snapped on a pair of rubber examination gloves and called for Nurse Andrea.
"Andrea," he said as he began to examine the patient, "what have you gotten from the officers? And what have you figured about the patient's condition?"
"Well, Doctor, the patient's name is John Turner. He is 28 years old, and lives in an apartment building on Desert Palms Drive in Palm Springs. I have all his insurance information right here," she said, indicating a packet on the front desk. "Now, his condition, on the other hand, is a completely different matter. According to his family, he was telling a joke and then clutched at his heart and went unconscious. His blood pressure is off the charts and the cardiology machine is getting some strange readings…." Her voice trailed off.
"Not only that," added the doctor, "but he has streptococcal pharyngitis, Acute Rheumatic Fever, Sick Sinus Syndrome, cardiac manifestations, congestive heart failure, bradycardio, pericarditus, a heart murmur, and pericarditus. He's not in good shape. He also just had a heart attack. The only thing left to do is operate. But first, get permission from his family and give him 1.2 million units of penicillin G benzathine for the streptococcal pharyngitis. No, don't you do that. Get either Nurse Aliza or Nurse Michele to do that. You go get on some scrubs and meet me in the operating room in 15 minutes. Don't be late. This John person doesn't have much longer to live if we don't operate now."
"Yes, Doctor." And Nurse Andrea turned and ran off to get ready for surgery.
Ten minutes later Nurse Andrea met Nurse Michele Franster in the hall way on her way back to the Emergency Room.
"Here are the papers from the family giving Dr. Calvert permission to operate," said Nurse Michele, as she handed Andrea a stack of documents.
Andrea handed them right back and turned down another hallway, calling over her shoulder, "Add them to his existing folder, if he has one. If not, start one."
Within five minutes an orderly had wheeled John Turner into Operating Room 735. Dr. Calvert walked in and turned up the lights as he prepared for the operation. Nurse Andrea efficiently organized the operating instruments on a sterile stainless steel stand. An anesthesiologist came in and, even though the patient was still unconscious, fastened a gas mask over the his head, counted to twenty-five, removed it, and left as quickly as he had entered.
Doctor and nurse finished prepping at the same moment and turned to the patient. They fastened him to numerous machines and began the long process of open-heart surgery.
"Scalpel, please," asked Dr. Ed Calvert.
"Scalpel," said Nurse Andrea as she placed it in his hand.
This went on for nearly two hours as Dr. Calvert tried everything within his power to sustain his patient's life. He finally sighed. Nurse Andrea rushed to his side and clung to his arm. "Doctor, he will be fine, won't he? He can't die now!"
"Let me try one more thing, Andrea. And stop gushing," was the reply.
Five minutes later the machine that had been monitoring John's heartbeat ceased its irregular beeping and uttered one long hum. Without thinking, Andrea flicked off the machine and threw herself into Dr. Calvert's arms. She started weeping. Dr. Calvert stroked her hair as he murmured, "We did all we could, Andrea. We did all we could."
Wordlessly, Andrea placed a white sheet over the corpse's body, flipped off the lights, and she walked out of the operating room with Dr. Calvert's arm around her shoulders.
Once they reached the Emergency Room, Andrea wiped the tears from her face, took a deep breath, and walked into the waiting room to tell the family the heart-wrenching news.
As she walked into the waiting room, the entire Turner family stood up and turned towards her. One young woman rushed over to her and tearfully said, "I'm John's fiancé. He's dead, isn't he?"
Silently, Andrea nodded her head and the two clutched each other and wept.