A 15 year old girl who had been previously fit and well presented to the child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) team with weight loss, irregular menstrual periods, excessive exercise, restriction of energy intake during the day, and binging during the evening, followed by vomiting. Her symptoms had been present for a year, since her father had experienced a myocardial infarction. Clinically her symptoms were in keeping with anorexia nervosa, as shown by her completed eating disorder questionnaire.1 Her body mass index (BMI) was 16 and her weight for height was 85% of the median (50th centile) for age and sex. She had a distorted body image, believing her stomach and ankles were too fat, and she had an extreme fear of gaining weight.
about 6 years ago
An 82 year old man presented with a six day history of watery diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and confusion. He had a history of hypertension, gout, and prostate cancer, which was well controlled on hormonal therapy. He was independent and lived alone. He had not travelled or used antibiotics within the past two months.
about 6 years ago
Shattered. Third consecutive day of on-calls at the birth centre. I’m afraid I have little to show for it. The logbook hangs limply at my side, the pages where my name is printed await signatures; surrogate markers of new found skills. Half asleep I slump against the wall and cast my mind back to the peripheral attachment from which I have not long returned. The old-school consultant’s mutterings are still fresh: “Medical education was different back then you see....you are dealt a tough hand nowadays.” I quite agree, it is Saturday. Might it be said the clinical apprenticeship we know today is a shadow of its former self? Medical school was more a way of life, students lived in the hospital, they even had their laundry done for them. Incredulous, I could scarcely restrain a chuckle at the consultant’s stories of delivering babies while merely a student and how the dishing out of “character building” grillings by their seniors was de rigeur. Seldom am I plied with any such questions. Teaching is a rare commodity at times. Hours on a busy ward can bear little return. Frequently do I hear students barely a rotation into their clinical years, bemoan a woeful lack of attention. All recollection of the starry-eyed second year, romanced by anything remotely clinical, has evaporated like the morning dew. “Make way, make way!...” cries a thin voice from the far reaches of the centre. A squeal of bed wheels. The newly crowned obs & gynae reg drives past the midwife station executing an impressive Tokyo drift into the corridor where I stand. Through the theatre doors opposite me he vanishes. I follow. Major postpartum haemorrhage. A bevy of scrubs flit across the room in a live performance of the RCOG guidelines for obstetric haemorrhage. They resuscitate the women on the table, her clammy body flat across the carmine blotched sheets. ABC, intravenous access and a rapid two litres of Hartmann’s later, the bleeding can not be arrested by rubbing up contraction. Pharmacological measures: syntocinon and ergometrine preparations do not staunch the flow. Blood pressure still falling, I watch the consciousness slowly ebb from the woman’s eyes. Then in a tone of voice, seemingly beyond his years, the reversely gowned anaesthetist clocks my badge and says, “Fetch me the carboprost.” I could feel an exercise in futility sprout as I gave an empty but ingratiating nod. “It’s hemabate....in the fridge” he continues. In the anaesthetic room I find the fridge and rummage blindly through. Thirty seconds later having discovered nothing but my general inadequacy, I crawl back into theatre. I was as good as useless though to my surprise the anaesthetist disappeared and returned with a vial. Handing me both it and a prepped syringe, he instructs me to inject intramuscularly into the woman’s thigh. The most common cause of postpartum haemorrhage is uterine atony. Prostaglandin analogues like carboprost promote coordinated contractions of the body of the pregnant uterus. Constriction of the vessels by myometrial fibres within the uterine walls achieves postpartum haemostasis. This textbook definition does not quite echo my thoughts as I gingerly approach the operating table. Alarmingly I am unaware that aside from the usual side effects of the drug in my syringe; the nausea and vomiting, should the needle stray into a nearby vessel and its contents escape into the circulation, cardiovascular collapse might be the unfortunate result. Suddenly the anaesthetist’s dour expression as I inject now assumes some meaning. What a relief to see the woman’s vitals begin to stabilise. As we wheel her into the recovery bay, the anaesthetist unleashes an onslaught of questions. Keen to redeem some lost pride, I can to varying degrees, resurrect long buried preclinical knowledge: basic pharmacology, transfusion-related complications, the importance of fresh frozen plasma. Although, the final threat of drawing the clotting cascade from memory is a challenge too far. Before long I am already being demonstrated the techniques of regional analgesia, why you should always aspirate before injecting lidocaine and thrust headlong into managing the most common adverse effects of epidurals. To have thought I had been ready to retire home early on this Saturday morning had serendipity not played its part. A little persistence would have been just as effective. It’s the quality so easily overlooked in these apparently austere times of medical education. And not a single logbook signature gained. Oh the shame! This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the Medical Student Newspaper, February 2014 issue.
over 6 years ago
Worst experience ever? - this is pretty difficult as I've worked in some of the poorest countries in the world and seen some things that should never happen like children dying of dehydration and malaria. But this recent experience was definitely the worst. It was midnight and I was trying to get my 16 month old to sleep having woken up after vomiting in his cot. Despite paracetamol, ibuprofen, stripping to nappy, damp sponging and having the window open he went rigid and started fitting. It only lasted a minute or two yet felt like an eternity as he was unable to breathe and became progressively blue as my mind raced ahead to brain damage or some other horrible sequalae. The fitting stopped and my mind turned to whether I was going to have to start CPR. I lay him on the floor and put my ear to his chest and was glad to hear a strong heartbeat but he was floppy with a compromised airway so I quickly got him in the recovery position. The ambulance arrived in 8 minutes and after some oxygen and some observations he was strapped in and ready to go. He had been unconscious for about 15 minutes but was starting to come round, much to my relief. The ambulance crew were great and their quick response made all the difference but then they took nearly half an hour to get to A&E in the middle of the night because they took the most awkward route imaginable. I don't know if it was a deliberate delaying tactic or just a lack of local knowledge but even without a blue light I could have done it in half the time! Why do ambulances not have GPS - ideally with local traffic info built in? We arrived in A&E and were ushered to a miserable receptionist who took our details and told us to have a seat. I noticed above her head that the wait time was 3.5 hours, though we did see a junior nurse who took his observations again. Not long after the screen changed to a 5 hour wait and a bit later to a 6 hour wait! I am glad to say that by about 3 hours my little man was back to his usual self (as evidenced by his attempts at destroying the department) and so after getting the nurse to repeat his obs (all normal) we decided to take him home, knowing we had a few more hours to wait for the doctor, and that the doctor was now unlikely to do anything as he was now well. I tell the story in such detail in part for catharsis, in part to share my brief insight into being on the other side of the consultation, but also because it illustrated a number of system failures. It was a horrible experience but made a lot worse by those system failures. And I couldn't help but feel even more sorry for those around me who didn't have the medical experience that I had to contextualise it all. Sickness, in ourselves or our loved ones, is bad enough without the system making it worse. I had 3 hours of walking around the department with my son in my arms which gave me plenty of time to observe what was going on around me and consider whether it could be improved. I did of course not have access to all areas and so couldn't see what was happening behind the scenes so things may have been busier than I was aware of. Also it was only one evening so not necessarily representative. There were about 15 children in the department and for the 3 hours we were there only a handful of new patients that arrived so no obvious reason for the increasing delay. As I walked around it was clear to me that at least half of the children didn't need to be there. Some were fast asleep on the benches, arguably suggesting they didn't need emergency treatment. One lad had a minor head injury that just needed a clean and some advice. Whilst I didn't ask anyone what was wrong with people talk and so you hear what some of the problems were. Some were definately far more appropriate for general practice. So how could things have been improved and could technology have helped as well? One thing that struck me is that the 'triage' nurse would have been much better as a senior doctor. Not necessarily a consultant but certainly someone with the experience to make decisions. Had this been the case I think a good number could have been sent home very quickly, maybe with some basic treatment or maybe just with advice. Even if it was more complex it may have been that an urgent outpatient in a few days time would have been a much more satisfactory way of dealing with the problem. Even in our case where immediate discharge wouldn't have been appropriate a senior doctor could have made a quick assessment and said "let's observe him for a couple of hours and then repeat is obs - if he is well, the obs are normal and you are happy then you can go home". This would have made the world of difference to us. So where does the technology come in? I've already mentioned Sat Nav for the ambulance but there are a number of other points where technology could have played a part in improving patient experience. Starting with the ambulance if they had access to real time data on hospital A&E waiting times they may have been able to divert us to a hospital with a much shorter time. This is even more important for adult hospitals were the turnover of patients is much higher. Such information could help staff and patients make more informed decisions. The ambulance took us to hospital which was probably appropriate for us but not for everyone. Unfortunately many of the other services like GP out of hours are not always prepared to accept such patients and again the ambulance crews need to know where is available and what access and waiting times they have. Walk-in patients are often also totally inappropriate and an easy method of redirection would be beneficial for all concerned. But this requires change and may even require such radical ideas as paying for transport to take patients to alternative locations if they are more appropraite. The reasons patient's choose A&E when other services would be far more appropriate are many and complex. It can be about transport and convenience and past experiences and many other things. It is likely that at least some of it is that patients often struggle to get an appointment to see their own GP within a reasonable time frame or just that their impression is that it will be difficult to get an appointment so they don't even try. But imagine a system where the waiting times for appointments for all GPs and out of hours services were readily available to hospitals, ambulances, NHS direct etc. Even better imagine that authorised people could book appointments directly, even when the practice was closed. How many patients would be happy to avoid a long wait in A&E if they had the reassurance of a GP appointment the next day? And the technology already exists to do some of this and it wouldn't be that hard to adapt current technology to provide this functionality. Yet it still doesn't happen. I have my theories as to why but this is enough for one post. In case you were wondering my son appears to have made a full recovery with no obvious ongoing problems. I think I have recovered and then he makes the same breathing noises he made just before the fit and I am transported back to that fateful night. I think it will take time for the feelings to fade.
Dr Damian Williams
over 7 years ago
I'm an SHO, but I don't have your typical ward based job. In the last four years I have treated in jungles, underwater (in scuba gear), 5m from a gorilla, up a volcano, on a beach, at altitude, on safari, in a bog and on a boat. Expedition medicine is a great way to travel the world, take time out whist expanding your CV, and be physically and mentally challenged and develop your skill and knowledge base. As a doctor, you can undertake expeditions during your 'spare time' but it is more common for doctors to go on expeditions between F2 and specialty training. This is the ideal time either because you have been working for the last 7 years and either you need a break, the NHS has broken you, or you don't know what you want to do with your career and need time to think. At this point I would recommend using your F2 course/study budget on an Expedition Medicine course. They are expensive, but the knowledge and skill base you gain makes you more prepared and competitive for expedition jobs. There are many types of Expedition Medicine jobs ranging from endurance sports races to scientific expeditions. Although the jobs differ, there are many ailments common to all. You should expect to treat diarrhoea and vomiting, insect bites, blisters, cuts, injuries, and GP complaints such headaches and exacerbations of chronic illnesses. More serious injuries and illnesses can occur so it is good to be prepared as possible. To help, ensure your medical kit is labelled and organised e.g. labelled cannulation kit, emergency kit is always accessible and you are familiar with the casevac plan. Your role as an Expedition Medic involves more that the treatment of clients. A typical job also includes client selection and education, risk assessment, updating casevac plans, stock-checking kit, health promotion, project management and writing debriefs. What's Right For You? If you're keen to do Expedition Medicine, first think about where you want to go and then for how long. Think hard about these choices. A 6 month expedition through the jungle sounds exciting, but if you don't like spiders, creepy-crawlies and leaches, and the furthest you have travelled is an all-inclusive to Mallorca, then it might be best to start with a 4 week expedition in France. When you have an idea of what you want to do there are many organisations that you can apply to, including: Operation Wallacea Raleigh Across the Divide World Challenge Floating Doctors Doctors Without Borders Royal Geographical Society Action Challenge GapForce Each organisation will have different aims, clients, resources and responsibilities so pick one that suits you. Have fun and feel free to post any question below.
Dr Rachel Saunders
over 7 years ago
A patient feeling excessively nauseous having a history of cholecysectyomy is being administrated with gag's for the treatment of arthritis. The patient complains of vomiting and nausea constantly. Motilium is administrated for nausea but vomiting persist. When lft is done there is a slight increase of bilirubin i.e from 0.2 to 0.3. What is the possible cause of these excessive nauseous feelings? Administration of gag's and chondroiton sulphate or may be due to any problem with the liver function?
over 7 years ago
Vomiting and diarrhea are two of the most common complaints of children presenting to the emergency department.
American College Of Emergency Medicine
almost 10 years ago