Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On Duty

Yesterday, I decided to see what it's like to be "on duty" (i.e. the night shift that handles emergencies) at the hospital. Three of the Batumi students were going to be on duty as well, and as I've become friends with them, I felt that now was as good a time as any to see the hospital in action at night.

I completed my day at the hospital as normally scheduled, leaving the hospital a little before 4 pm for my 4:30-6:30 language lessons. After lessons, I got a quick bite to eat and took the marshrutka back to Ghudushauri, arriving at 8 pm. By then, only the night shift staff were there. They consisted of 3 surgeons, the resident (Nino), 4 or 5 nurses, and us students. Not much was happening, so we students retreated to one of the empty patient rooms where I did my Georgian homework while the Batumi students read my lessons with great interest. By 11:30, still no emergencies requiring the General Surgery department had arrived, so Nino, herself bored, took Roini (one of the students) and me to the Emergency room on the first floor to see what was happening. There was one patient who had injured his legs in a car accident in Turkey (he is from Batumi, a city near the Turkish border), and had been referred to Ghudushauri for treatment (it's the nation's top public hospital). Another patient was a teenager who had dislocated his patella (knee cap). He will most likely require surgery, but it wasn't an emergency so he was discharged.

We returned to our "home" on the sixth floor and had tea. The doctors asked me how many states were in the US, and when I told them 50, they didn't quite believe me. Then they began to name all the states they could recall (which was actually most of them), but when I told them that they had forgotten Washington state, they corrected me, saying that Washington is the capital (in Georgian, dedakalaki, literally "mother city"). I tried my best to explain that there was also a state by the same name, but my Georgian was not good enough. After a few minutes of this, I gave up. Next time I'll bring a map of the US.

By one o'clock, we were making plans to go to sleep, and if any emergency should arise, we would be woken. But just then we got a call that a patient had been admitted with a bullet wound to the abdomen. We all came to life and excitedly rushed downstairs to see the patient. As it turned out, the patient, a man in his 20s, had suffered a knife wound, not a gunshot wound. He immediately recognized that I was foreign (like all the other Georgians--my half-Taiwanese look gives me away), and loudly greeted me and gave me his hand to shake. The patient was also very drunk (which is not unusual for these late night emergencies) and would not cooperate with the nurses or doctors, pushing them away if they tried to examine his wound. Finally he calmed down and our surgeon was able to examine him. The surgeon felt that it was necessary that he be opened up because there was a good chance that his large intestine had been perforated, and he was prepped for surgery. But he refused treatment. Knowing that he was drunk, the surgeon asked his family (who had arrived by then, not looking too happy) for permission. But they too refused permission. All of us medical personnel were quite frustrated with situation because we knew that if his intestines indeed were perforated, he could develop the very dangerous peritonitis. The only reason for denying surgery (and it's a pretty good one) I can think of is that the family is afraid of the cost of surgery (very few people are insured in Georgia), and are hoping that he didn't suffer any internal damage. There being nothing more we could do except monitor him, we moved him up to the 6th floor. I won't be surprised if he'll have to have surgery soon.

By the time we returned to the 6th floor it was already 3 am. Exhausted, I grabbed a blanket and fell asleep in one of the unoccupied hospital beds. I woke up at 8 and groggily walked into the nurses station to find Nino bright and ready as ever--she's a pro at this. As tired as I am now, the experience was thrilling and I'll doubtless spend more nights at Ghudushauri.

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