Home > September 2009 > It’s a small world-twice this week

It’s a small world-twice this week

September 20, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s been a strange week alright.

Yesterday, I worked an overtime shift in the Childrens Hospital-my full time job is in a Peds clinic. I was talking to a doctor I hadn’t seen in awhile out in the hall, and then entered the room of one of my patients to check on her.  Her mother said to me “That’s Dr. R.  He was my doctor when I was 9 years old.  I had meningococcal meningitis, and was in the hospital for a month.  My brother had it too, but he died”. I asked her if her brother’s name was Paul, and sure enough, it was.

It was 13 years ago and I was working in the clinic evening shift on a Friday in July, when an adolescent came in to be checked out (we have a lot of patients referred to us for acute care problems, as well are open 7 days a week as well as evenings, and we are on the campus of a large medical center).  The story was that his sister was in the Peds ICU with suspected meningococcal meningitis. He was mentally delayed, and without knowing a baseline, it was initially difficult to get a good read on his neurological status, but that changed quickly.  I had a difficult time drawing his blood (I’m usually very good at that), because his blood pressure was lowering.  We did a spinal tap, and in the short time he was in the clinic, he became more drowsy, and upon leaving, he started with petechiae and had a BP of 70’s/30’s.  He had meningococcal meningitis and sepsis (bacteria in his bloodstream).  He died early Sunday morning.

The 2nd “small world” incident was through my wife Jackie.  In order to understand this one, I’ll explain my transplant.

The transplant coordinator called me on a Friday night with an offer for a kidney (my 7th such call).  The only information I got was that a 16 year old girl had been on life support for a drug overdose, and had been in a long term treatment facility for adolescents with substance abuse problems.  (he also gave me other info, such as that her labs were good, etc).  I accepted the offer, and had the transplant the next evening after dialysis.

When Jackie was making phone calls to tell everyone the happy news, my roommate from college told her that there was an article about this incident in the local  newspaper (he was home visiting his family).  It gave other details, such as the specific company whose facility she was in, and what had happened (her and another girl were taken to the dentist, the worker taking them had a bottle of pain killers in her purse, they stole them, took the pills when they got back, were found barely breathing, and taken to the hospital).

Jackie is a Special Ed teacher, and she has an aide in her classroom that was recently hired.  On Friday, he was telling her who he previously worked for, and she mentioned to him about my transplant, as well as the circumstances behind it.  Here, he was working in the same group home at the same time that my donor was there, and apparently heard that her organs were donated (but obviously didn’t know to whom).

The right place, the right time, and the right conversations lead to these “small worlds”.  What are the chances?

(I changed the patient’s name to breach of confidentiality)

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