Pulling the Plug.

Last night the family of the 19 year old boy I helped pull out of Green lake last week notified me that they were going to pull the plug.  They thanked me profusely.  They were so greatful for the few days they had to say goodbye.  A cacophony of emotions flooded over me.

I was spending the evening with my daughter last weekend at Green lake.  I heard a girl yell from the water that someone was drowning, then I saw her go under.  I swam out their and pulled her up.  There was another guy attached, thrashing around.  I grabbed her and him by an arm and swam them in.  Then to our horror, we realized there was another person out there.  Adrenaline.  Back out to the water.  Yelling.  Another swimmer brought the body to the surface.  Together we swam him to shore and began CPR.  I never got the other rescuer's name.

During the rescue I was acutely aware of time passing and how seconds suddenly had meaning.  I felt angry that the life guards were gone and with it the access to the automatic defibrillator they likely had.   As the seconds ticked away, internally I was in conflict:  I knew he was likely brain dead by this time (you have about 8 min, give or take some min dependant on water temp) and wished I could just gently let him die.  But I had about 50 people watching.  Kids.  My kid (she is fine).  At the same time I could not let him die in front of all these people.  I wanted to punch the guy recording me.  I wanted to scream.  I wanted to puke.

I felt embarrassed when I identified myself as a physician to the EMTs, they asked what kind.  A Naturopath.  Blank looks.  "Not a real doctor" emerged from my synapses.  I placed myself next to the EKG much to one of the EMT's annoyance...

The EMTs got there pretty fast, but it took awhile to get an airway established and a line.  All the while CPR continued.  The EKG showed a flat line the whole time.  Inside I wished they would stop and get the body out of here.  A shot of Epinephrine... A flutter on the EKG.. Atrial fibrillation... A min later a second shot of Epi... Heart beat!  I was shocked.  I did not think we would be able to restart his heart.  From the time we pulled the body from the water, the lights behind the eyes were gone... Inside I had already felt that his soul was on the way to a better place.  But now the body was alive again, sort of.

This is my worst night mare.  I am DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and not an organ donor because of this.  My family knows my wishes and I have had legal paperwork drawn up already outlining my wishes.  I felt incredibly guilty that I had put someone else in this position.  See the following for more info  http://thehealthcareblog.com/blog/2012/08/06/how-doctors-die/

Ironically, I made the call to the boys mother and did my best in very broken French and English with a translator to explain what happened and what and where Harborview was.  I put his two friends in a cab, paid for it and gave them all the food I had on me.  I was relieved to tell his mother he was alive... but what did that really mean?

I did not sleep a wink that night despite heavily medicating myself with natural sleep aids.  Those 12 minutes flashed back in full detail, smells and all... all night long.  I beat myself up over little details that likely would not have changed the outcome.  But maybe they would have..  I was driving myself crazy.  So this is what PTSD is...

The next day I went to Harborview and met the family.  His mother and I cried in each others arms.  I answered all their questions.  They answered some of mine.  I got to know who he was and how his family came to be in the U.S.  Heartbreaking. Her only child.  In between small seizures, I said goodbye to him.  No response.  I don't think the soul was in his body anymore.

This has been a real journey for me.  The last several months have brought me a lot of loss, an aspect of my health, my best friend, a lover, and an emotional journey back to a Lakota Sundance in South Dakota.  As the Beetles "Let it Be" blares away, I realize I am learning to let it be.  I feel broken, but I know "This too shall pass".  Accepting life as it is.  Messy and beautiful.  I don't feel like a hero.  Only God was at work there.  I was the tool.   I was not really aware of what was happening until it was over.  On automatic.  As I pickup the pieces and work through the emotions, I am greatful for the gift of life and all the wonderful people and events I have experienced.  Even this one as hard as it is.  I know my life is better and enriched because of it.  I trust in the "Great Mystery" as the Lakota put it.

A special thanks to Lauren Lake, Sean Bradley, Teresa Savarino, Stu Saunders, and David Radin for their roles in helping me to pick up the pieces and heal.  I love you guys.  Thanks to all who have compassionately listened to the story.  Thanks to the other rescuer, the EMTs, and the nurses and doctors at Harborview's MCICU.  Grateful for music that heals.  Just Grateful.

A memorial fund has been set up for Rubin Guehi at https://rubinguehi.com/  Please donate to the fund to help the family with funeral expenses and to take him back to France.