I have the rare and distinct honor of working in the ICU of one of Chicago's most prestigious and longest-standing hospitals. Don't get me wrong, I busted my backside getting here, with a large helping of luck along the way. When I started this past February, I noticed a nice change of pace in the orientation process. There was a clever mixture of history in with the standard Rules and Regulations type stuff, just enough to keep my interest. One bit of information I found particularly interesting was that our hospital had undergone many changes in the unit structures before reaching it's current layout. As a matter of fact, before we built a dedicated children's hospital next door, our current Med/Surg floor fulfilled the Peds role.
On our last day of orientation, right before our short Friday came to an end, our education liaison came in to deliver one additional little nugget of lore to our information-beaten brains. Maybe she was trying to see who was paying attention, or maybe it was a reward for those who possessed the cognitive fortitude to make it through those last five minutes...I'll never know. She came in to tell us a story, one that had been developing over the last 40 some years. It was the story of a little girl, her name since forgotten, who once called that eighth floor pediatrics wing home, room 827 to be exact. She was in for something common at the time, although the story-teller didn't know exactly what. This little girl was loved by the whole unit, because no matter how sick she got, she always just wanted to play. The doctors would tell her, "Now you need to stay in bed, that's the only way you will get better" and the nurses would always find her by the window, sitting on the ledge, begging for them to come play with her.
One cold November night, an extra chill blew through that dusty unit as the cries of a young mother rang throughout the halls. It was the girl, she had succumb to her illness. The nurses, orderlies and physicians all knew it was coming, but they never expected tonight would be the night, and it broke their hearts.
Shortly thereafter the unit was shut down for remodeling. The peds unit was then moved to the other side of the hospital for it's eventual transition to the new children's building. In the old unit's place was a brand new, state-of-the-art Medical Surgical unit. Although the structure was still the same, the walls had been painted, and the amenities all updated. Shortly after the new unit opened, something very interesting started to happen. Stories started to spread of patients telling nurses of seeing a little girl near the window in their room, always followed by a sudden turn for the worst, ending in a code blue and ultimately their death. The stories were so regular, in fact, that the manager on that floor began keeping records of when the stories occurred.
Now, as an ICU nurse, I have a decent amount of brains in my head, even if I am relatively new. So, I took this story with a grain of salt. I knew it was just a neat old story, no matter how intriguing it seemed.
Then it came, my first day off orientation. A code blue was called through the overhead speaker during our pre-shift conference. Being the aggressive young (male) nurse that I am, I run to just about every code there is, and this was no exception. When I arrived at this one, it was pretty standard with nothing out of the ordinary. It was an 84 year old male with a surprisingly small health history, his heart had just seemed to give out on him. So, like most codes, we began compressions and started our ACLS protocol.
I have always been a compressions guy, never really getting into the charting of pushing meds during the code. At this particular time, we had just reached about 13 minutes of CPR when we regained a pulse, with me currently kneeling on the bed next to the patient for leverage. I knew better than to get down off the bed, since I already had established my positioning, so I sat and waited while the patient was assessed. Just then, as if someone flicked on the lights inside this old man's head, his eyes opened. Bright. Wide. He looked directly at me, perched over him like an ancient gargoyle. Then, defying medical possibility, he opened his mouth and said to me with a smile, "I'll come and play with you", then he turned his head, looked at the window, and his heart stopped.
We tried for at least 30 more minutes (the entire time with a my stomach in complete knots), but there was nothing we could do, he never regained a pulse. As part of the code paperwork, I was required to sign my name on the record sheet. I had noticed that someone left the room number off, so I called out, "Hey, what room is this anyway?", and at that moment everyone looked at me as if I should have already known, and at that moment I did...it was 827.