Editor’s note: Jennifer Reckrey is a family medicine resident in New York City. Each week while she was an intern, Dr. Reckrey recorded some of her experiences as a brand-new doctor. Today’s stories are from weeks number nine and twenty-five.
I dreaded my rotation in the Intensive Care Unit. Though all the tools to keep a body alive are right there, their continuous bells and beeps jangle my nerves. I’m always afraid that in this place I will be called on to act decisively and invasively. And my mind will go blank. I will hesitate, and that hesitation will make an already awful situation worse. But even more than that, I dreaded this rotation because I think of the ICU as a dead end–a place you don’t leave alive, or if you do, it’s as a shadow of your former self.
So when I met my first ICU patient–a sixty-year-old woman with metastatic lung cancer, intubated for respiratory failure after a routine chest-tube placement–I imagined the worst.
She was fully conscious and mentally sharp. For the first two days I cared for her, she was very stable. But she wasn’t improving–any time we turned down …