【醫病平台】醫院裡不可或缺的存在!美國麻醉科醫師照顧新冠肺炎病人的內心世界

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我是個不可或缺的工作者。我從未理解自己有多麼不可或缺,也未曾如此描述自己,直到冠狀病毒大流行。數百萬計的人們因為居家隔離的規定而無法出門工作,然而我必須如此:我是個麻醉科醫師。當我穿越檢疫站,與其他不可或缺的工作者走入醫院時,我想起了我的單親媽媽在我與姐姐小時候所灌輸給我們的觀念。當我們在一片漆黑中,無法付出電費時,她說:「不想過這種日子的話,就好好接受教育。」

我們從未無家可歸或飢腸轆轆,然而我們的公寓狀況並不好——牆壁滿是坑洞、在樓下的女子被強暴後加裝在後窗外的鐵桿。我的母親並未向房東抱怨,她教我們:「絕不要開口求援,世界不是為了救你而存在的。」若我沒有足夠的錢買公車票,我也不曾開口祈求他人施捨。從小,我便靠著裝信和當保姆賺錢。

另一方面,我亦有著難以置信的多采多姿豐富童年。我的母親是一位服裝設計師,因此我曾在排演時從劇院的舞台側面觀賞過《厭世者》(莫里哀)。我也鍾情圖書館。雖然我害怕圖書館員,但那是一個放學後能夠安全待著的地方。安全,是除了賺得溫飽之外另一個我反覆學習的人生課題。在家裡,我與姊姊會將從圖書館借來的書在地上排成一列,假裝一越過便會落入深淵。但我們知道—或至少相信——那深淵並不存在

當我的母親說「受教育吧」,我聽從了。我進入了一所傑出的公立高中,整個費城最優秀的孩子都來就讀的重點學校。大學時,我獲得了全額獎學金攻讀生化。我原本預計進攻博士學位,然而,在某個暑假工讀時,我認識了一位博士後研究員,他已到達我認知裡的教育巔峰。他告訴我,明年他將失業。這讓我大吃一驚。從那刻起,我知道我必須尋找新方向,找個能永遠不愁沒工作的領域。

同一年稍晚,當我行經宿舍外某個據說要成為《愛情故事》的電影拍攝場景時,我忽然頓悟了。每個人都會生病,即使是愛情故事的女主角艾里‧麥克洛也一樣。若我成為醫生,我總會有工作的。發現新大陸啦!當然,在面試醫學院時,我無法明說我的動機。就算我再熱愛科學,我知道促使我選擇這條路的原因是我知道我永遠有工作。

時間快轉過數十年醫學院與麻醉生涯。雖然承擔著壓力造成的心理健康風險以及無數種有點小傷殘就能讓麻醉科醫師一無是處,但我每天都有著安全又保固的工作(媽,你一定很驕傲!)如今,這份工作的安全性也變了。

穿上加強防護的個人裝備,我檢視這些在我將進行的呼吸道處置時(這使得病毒更加容易傳播)保護我的堡壘。我短淺而費力的在N95口罩和面罩裡用嘴呼吸,在不透氣層與雙層手套的重重阻礙下緩慢的移動我的四肢,彷彿月球漫步。我大聲地請護理師離開房間,而有時我必須扯開嗓門才能讓呼吸治療師聽到。我俯視著驚恐—或極度驚恐—的病人。我是他們最後一個見到的人,在我給予麻藥並在在他們聲帶之間放入一根塑膠管子之前。

「我要給你一種會很想睡覺的藥」我說,「也會從氣管內管給你幫助你呼吸的藥。」

「我們會好好照顧你的。」

這些話,在情非得已的大吼下顯得格外苛刻。

回首過往,我才了解,在愛滋、SARS、MERS和伊波拉病毒的疫情下,我曾經是個不可或缺的工作者。但因為我所居住的地方、不多的暴露狀況,以及這些病毒的傳播方式,我並不像現在一樣總是恐懼相伴。

自古以來就有著飛機機長與麻醉科醫生的類比;我們將起飛和著陸和麻醉的各個階段相比。這樣的比喻是有好處的——這也是為何原本為機師訓練而設計的模擬與溝通訓練,現在已成為麻醉教育的標準程序。不過,兩者之間有個相當大的差異:假如墜機,機師也難逃一劫;而麻醉要是出了錯,只有病人會死去。

當大聲的急診呼叫從天而降時,作為新冠肺炎呼吸道小組成員的我,在抵達急診前抓起我們裝在專屬行李箱裡的工具、回覆小組成員的簡訊、並戴好我的N95口罩和護目鏡—剩下的器具必須在病人候診區外先包覆並檢查好—我深切的感受到(幾乎是全身上下的每個細胞都感受到),如今一切都變了。在新冠肺炎的肆虐下,我有可能會死。若我把病毒帶回家,可能會害死我摯愛的人。這,就像是一場緩慢,卻無可避免的飛機失事。

疫情中的某天,一位比我年輕的同事(事實上現在所有人都比我年輕)來找我。他告訴我自己的心跳快到每分鐘130下,但除此之外沒有不舒服。他的體溫、心律、血氧、和血壓都沒事。我告訴他:「沒事的,回家、喝點水然後好好休息。我會照顧你的病人。」他回家後心跳便恢復正常了。這是焦慮,不是病毒。這種焦慮程度在新冠肺炎爆發之前從未發生在他身上。不只是病毒威脅著我們,恐懼也是。

直到現在,我還未認真思考過成為不可或缺的工作者的危險。但是我的母親讓我擁有應付大量壓力的餘裕。她教會我我是被愛的。也許,看著她獨自撐過這一切,她教會我不要重蹈她的覆轍。她教會我活到老學到老,而我從同事身上學到向他人尋求幫助這一點,是我人生中最無價的一課。示弱無妨,告訴賣公車票的老師自己沒有足夠的錢也無妨。

我從這次疫情學到的是:我們榮辱與共。我們都是被需要的。在這世界上我們並不孤單。此外,開口求援—尤其你是個不可或缺工作者時—絕對是件不可或缺的事。

ESSENTIAL (By Audrey Shafer)

I am an essential worker. I just didn’t realize how essential I was, and never would have described myself that way, until the coronavirus pandemic. Millions cannot go to work due to shelter-at-home rules, but I have to: I’m an anesthesiologist. As I pass through the checkpoint to enter the hospital with other essential workers, I am reminded of what my single-parent mother instilled in my sister and me when we were little. While we sat in the dark, unable to pay the electricity bill, she said: “If you don’t want to live like this, get an education.”

We were never homeless or hungry, but the apartment was also not well maintained, with holes in the plaster, and bars on the back windows after the woman who lived on the floor below us was raped. My mother never complained to the landlord – she taught us “Never ask for help, the world is not here to help you.” If I didn’t have enough money for a packet of bus tokens, I was not to ask anyone for a handout. At a young age, I stuffed envelopes and babysat to earn money.

On the other hand, I had an unbelievably rich childhood – my mother was a costume designer and I saw

The Misanthrope and Endgame from the wings of the theater during dress rehearsals. I also loved the library. Even though I was afraid of librarians, the library was a safe place to go after school, and safety, besides a livable wage, was another lesson drilled into me. At home, my sister and I played a game with our library books, placing them along the floor and pretending that if you stepped off them, you sank into a watery abyss. But we knew, or at least we believed, the abyss wasn’t real.

When my mom said get an education, I listened. I went to an outstanding public high school – a magnet school that drew the brightest kids from all over Philadelphia. I attended college on full financial aid and majored in biochemistry. I planned to get a Ph.D. but during a summer work-study job, I met a post-doc – someone who already had achieved what I was convinced was the pinnacle of education. He told me he didn’t have a job the next year. This blew my mind. In that moment, I knew I needed to seek a new direction, something where I could always have a job.

Later that year, I had an epiphany while walking outside my dorm at a site rumored to be a film location for Love (‘means never having to say you’re sorry’) Story. Everyone gets sick, even Ali MacGraw’s character. If I became a physician, I’d always have a job. Eureka! Of course, in medical school interviews, I couldn’t come clean about my reasons. As much as I loved science, I knew I had chosen this path because I felt I would always be employed.

Yet, at medical school, something changed. Love happened in an unlikely setting. I felt strangely fatigued during my anesthesiology elective, but enjoyed the people and culture of this hidden part of medicine. Delirious and febrile from mononucleosis-induced hepatitis, which I did not initially know I had, I fell deeply in love with the quirky, fulfilling specialty of anesthesiology.

Fast forward through decades of academic anesthesiology practice – and, despite risks to mental health from stress and the myriad ways in which a minor disability could render the anesthesiologist useless, I had (you’d be proud, mom!) a safe and secure job every day of my life. But the job and its safety have changed.

Donning enhanced personal protective equipment, I check the barriers protecting me as an anesthesiologist during and after the airway procedures I will perform - procedures which make the virus even more contagious. I mouth breathe, pant really, in my N95 mask and hood, and, encumbered by impermeable layers and double gloves, move my limbs slowly as if I was in a phony moon landing scenario. I loudly ask the nurse to leave the room; sometimes I have to shout to be heard by the respiratory therapist. I look down at my frightened or too-far-gone-to-be-frightened patient. I’m the last person they will see before I push sedatives and place a plastic tube between their vocal cords. “I’m giving you medicine to make you very sleepy,” I say. “Medicine to put in a breathing tube to help you breathe. We will take good care of you.” It sounds harsh because I have to speak so loudly.

I understand, retrospectively, I was an essential worker through HIV/AIDS, SARS, MERS and Ebola. But because of where I live, my limited exposure, and how these diseases are transmitted, I never felt the fear that is my steady companion now.

There is a longstanding analogy involving airline pilots and anesthesiologists, which compares take-off, flight, and landing to stages of an anesthetic. There are benefits to the analogy – it’s why simulation and communication training, developed for pilots, is now standard in anesthesiology education. There is a big difference, though: if the plane goes down, the pilot dies too; but if the anesthetic goes awry, only the patient dies.

As another overhead code call to the emergency room blares, and I, on the COVID airway team, grab equipment we pack in wheeled suitcases, respond to texts from team members, and don my N95 and eye protection before hitting the ER – the rest of the equipment will need to be donned and checked outside the patient bay – I realize, almost cellularly, that things are different now. With COVID-19, I could die. Or I could cause my loved ones to die if I bring the virus home. It would be like a slow but inevitable plane crash.

A younger colleague (and now they are all younger) came up to me one pandemic day. He said his heart rate was 130 but he otherwise felt fine. His temperature, heart rhythm, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure were fine. I told him, “It’s okay, go home, drink some water and relax. I’ll do your case.” He went home and his heart rate normalized. It was anxiety, not virus. This level of anxiety would have never happened to him pre-COVID. It’s not just the virus that threatens all of us, it’s also the fear.

Until now, I hadn’t truly thought about the danger of being an essential worker. But my mom equipped me to deal with enormous stress. Taught me I was loved. And maybe, in watching her go it alone for so many years, taught me to live a life different than hers. She taught me to be a lifelong learner, and what I learned from my colleague, to seek help from others, is one of the most valuable lessons of my life. It’s okay to be vulnerable, it’s okay to tell the teacher selling bus tokens you don’t have enough money.

What I learned in the pandemic is this: we are all in this together. We are all needed. None of us is alone in this world. And asking for help, especially if you are an essential worker, is, ultimately, the essential thing to do.

Audrey Shafer, MD, is a Stanford Professor of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain medicine, the Director of the Medicine and the Muse program and the Co-Director of the Biomedical Ethics and Medical Humanities Scholarly Concentration. She is an anesthesiologist at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

(原文出自https://med.stanford.edu/anesthesia/community/arts-and-anesthesia-soiree/covid-19-highlights.html)

※本文轉載自:元氣網醫病平台

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