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The Doctor’s Passionate Name Calling

The Doctor’s Passionate Name Calling


From the very first I liked him. Paul was a bouncy, broad-smiling five-year-old, trusting and innocent. Born with a D-transposition of the great vessels, he had undergone a Senning repair not long after birth. All had been well for years, when suddenly he would feel a pounding in his chest and then lose consciousness. The episodes were becoming more frequent and lasting longer. Through Holters and EP study, we found he had atrial flutter and sick sinus syndrome. We placed a pacemaker and started him on drug therapy. The episodes stopped.

Young Paul soon became my favorite patient. I looked forward to his visits, where he would jump into my arms, hug me, and kiss me on the cheek. He would present me with pictures he had painted, and I would present him with a pen or mug advertising some product. “How’s my little buddy?” I would ask as he charged into the clinic. “How’s my big buddy?” he would respond as he bounced into my arms.

Then one morning, when Paul was seven, I received a stat call to the emergency room. Paul had collapsed at school; a paramedical squad was bringing him in. He was in full arrest. I was there the moment he arrived.

The code team, with me directing, worked like a well-oiled machine. Everything went like clockwork, except that Paul wasn’t coming back. As the moments wore on I began to feel a growing sense of desperation, which shortly became a sense of panic. I ordered more magnesium to be given. As CPR continued on and almost an hour had passed, my thoughts began to run wild. “Oh G‑d,” I pleaded in my thoughts, “Please not this one. Not him.” I began screaming in my mind, “Paul, don’t die!” Suddenly, without even realizing it, tears welling up in my eyes, I was screaming out loud, “Paul, don’t die! Oh, please don’t die!”

The code team was shocked at my outburst, and one of my colleagues put his hand on my shoulder, saying, “I think I better take over.” Yet no sooner had the words left his lips when someone shouted, “Hey, there’s a rhythm!” We looked at the monitor. Slowly at first, then with increasing frequency, QRS complexes started to appear. “There’s a pulse!” one of the residents cried out. “I’ve got a pressure!” said another. Within moments, his vital signs had stabilized. Then, for what seemed like an eternity, no one spoke, me staring at Paul, and they staring at me.

Paul began to move and to gag against the endotracheal tube. He opened his eyes, turned his head, and looked straight at me. The head nurse gasped, dropped her clipboard to the floor, and made the sign of the cross. The resident who had first felt a pulse, a young Arab, looked pale, and uttered “Allahu Akbar” (“G‑d is great”), while my colleague muttered over and over, “My G‑d, my G‑d . . .” I took Paul’s hand, leaned over to kiss his forehead, stroked his hair with my hands, and wept.

Shortly thereafter he was moved to the ICU, extubated, and made a full recovery. For the next several weeks I was the focus of a number of good-natured jokes, the principal one being that before anyone could end a code they had to page me to come and yell at the patient not to die. After a while, people began to forget the event. After all, they said, it had just been coincidence, the code team had done well, the drugs just needed some time to work. Perhaps, perhaps . . . But those of us who were there will somehow remember it differently.

I spoke with Paul that next day after the code. He was still groggy, yet hugged me tightly. I asked if he could remember anything that had happened. He sat still for a moment, collecting his thoughts. “It was dark, and I was floating, like I was underwater or something. I wanted to move, but I didn’t know where.” He paused for a moment. “Then I heard someone calling my name, and then I was moving toward it, and it got lighter and lighter.” His little-boy eyes stared deep within me. “It was you who called me, wasn’t it?” “Yes, Paul,” I replied, “It was me.” “We’re still buddies, right?” he asked. “We’re still buddies,” I said, and held him tight.

That was all many years ago. Most of the people who were there that day have moved on to other positions, other places. But Paul and I are still here, and we’re still buddies. He has blossomed into the fullness and energy of young manhood, while the lines on my face have grown deeper, and my hair continues to turn gray.

When I saw him last in the clinic we spoke of cars, colleges and careers. He proudly announced to me he would choose a pre-med program. “How did you happen to choose that?” I inquired. “Oh,” he replied, “Let’s just say it’s a calling.” And at that, we both laughed . . .

By Blair P. Grubb, M.D., Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, Ohio.
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Mrs. Chana Benjaminson via August 1, 2011

Fiction Thanks for your comments, this article is in the 'Fiction' section, it is clearly labeled as such on the top of this page, as well as on the column on the right. Reply

YH July 31, 2011

Fiction I was just made aware, by someone who read the article, that this is fiction! I wish you would display that information more prominently

As you can see from previous comments, people do not realize this is fiction. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma July 26, 2011

miracles do happen and sometimes... G_d is so visibly listening. You put all the passion of yourself into the desire for this young boy, not to be taken so soon. This delightful child you had come to appreciate and love. In a way, you had a "heart attack" in the crucible of the moment.

What is so beautiful cannot be denied. Others were present. They are witnesses.

There are times we see so clearly the Hand of what is Divine, moving through our lives, and in other times, we are left bereft, but this does not mean that what is hidden, what is unseen, in not always "on the scene", and I do feel, we are all of us, on a learning curve that will bring us, each in our own way, to a profound realization of the immanence of G_d in every single life.

Imagine, no blade of grass is unaccounted for. Imagine that immensity if you can.

I took a walk in the Rockies years ago and looked down. So many feet had gone this way, and yet the grass underfoot, had not been destroyed, not trampled down. Now why was this? In a flash I knew. Reply

Janet McCrory, Ar/USA February 12, 2009

Story Dr. Grubb, I was moved by this inspirational story. If, in fact y you do see this, and I really hope you do, I sincerely pray that you will bestow the same caring and miracle on a dear lady who will be on her way to see you on Fri. She has 3 wonderful little girls who need her and she needs you. May God be with you as you treat and try to help her. Reply

Donna Gallagher San Luis Obispo, CA USA May 9, 2008

I would like to read your story at my son's graduation of medical school party. He is going to become and emergency room physician and he will be very moved by your experience. Reply

Anonymous UK March 20, 2007

What a beautiful article. It goes to show how much it matters that we call out sincerely to Hashem to help us. Reply

Renee Price March 9, 2006

Dr Grubb,
I don't know if you will see this, but I hope you will. As I read the story I could see you working on this child, and I couldn't help but weep. You are the most brilliant person I have ever met, and what's even more impressive is the genuineness of your heart. It's very rare to find a physician who truly cares about their patients. I am fortunate to have a few. You are what every physician should strive to be.
with love, Reply

Anonymous January 26, 2006

hmmm....reminds me of something A very touching article... however no one noticed that this needed just a tiny bit of backround music... I would choose the "Atheists Convention in LA" by Journeys... when the child came back to life everyone remembered the creator before they were just concentrated on their own skill. Reply

Naomi brooklyn, ny April 28, 2004

wow A true 'calling' to the importance of a name and how it so very much is what we are! Reply

Anonymous Vilnius, Lithuania April 27, 2004

Periodical Yes, buddy, we are one body and one soul... Reply

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