Working a person short again this evening. So much to do and not enough people to do it--the state of healthcare in our country. Medicine dictated by insurance. No time to talk to the patient, learn their needs. Waiting for a water pitcher to be refilled or a bedpan takes an eternity. Might have to skip a few patients this evening. Must triage like in the emergency room. Do the patients most in need of your services first, the asthmatics and the COPDers. Then do the others, if there is time. Supper seems so far away.
Dr. Boley, a cardiologist, walks down the hall. Wants to know if I can assist with a cardioversion, an add-on to the schedule. Room 4, down the left hallway to the back of the lab. "I'll be there in about 10 minutes," I say in a positive tone, not really as upbeat as I sound. That's just one more thing I have to do. Can't triage a doctor's request. Wouldn't want to refuse Dr. Boley anyway. Young and energetic! Works late into the night like you. Listens to your assessment. Team player. Friendly. Dedicated. The patient waiting to be shocked will be in good hands.
I've seen it many times. There will be a painful moan and the patient will sit up in bed. The voltage is quick from the pads to the cardiac muscle, like a bolt down Ben Franklin's kite string. The heart is once again back in rhythm. They usually don't remember the procedure or the pain.
The patient is a young man, mid 30s at most. "Only four percent body fat," the nurse tells me. Athletic. She is quite impressed. The name, on the chart catches my eye. R. STOVER. I suddenly become deaf to the nurse's small talk.
"My grandmother was a Stover," I informed the drowsy patient.
"Maybe we have the same grandmother," he said.
I knew that wasn't the case, but continued the interrogation. "Where are your Stovers from?" I asked.
"West Virginia," he answered, his words becoming slow and deliberate.
There is little time now. I must act fast. My follow-up question must be quick. I have to get his reply before he goes under, while he is still coherent, before the nurse finishes pushing the medication into the port. He is an outpatient and I may never see him again.
"Mine are from Raleigh County. Where are yours from?" My words are fast, fueled by the rush of adrenaline. We may be kin.
"Beckley," he said, the final word before succumbing to the medication.
It only took one jolt, for each of us. His was high voltage, the current needed to convert a heart back to normal sinus rhythm. My shock was at how quickly my stress disappeared. The force was generated by a common surname and a patient with roots in the same county. Genealogists might call it the power of a cousin.