Treatment of Car Accident Victim with a Brain Injury

Leslie Asks:

My character has been in a car accident and sustained head damage (swelling to the brain)— is there a medical term for that? Also, the swelling becomes so bad the doctors have to remove part of her skull— is there a name for that? How long does that swelling usually take before it goes down so they can replace the skull? Does the character regain consciousness? I have her in an induced coma which I want her in for a while.

Jordyn Says:

Upon further clarification of this question from the author, she says there is not a significant description of the motor vehicle collision in the manuscript and the scene is being told from the POV of a nurse.

The brain swelling is called cerebral edema. Usually, if it’s a significant car accident then there is usually bleeding as well. This is why I ask about the car accident. It should be pretty serious.

A nurse will use language that a family can understand. So, I might actually avoid a lot of medical terminology when speaking to the family unless I also clarify what the words mean.

I might say something like, “Your mother (or whatever relation) has a lot of swelling in her brain as a result of the car accident. We call this cerebral edema.”

A craniectomy is where they remove a portion of the skull.

Peak brain swelling is generally 48-72 from the time of injury and diminishes from there. Induced coma is a reasonable medical scenario here.

Whether or not this patient regains consciousness is up to you as the writer. Statically, the odds are pretty low for her to be the same person she was before. If she does wake up, she’ll have extensive rehab needs for sure– but you could write it either way.

Best of luck with your story!

The Good Doctor is Bad Medicine Part 3/3

This is the third part of a series examining the medical aspects of ABC’s new medical drama called The Good Doctor which highlights the struggles of autistic surgical resident Shaun Murphy. You can read Part I and Part II by following the links.

Episode 2 has so many issues it’s taking me two posts just to cover it.

The other issue in Episode 2 is the care of a young girl with abdominal pain. Everyone but Dr. Murphy thinks this belly pain is caused by the girl’s parents’ divorce.

Issue #1: Ordering proper medical tests. One of the easiest things I feel like a medical show can get right is ordering the proper tests. Any medical consultant worth their salt should be able to assist the writing staff in this. For this patient, a child suffering abdominal pain, he orders a D-dimer, lactate, and amylase. Together, these tests make little sense. A D-dimer is used to look at blood coagulation. A lactate at how acidic the blood is. A lactate isn’t crazy, but a more applicable test for this girl would be what’s called a BMP or CMP— both of which are metabolic panels that look at the function of several organs in the abdomen. An amylase is okay as well— but drawn with other tests that make more sense. How about just a plain x-ray of her abdomen while we’re at it?

Issue #2: Going to a patient’s house. Despite the inappropriately ordered, fairly normal lab tests, the results bother Dr. Murphy so much that he goes to the patient’s house and insists on examining her. I cannot emphasize how much this would be frowned upon and I have personally never seen this happen. How would this be handled? First, simply a phone call to the family and request they come back to the hospital for further studies. If the situation is deemed serious enough, and the family cannot be reached by phone, involving law enforcement to help would likely be the next step.

Issue #3: Not calling an ambulance. When the girl is checked on, she is unresponsive and has vomited in her bed. Instead of calling an ambulance, Dr. Murphy insists that they take her by car. In an urban setting (in absence of a mass casualty situation), this is highly irresponsible. EMS response is generally very good and medical care can be started more quickly than driving a patient to the hospital. The episode proves my point when the girl becomes clinically more sick on the drive to the hospital and Dr. Murphy starts CPR. If EMS had been called to the house, this could have been prevented.

Issue #4: When to start CPR? In pediatrics, generally CPR is not started until the heart rate is under 60 beats per minutes. In this case, Dr. Murphy starts CPR for a weak, thready pulse. Looking up American Heart Association guidelines for pediatric CPR would be an easy way to figure out when CPR would be indicated.

Issue #5: Inaccurate medical portrayal of shock. When the 10 y/o girl arrives to the hospital, Dr. Murphy states, “Patient is a ten-year-old female with hypovolemic shock and bradycardia.” Hypovolemic shock is shock related to fluid losses, but seemingly this patient has vomited one time. Really not enough to set in shock in the older child. Also, the body’s response to hypovolemia is to increase the heart rate. The patient should be tachycardic. A pediatric patient can become bradycardic, or have very slow heart rate, in relation to shock, but it is a very late sign and I don’t think the medical history given on this girl is enough to warrant a code.

Issue #6: A surgical resident taking a patient to the OR. Keep in mind, Dr. Murphy is like on day #2 of the first year of his surgical rotation, yet he orders an OR, takes the patient to surgery, and is only interrupted by his attending when he’s about to make his first incision. Just no, no, no.

I think overall The Good Doctor has good intentions in looking at how people with special needs can operate in certain professions. However, don’t look at the first two episodes as any representation of good and accurate medical care.

There is always a way to maintain tension and conflict while still being medically accurate.

The Good Doctor is Bad Medicine Part 2/3

I’m continuing my evaluation of ABC’s new medical drama The Good Doctor. You can find Part I here. The series follows first year autistic surgical resident, Shaun Murphy, as he navigates his surgical residency.

The second episode sees Shaun begin his duties and he’s been accepted into the program, albeit with some outward disdain from some of the attending surgeons.

In the opening scene of this episode, a middle-age woman has had a CT of her abdomen that shows a large mass.

Issue #1: Morphine dosing. The patient’s initial dose of morphine is 10mg. This is a little on the high side. Generally, we’ll start with lower doses and work our way up. However, they distress the patient with news of her medical diagnosis and so the attending surgeon says to the resident, “Give her as much Morphine as she wants.” So the way we deal with patient distress is by overdosing them on narcotics? I don’t think so.

Issue #2: Reviewing medical tests in front of the patient. Two surgical residents and the attending surgeon pull up the CT results in front of the patient without having reviewed them first and the test shows a very concerning exam. Dr. Murphy diagnosis her with cancer, in front of the patient, based on this scan. This is reason #1 why you know what the patient is dealing with before you go talk with them. Nothing should be hidden from a patient, but also should the information be presented in a compassionate, informative way.

Issue #3: The definitive diagnosis of cancer can only be made by biopsy. Are some radiology studies highly suggestive of malignancy? Yes, absolutely. But always, the cells must be looked at for definitive diagnosis, which means a biopsy.

Issue #4: Supposedly, Shaun Murphy is crazy uber-smart despite his communication difficulties related to his autism, but he seemingly made it out of medical school without an understanding of what “scut work” is. Sure.

Issue #5: Nursing as boss. In one scene, a nurse is placed as Shaun Murphy’s “boss” to keep him from ordering unnecessary medical tests. Put simply, this is not nursing’s responsibly.  It is a nurse’s responsibility to protect patient’s assigned to her from unnecessary medical testing (or at least question the physician about tests that seem out of bounds), but never would a nurse be assigned to follow a resident around all day to keep tabs on him. This is the responsibility of the surgical hierarchy and they need to keep tabs on this resident. Also, this nurse seemingly works every area of the hospital from the ER to the PACU. This is also unrealistic.

Issue #6: Nurses are called by their first name— not “Nurse” and their last name. Again, can we get rid of this stereotype?

Issue #7: Lab delay in pathology results. Lab works very closely when surgeons are waiting for results with a patient on the table. These would be considered “stat” reads and would not be placed in the normal milieu of other lab tests.

Issue #8: Threats of violence are taken very seriously. Shaun’s response to the lab personnel not immediately reading the pathology slides is to verbally threaten to throw a rock through their window. This is completely unacceptable behavior, regardless of the autism diagnosis of the surgical resident, from any member on a hospital staff and would not be treated with a kind response (as in she smiles and concedes to his demands.) A statement made like this would receive disciplinary action.

Issue #9: These amazing medical centers cannot do amazing surgery. In this episode, the surgical team decides they must cut out the kidney in order to get a better look at the tumor. Fine, great. But why not reimplant it once the surgery is over?

There are so many issues with this one episode of The Good Doctor it deserves a Part III.

The Good Doctor is Bad Medicine Part 1/3

The Good Doctor is a medical drama that’s first season just started airing on ABC. Of course, anytime a new medical drama hits the airwaves I get messages from people curious about my opinion.

The drama focuses on first year surgical resident Shaun Murphy who has autism. I’ve watched the first two episodes and though the premise of the drama is mildly intriguing— I don’t find the medical aspects or interactions between the medical staff worthy enough to keep watching. Unless, I keep analyzing episodes for this blog. We’ll see.

Episode 1 features the fight of a hospital administrator to get him accepted into the program. On Murphy’s way to the hospital for seemingly his first day, of course, he saves a life at an airport.

A teen is showered with glass and suffers life-threatening injuries to the neck and chest. An older male, who identifies himself as a doctor, begins to render aid by putting pressure on the wound. The doctor says, “His jugular vein has been cut.”

Issue #1: Placement of direct pressure. Murphy chastises the older doctor for holding direct pressure improperly (for a pediatric patient) and for occluding the patient’s airway because of it. The doctor adjusts and the patient begins to breathe again. Truthfully, there are differences between the adult and pediatric airway, but I’ve never heard of adjusting pressure d/t anatomy. You have to put pressure on what’s bleeding. If that causes problems with the airway, then the patient requires intubation to protect the airway.

Issue #2: Doctors having sex in the call room. Can we please just get rid of this stereotype? Please, just please. There is never as much rampant sex as portrayed on TV in hospitals. In my almost 25 years of nursing, I’ve heard ONE rumor.

Issue #3: Airport Security. I cannot believe in this day and age that, regardless of what someone says, hospital security would allow anyone to grab a knife and run wildly through the airport without being arrested— even if a patient’s life is in danger.

Issue #4: EMS response. Considering this is an airport, the EMS response time is laughingly long.

Issue #5: Chest tube. Of course, Dr. Murphy places a chest tube in the patient as well as makes, MacGyver style, a chest tube drainage system. Once this is done, he triumphantly raises it above the patient and the patient dramatically improves. Just, no. Drainage systems should always be level or below the patient to drain. Never above. Like never. You can check out this nifty nursing video that explains just that.

Issue #6: Direct OR admission from the ambulance. The now stable patient is met by a surgical resident and goes straight from the ambulance to the OR. No, just no. First of all, why does a stable patient need to go to the OR? Secondly, everything first to the ER. The ER attending will make a decision to consult surgery and a plan will be made to take the patient to the OR.

Honestly, there’s more in this episode. Can we talk about the language the doctor uses to get consent? I’ll spare you until next post where I examine episode 2.

 

Don’t Miss Out!

Hello Redwood’s Fans!

I promise I’ll be getting back to my normal medical mayhem next week with an examination of the new ABC show The Good Doctor. Do I give it a thumbs up or thumbs down? Tune in next week to find out.

What I want to make sure you don’t miss out on is one amazing box set and two awesome giveaways.

The Kill Zone: Ten Deadly Thrillers box set (featuring myself and authors such as Robert Liparulo—one of my personal favorites— Christy Barritt and Patricia Bradley) price is going up to $5.99 in just four days. Right now, you can get it for $0.99! Please, please— don’t miss this amazing collection of brand new novellas. These will only be boxed together for a short time.

Also, there are TWO amazing Rafflecopter giveaways happening right now. The prizes are shown below. You can find BOTH of them by clicking this link and also this link. Both contests end October 7th, 2017 at midnight MST time.

Pediatric CPR: When to Stop?

Nothing probably tugs at the heartstrings more than thinking about a child dying. It’s not the way things are supposed to happen. We expect life to follow the natural order of things— the old die first. Parents should never bury their children.

Sadly, we know this reality is not true. The pediatric nurse understands and confronts this reality more often than most. Particularly nurses who work critical care, ER, oncology, and hospice.

A reader of this blog posed this question to me: How long will a nurse or doctor perform chest compressions on a pediatric patient? Is forty-five minutes too long or would they try longer?

This is a tough question and not so easily answered. There are really no hard and fast rules as to when CPR should be stopped and it depends a lot on the reason for the code (if known) and what types of signs the patient is giving us. For instance, just because a patient doesn’t have a pulse, doesn’t mean they don’t have electrical activity in the heart muscle. Some causes of a code are reversible, but it takes time to do so. Hypothermia might be a good example of this.

I’ve worked in both adult and pediatric critical care. What I’ve found generally is providers will run pediatric codes longer than adult codes even when chances are small to get a pulse back. No one wants to see a kid die— health care providers are no different. Plus, culturally, we resist death at every turn even though it is the course each of us will journey to.

However, I did come across this article that begins to address this concern. If we can teach how to resuscitate patients— should we also not teach providers when it is reasonable and ethical to stop such efforts?

1. Are there clinical features present prior to the code that are predictive of poor survival? For instance, in the adult patient some of these from the article included pneumonia, metastatic cancer, and low blood pressure. For pediatric patients, kidney failure and use of a continuous infusion of epinephrine are mentioned.

In the emergency department setting, we want to know what the patient’s initial heart rhythm was. If there was no electrical activity in the heart (terms such as asystole, flat-line, ventricular standstill) then chances of getting back organized electrical activity AND contraction of the heart muscle are low.

2. Is the patient receiving high quality CPR? This might seem like a no brainer. Of course, if the patient codes in the hospital, they must be receiving excellent CPR. What research shows is that this is not true and it is a big drive of many institutions to simply improve the quality of CPR. If I can ease your mind, many hospitals are improving CPR basics through high fidelity code labs, more frequent CPR check-offs, mock codes, and computer based CPR training that measures effectiveness of CPR and coaches the participant on how to improve .

What are some CPR pitfalls? Initiating CPR in a timely manner. Compressing deep enough and at the right rate. Not over or under ventilating the patient (both can actually cause problems). CPR is what we call a high risk, low yield procedure— meaning we don’t do it very often, but when we do we have to do it right. What you don’t practice frequently you don’t become adept at. CPR is no different.

Considering this, we look at how long the patient’s down time was. This refers to the time when the patient’s heart stopped beating to the time they got CPR. Trouble is, this might be relatively hard to determine. When was the patient last seen? Is the patient cold to the touch? Are their pupils fixed and dilated?

The good news for the writer is there is a lot of leeway in this area as far as how long a medical team might “work” on a patient. Factors can be given for both short and long resuscitation times.

The most important part is getting those factors medically correct.

What about you? Have you written a resuscitation scene into a work of fiction?

 

FIVE Amazing Book Contests

You might be thinking to yourself– just where has Jordyn been? It’s been close to three weeks since she’s posted anything! Well, I’ve been planning some amazing giveaways for you.

My latest novel, Taken Hostage, released earlier this month. The novel was inspired by two pioneering medical works. The first is the work that Duke Medical Center is doing using modified polio virus to treat very aggressive brain tumors. When I first saw this news story a few years back, I felt like this was unlike any other medical advancement I’d seen in my lifetime.

The second inspiration was based on the work of Italian physician Dr. Paolo Macchiarini who specializes in building tracheas (or windpipes) for patients. His work, and large inspiration for this book, was featured in a documentary by Meredith Vieira call A Leap of Faith.  Since the airing of the special, Dr. Paolo’s work has come under scientific scrutiny.  At the time of this special, he was literally the only hope for some people.

I thought to myself . . . what if the one doctor who can save your life goes missing? What would you do to save your family member? This is the question for bounty hunter, Colby Waterson, in Taken Hostage when maverick doctor, Regan Lockhart, pops up missing the day of his sister’s lifesaving surgery.

To celebrate the release of Taken Hostage— I’m participating in no less than FIVE contests to award prizes to readers. If you’re a book lover– you don’t want to miss out on these contests!

The first is a BookSweeps contest featuring two box sets geared toward lovers of inspirational suspense. The Grand Prize winner gets a Kindle Fire! Click this link to enter. There are some amazing authors in these sets including Robert Liparulo and Christy Barritt.

If you’ve followed my fiction novels, my entry into Kill Zone is titled Malicious Intent and features the first case detectives Nathan Long and Brett Sawyer ever worked together. I’ve been told by a few trusted readers that it’s my best work yet!

Kill Zone is currently on sale at the rock bottom price of $0.99! This price is going up October 8th to $5.99 and this box set will also only be available for a limited time so definitely act now. This contest ends today— Sept 25th!

The next two contests end Sept 30th. I’m part of a four book giveaway over on Susan Sleeman’s excellent website for thriller lovers called The Suspense Zone. Click here to enter that contest.  Also, I’m honored to be on Shannon Vannatter’s inspirational romance blog. Stop by and leave a comment on this blog post for your chance to win one print copy of Taken Hostage.

Now, for some uber amazing prizes. To further celebrate the release of Taken Hostage, I put together this Rafflecopter Giveaway that features, as the prize, this hand embroidered autumn bouquet (stitched by yours truly.)

To celebrate Kill Zone’s release on October 3rd— myself and the nine other awesome authors put together this Thriller Fest Giveaway. This, you definitely don’t want to miss out on. Five different prizes that total over $450.00! I kid you not. The bottom of this post has photos of all the prizes in this amazing contest.

Both of the Rafflecopter Giveaways end October 7th.  Don’t miss out!