This medical scene was submitted by a fellow writer who wanted some critique and agreed to allow me to post my suggestions leaving her name off the piece. The scene begins with a victim of a motor vehicle collision coming into the ER. His car rolled several times during the accident. What follows is her scene. My thoughts will be in parentheses at the end of the sentence in red. I’m only going to comment on the medical accuracy. Grammar editing is not the focus.
Tony screamed out to God, and flung his hands over his face. Rough hands grabbed his hands as he tried to pry off whatever was smothering him. (This is good as patients often feel like an oxygen mask is smothering. Kids particularly aren’t fond of them.)
“Hey, take it easy. You’re all right. You need that oxygen.”
Tony opened his eyes, blinking rapidly in the bright lights. As his blurred vision came into focus, he tried to see who was holding his hands.
Blue scrubs. Dark face. The whitest of teeth. Name tag. Arnold.
Tony tried to speak, but his throat was dry. Arnold reached over, raised the mask on Tony’s face, and placed something cold and hard in his mouth. Making sure the mask was securely replaced, he sat back in his chair. (In the initial evaluation of a trauma patient in the ER, a patient is never given anything by mouth until it is ruled out whether or not they need surgery. The more the stomach is empty, the less likely the risk of aspiration during intubation. In this situation, aspiration would refer to inhaling vomit into your lungs while the endotracheal tube is placed. Aspiration can mean different things in the medical arena. And I also don’t know too many nurses who actually sit vigilant at a patient’s bedside.)
“It’s an ice chip. It’s all you can have right now.” (I know, we’re mean. But not even ice chips.)
Tony nodded his gratitude and slowly savored the small chip. It may have just been ice, but at that moment, it was like ambrosia to his parched throat.
Swallowing carefully past the pain in his throat, Tony lifted the mask and tried again. “Where am I?”
“You keep that mask in place. You can talk through it just fine.”
He waited until Tony complied before continuing. “You’re in the Regional Medical Center in San Jose.”
Arnold’s smile faded. “Yes. Doctor said you’re lucky to be alive.”
Tony nodded towards the container of ice. Arnold placed another chip in Tony’s mouth, replaced the mask, then set the cup where he could reach it on the bedside table.
“Where is the doctor?”
“I’ll go have him paged.” Arnold rose and left the room. (This is a situation where it is reasonable for a nurse to give the patient an update on his status and condition without needing to page the doctor. I may say something like, “Your leg is broken, but your other tests looks good. I’ll let the doctor know you’re awake and he’ll come in and talk things over with you in more detail.” Also, in the ER, doctors are generally present, and there may not be a need to have them paged. This can be very unit specific so you’d have some latitude as a writer.)
Tony surveyed his situation, beginning with his toes, and moving up to his hands. While he was achy all over, his feet and legs seemed to be unscathed. His chest and abdomen hurt, burning all the way through to his spine, and were heavily bandaged. (Saying his feet and legs are unscathed may be reaching a little. Remember, he rolled his car several times. At a minimum, there should be some bruising, cuts, or abrasions.)
His hands were bandaged but usable, and he took this opportunity to pop several chips into his mouth, crunching them to make them go down faster. Feeling with his hands, he knew his head was bandaged. Vaguely he remembered blood running into his eyes.
We’ll resume the analysis of this medical scene next post. Any other medical aspects you would change?