Hello and thank you for this blog. It’s a brilliant resource and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to reach out to a professional in this setting.
I have two scenarios in a novel I’m writing that I could use your help with.
First, a teenage boy is struck in the head with a baseball bat. He is knocked unconscious and falls into a coma. When he arrives in the ER, I would like some compelling dialogue between the first responders to convey his condition, rather than just typing it out in the slug lines. What are some of the measures that nurses and/or doctors would take in responding to this injury? Also, what type of jargon or verbiage would make this scene convincing to someone in the field?
Second, is the scenario where the doctor informs the parents of the same boy about his condition. In what setting would he/she do this? Or for that matter, who would be the person to inform the parents to begin with?
Thank you for taking the time to help writers do your profession justice.
Hi, Ari. Thanks for reaching out and all your compliments regarding the blog. I’m glad you’ve found it helpful.
Typically, when a patient arrives to the ER via EMS, they give a report on their patient when they get to the assigned room. In this case, it might be something like this:
“This is John Doe, age 17, struck in the head with a baseball bat at 1600 today. Pt with immediate LOC (loss of consciousness). Was unconscious upon our arrival. Responds only to pain. We started an IV, drew labs, and started normal saline TKO (to keep vein open). His Glasgow Coma Score is eight (this is bad). Vitals signs are as follows: Heart rate 100. BP 124/62. Respirations 16. Pulse ox 100% on 100% non-rebreather. Parents are here. No chronic illnesses. No drug allergies.”
The ER team will place him on a monitor, assess the status of his IV, and do a thorough physical exam of the patient including an extensive neurological exam. I would follow the link above and do some reading on the Glasgow Coma Scale and how it’s scored.
A Glasgow coma score of eight or less will likely lead to the patient being intubated because there is concern that he would not be able to maintain his airway.
Taking into consideration this patient’s mechanism of injury and the fact that he is unconscious, he would receive an expedited CT scan of his brain to look for injury— likely bleeding in this case.
Past this, it would be hard for me to talk to you about all the things the medical team would say. It’s your scene. If it is a compelling scene in the novel, I’d have a medical person review it.
Keep in mind the POV character you’re writing the scene from. If it comes from a medical person’s perspective, then the use of technical terms, etc is more warranted because they should sound like they know what they’re talking about. If the scene is from a lay person’s POV— then you can write more generally about the medical things being done.
Who informs the parents about their son’s condition? These days, parents are generally not separated from their child, even in instances where the child has lost their heartbeat. The parents likely followed the ambulance and would be updated upon arrival in the patient’s room. A nurse or a doctor can update the parents and give them the medical plan of care as outlined by the physician.
Hope this helps and happy writing!