Wednesday, November 25, 2009

lift me up

getting things done in south africa is subject to numerous unique frustrations, some of which i might have allured to in the past. one such typical case had to do with the lifts (elevators) in the old academic hospital in pretoria.

the old academic hospital was made many years ago. then over time as medicine advanced it got bigger in increments. finally it was a poorly designed conglomeration of buildings with multiple small wings all connected with sometimes tiny corridors. over and above that the eastern half of the hospital was totally different. it was a single story sprawling mass of wards, all opening to the outside world. the theaters were on the second story in the western half of the hospital. to get a patient to theater from casualties therefore you needed to take the lifts.

the hospital had a total of ten lifts, a few for each section of the strangely laped together place, but, as is typical of the maintenance ethic in south african state hospitals, only one lift worked at any given time. this added a unique aspect to an already high stress resus effort in casualties.

so generally in the high stress resus efforts, when you get to the exciting stage when you rush the patient to theater with all the fanfair usually only seen on american television medical dramas, one of the things that must be added to the mix is the identifying of the working lift. at this stage, what is required is to send three students ahead to the different lift areas to identify the working lift and to summon said lift. he then was required to shout down the passage to the other students that he had the lift. they, in turn, would relay the message to us and we would go directly towards that lift. i would always stay with the patient, usually bagging the patient with an ambubag.

after this usually the operation itself could not really deliver any more stress than had already been experienced.


UnDead Doctor said...

I can sympathise with you on the lift (elevator) issue. I once got stuck in a lift with an ICU patient I was bagging at the time, on the way to the CT scanner.. It took at least 20 mins before help was summoned, and they were able to get the door open! I can tell you, it was not a pleasant experience!

StorytellERdoc said...


Great site. Really enjoyed your latest post and going through some of your older ones. Nice job.

Just started my own blog and I'm enjoying the various sites.

Will follow

Jabulani said...

My daughter had 2 surgeries early this year. There were 6 lifts to choose from in the hospital where she was having her surgery (an hour away from us). We too had to play "Eeny Meeny Miney Oooh, this one here"!! An added complication was that 3 of the lifts were for patient use only, which made it interesting when all 3 visitor lifts were Out of Order one well as 1 of the patient lifts and a very full theatre list!! At least the stairs were in working order; just 5 long flights of them!

Her second operation was only a 20min procedure to remove some wires. We got stuck in a lift going back to the ward after we dropped her off at theatre. I remember thinking that given the horror stories I've heard about hospital lift maintenance, my daughter would be coming round faster than I would be coming out of this lift. Confined spaces don't bother me, but the thought of not being there when she resurfaced did begin a bubbling in my gut that was almost roiling by the time the lift restarted some 10 mins later. I should have known that we'd get called back down to theatre to collect her just as we walked back onto the ward! The procedure went a lot quicker than they'd anticipated. On the return journey, the nurse and I opted for the stairs - 3 flights this time. I had visions of having to walk my groggy daughter back up to the ward to avoid getting stuck a second time!!