A break in my busy work and renewed social life in Boston has finally brought me back to the now barren wasteland that has been my blog the past few weeks! My recent switch to night shift, as well as the onslaught of new residents with little knowledge of medical testing, has proven to be a challenge.
A night from a couple of weeks ago has now been inducted into my list of top 5 stories as a medical technologist. At the time it was more terrifying than I can describe as my coworker and I scrambled to control the situation without guidance from our managers and directors, deep asleep at 2 am. It began as a simple phone call that my coworker, F, answered about a patient specimen sent for malaria smears. Suddenly F stood up quickly hanging up the phone, bag of tubes in hand, and a look as though he’d just been slapped in the face. I stopped in my tracks and asked what the call was about, worried something had been reported incorrectly.
“It was the MD…He suspects this patient has Ebola…”
You know that moment in a movie when the music stops and the camera zooms focus on a distraught character? Yep, that happened. We both stared at each other in silence until the gravity of the situation sunk in. I must have responded with a few choice words along the lines of, “Are you serious?!” Followed by checking the patient name….a name that I remember from running samples an hour ago….For those that don’t know me personally let me explain how horrifying this situation was. I have a clear memory of my high school biology teacher, Mr. Bug, telling us all about how serious Ebola was. How the virus could destroy you from the inside out, the innocent victim thinking that they had contracted a self limiting flu. Then as the sickness worsened and the virus attacked the internal organs the individual would run to the bathroom only to “shit out their intestines instead and die before ever leaving the toilet.” It was pretty graphic and clearly scarred me for life.
Case in point, Ebola terrifies me.
Now that you are fully acquainted with my worst nightmare I can skip over the hours of panicked conversations, cold sweats, and irrational thoughts of the CDC busting through the doors at any moment (I am also in the midst of reading The Strain, which clearly benefited this situation). Needless to say the lab director was woken at 3 am and all samples were sealed into bags under a hood. The patients travel history and flu like symptoms were looming over our heads until I checked to see if the flu test had actually been ordered and done. It was and it was positive.
As a somewhat type A I can certainly relate to being very cautious when it comes to testing, but next time newbie Doctor….you should wait for the flu results before breaking all hell loose in the lab.