Code 3 for cardiac arrest.
A 97-year-old woman has collapsed in the backyard. She’s in asystole. Her daughter is with her, standing quietly nearby as we start the resuscitation. She watches as the first several compressions are followed by the familiar disgusting cracking sounds coming from her sternum. She watches as we intubate her. She watches as we start an IV and push drugs.
She was a healthy and independent old woman, but at 97 it’s not difficult to imagine that she lived a full and happy life and that she was loved by her family. Do we stop? Do we transport? Should we even have started in the first place? Would she have preferred to just die, right there at her home, with her ribcage still intact?
Life is funny, as it always is. More than 10 minutes into the code, she goes into VT, still pulseless. And then after a couple of shocks, a narrow-complex not-too-fast tachycardia. Without a pulse. Or maybe there is a pulse. Shit, is it my finger’s pulse?
No, it’s getting more palpable. BP 100/62. Fixed and dilated.
We just prolonged her death.
Or, we gave her family a chance to say goodbye at the hospital.