I lost my stethoscope.
I had it one moment, and the next, I didn’t.
I lose things all the time. In fact, I am a professional loser: as soon as I realize something is gone, I can stop in my tracks, and immediately trace it back to where I last saw it, and that way, I can usually recover…75% of the things I lose.
This time, I thought I knew where it was, but when I went to look, it wasn’t.
My stethoscope and I have been together for many years. It was given to me as a gift from my friends when I was a first year medical student, because I was the only one left who still hadn’t purchased it. Typical of me: why do now what you can put off until tomorrow?
I have tried to lose it, or it has tried to lose me, many times throughout the years, but both of us are very resilient and stubborn and we’ve always found our way back to each other.
One time, I lost it for a month and a half! I remember what happened: I was cardiology night float. It was 1 am. Suddenly, the operator called Dr. Kapil overhead to the heart failure unit. Dr. Kapil was a cardiology fellow, and cardiology fellows didn’t take inhouse call; obviously, he was not inhouse at 1 am. As the cardiology nightfloat, I figured something must be seriously wrong if they’re calling him–and overhead! So I walked over to the unit. Turned out, there was a patient with an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) who had gone into Vtach. There needed to be a code. But you can’t shock a patient with an LVAD because it will short circuit. You have to disconnect the lifeline and hand-pump the heart with a little rubber pump so that you can administer shocks in between. I shit you not. It’s a little rubber ball with two handles, looks like a thigh-master made for a munchkin. It’s a ridiculous looking thing, but it pumps the heart.
Anyway, I was first on the scene. This was around October of second year, which, on the grand scheme of things isn’t a very advanced point in my career. I immediately briefly went into Vtach myself, but snapped myself out of it, flung the stethoscope off to the side, rolled up my sleeves and surprised myself by knowing what to do, at least until the seniors got there to help.
So, the code ran for about 45 minutes, until we finally got enough amiodarone into the patient to convert him back into a sinus rhythm. The attending, whom I had on the phone, almost cried, and exclaimed: “Oh, thank the mother of god!!” Because if we were unable to do this, the patient would need an emergency bi-Vad, and that’s essentially a destination device. Like, Destination heaven. Celestial discharge.
At the end of it all, I couldn’t find my stethoscope. I looked and looked all around the room, all around the floor, and it just wasn’t there! I sent out emails (Lost pet!), and started counting days and calculating probabilities, or improbabilities, of my finding it. Finally I gave it up for gone, and I was very sad.
But then! A month and half later! A nurse paged me from the heart failure unit, and imagine my surprise. She told me that the patient we coded that night (who made it, by the way, but, in the eternal way of heart failure units, had not moved out of his bed in the last month in a half) got transferred to another room, and while they were cleaning up, they found the stethoscope lodged between his mattress and his siderail.
It was an emotional reunion.
That was a dramatic story. Not all stories were like that. Along the way, I’ve also had minor incidents when I left it in cafeterias, conference rooms, and procedure areas countless times, and have always found my way back to it.
But now it seems to be gone, and I left that hospital today, so I don’t have much hope that a month from now, when I come back, I’ll still find it.
It’s over between me and my stethoscope.
All good things must come to an end?