Quick Action Saves Three Lives and Earns a Hug

Jeff Berger, MD, MBA Anesthesiologist, Washington, D.C.

Jeff Berger, MD

As a doctor, there’s nothing more rewarding than answering a call that results in a life saved, unless of course you’re confronted with the following situation…

As an anesthesiologist, I’m always on call for my patients while I’m in the hospital on the Labor and Delivery Unit. On this particular day, I answered a call for an emergency C-section for a mom-to-be who was unconscious and struggling to breathe. The seriousness of the situation was made clear to me, not only by the patient’s appearance, but also by the army of medical personnel standing by to help her– obstetrician, neonatologist, pediatric nurse practitioner, midwife and resident.

I had seconds to decide how best to help this patient as I was alerted that there was no discernible heart beat for the baby. I called upon all of my experience to instinctively check her vital signs and safely insert a tube into her trachea so that she could breathe. Partnering with the physician obstetrician, I gave the nod that signaled permission to begin the operation and stood by to continue to vigilantly monitor mom and baby.

The baby was rapidly delivered and let out a healthy cry. As the team turned its attention back to the mother, the obstetrician’s next words put us back on high alert, “There’s another baby!”

After the second baby was delivered, anticipation grew as I contemplated a question – had I acted quickly enough at the outset to prevent the patient from experiencing permanent brain damage from inadequate breathing? As mom opened her eyes and her family filled her in on the story, I finally allowed myself a satisfied smile. However, there was yet one more surprise awaiting me – a big hug from the twins’ new grandparents. Perhaps there is something better than saving a life – saving three!