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Raising the Dead A Doctor Encounters the Miraculous
By Crandall, Chauncey W.
FaithWords Copyright © 2010 Crandall, Chauncey W.
All right reserved.
“Shock Him One More Time”—Raising the Dead
On October 20, 2006, a heavyset fifty-three-year-old man with red hair walked through the entrance of the emergency room at the Palm Beach Gardens Hospital and approached the admissions desk. Earlier that morning, suffering from an upset stomach and sweat-inducing anxiety, he had called a fellow mechanic to tell him he’d be late to work and headed for the ER. On the way he began experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath. A big, powerful guy, he had a hawkish look, his eyes keen and watchful. But as he told the nurse his name, Jeff Markin, and described his symptoms, he looked as if he were about to become the prey of a descending terror: his eyes bulged and he began breathing more quickly through a half-opened mouth.
He fumbled out his wallet to retrieve his insurance ID card, then collapsed in a heap, his head smacking the linoleum floor. The female security guard rushed over and cradled him, praying for his life, while the nurse at the reception desk summoned emergency personnel, who came running.
I was in another part of the hospital, the operating room wing, where I had what we call a “runway” of patients prepped for angioplasties, stent insertions, heart catheterizations, intra-aortic balloon pumps, and pacemakers. Each patient had a family waiting to know the outcome and their loved one’s prognosis. So when I heard over the hospital intercom “Code blue,” which indicated a cardiopulmonary emergency, and my name being called—“Dr. Chauncey Crandall… Dr. Chauncey Crandall… Please report immediately”—I was not eager to head for the ER. As the senior cardiologist on duty, my job is to ensure that the emergency room physician and his team have done everything possible on the patient’s behalf and make a final assessment of the case. When I was younger, I used to run to such emergencies, but now, in middle age and with more trust in my colleagues, I walk. To tell the truth, I was hoping the case would be resolved by the time I arrived, even if that meant the worst.
When I arrived, the emergency room where the code team was treating Jeff looked like a war zone. The physician on duty had pulled in all available personnel. The patient’s blood work for the standard Toponin I test had been run to the lab, although there was little doubt from the electrocardiogram results that he had suffered an acute myocardial infarction—a massive heart attack. Nurses ran two IV lines, administering standard drugs—ASA (aspirin), heparin, a beta-blocker, and thrombolytics to dissolve clots. Jeff was bagged to get some oxygen into his lungs, but when that didn’t work he was quickly intubated and hooked up to a ventilator, and a nasogastric tube was inserted to clear his stomach of air and secretions. The ER physician ordered atropine and epinephrine injected to aid the beating of the patient’s heart. In Jeff’s case, ventricular fibrillation—the irregular beating of his heart at hyperspeed—was quickly followed by cardiac arrest; he flatlined.
The ECG electrodes on the patient’s upper torso were cleared so that he could be shocked with the defibrillator—the paddles everyone’s seen on television. “Clear!” Wham! The shock was so intense it caused Jeff’s body to jump above the stretcher. By the time I arrived, the team had shocked the patient six times, and I watched them administer the seventh. The doctors and nurses had already been working on the patient for nearly forty minutes. I noticed that his head, especially his lips, and his fingers and toes were cyanotic—black with death from lack of oxygen. When cyanosis appears, there’s little hope. His arms lolled at either side of the examination table; his pupils were dilated and fixed; he had been down for too long. The ER physician asked me for my assessment, looking for confirmation of what everyone in that room already knew.
Once I arrived on the scene, I had begun to root for the patient and the heroic fight the ER team was waging for his life. But the appropriate conclusion was unavoidable: it was time to call the Code on the patient, declaring the time of his death, according to advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) protocol. Jeff Markin was officially declared dead at 8:05 a.m.
Once the Code was ended, the doctors and nurses in the room left quickly. No one likes to hang around death—the sight and smell are repulsive. I still had to write up my final assessment, which I did on a small table at one side of the room. Only one nurse remained, who was in charge of preparing the body for his family to see and processing by the morgue. She removed the tubes from his throat and the IVs from his arms, then began sponging off the yellow stains of antiseptic and traces of blood.
With my report complete, I headed toward the door and back to my runway of patients. Before I crossed its threshold, however, I sensed God was telling me to turn around and pray for that man. This seemed foolish—an idle thought caused by the stress of the situation or even mischievous influence. But then my sense of God telling me this occurred a second time and more forcefully. But what would I pray? And to what purpose? I did not know this man, and, frankly, I felt embarrassed by the impulse to pray for him. But I knew that when I had ignored such impulses in the past I never felt at peace afterward.
I stood beside the body, and although the words I said came through me, I had no sense of devising them. It was more as if I were God’s intercom, relaying a “divine code.” “Father God,” I said, under my breath, “I cry out for this man’s soul. If he does not know You as his Lord and Savior, raise him from the dead now, in Jesus’ name.”
The nurse gave me a look that said, You are weird!
Then something happened that was truly weird. Of its own accord my right arm shot up as if to catch a gift from above, in a gesture of prayer and praise. I didn’t feel much of anything, and yet I knew that God had entered the scene in a surprising way.
At that moment, the ER doctor walked back into the room, and I pointed to the patient and said, “Shock this man one more time.”
“Dr. Crandall,” he said in disbelief, “I can’t shock the patient one more time. I’ve shocked him again and again. He’s dead.”
“Please, for me,” I said, “shock him one more time.”
He looked at me, puzzled, as if he might need to call in a psychiatrist. But, thinking it best to humor me first, he did as I asked.
Blip… blip… blip. The remaining ECG leads registered a heartbeat. A perfect heartbeat! About seventy-five of them a minute, in a perfectly normal rhythm. In my more than twenty years as a cardiologist, I have never seen a heartbeat restored so completely and suddenly—a heart that restarts usually beats irregularly if not erratically before it settles into a normal rhythm.
I looked at Jeff Markin. His abdomen started to tremble and move and then his chest started to rise and fall. He was breathing on his own! Then his black, cyanotic fingers twitched. Next his toes. In almost no time he was mumbling.
The nurse screamed—a long, piercing wail right out of the movies. “Doctor,” she asked, “what have you done? What are we supposed to do?” She was not only terrified but angry, her face red and blotchy. This was not a miracle to her, as I found out later, but more like the creation of Frankenstein. She couldn’t be expected to handle a situation like this. What was she to do?
“Let’s get him into ICU,” I said. “Immediately. Now!”
Excerpted from Raising the Dead by Crandall, Chauncey W. Copyright © 2010 by Crandall, Chauncey W.. Excerpted by permission.
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