Only Voices


"Trauma team STAT to emergency. Trauma team STAT to emergency"
"What are we getting?"
"I'm not sure - I can hear the helicopter landing, though."
"Watch out, a lot of people are going to be coming in here now."
"Who are you, Ortho? What's your name?"
"I'm Gen Surg."
"GCS 13 on scene. Last update was 7 and intubated"
"Security said they're doing CPR on the heli-pad."
"65 year old female, unrestrained passenger, T-bone MVC at highway speed"
"Mover her up first. On three."
"One... Two... Three..."
"Don't put the pads on yet, Gen surg has to decompress the chest."
"No Blood."
"Pulse Check"
"No Pulse"
"Resuming compressions"
"Have you put in a chest tube before?"
"Not on a real person."
"Ok. I'll do this side. You do that side."
"I'm splashing betadine here, watch out."
"I can't get the sheath off the blade."
"I'm in. No Blood"
"I'm in too. No blood"
"Pulse Check"
"No Pulse"
"Resuming Compressions"
"When was the last dose of epi?"
"Not since the helicopter. Give another dose now."
"Starting another a line."
"I need a suture, now."
"Blood is here, should we hang it?"
"I'm ready for the ultrasound."
"I can't see the heart. The ribs are broken in the way."
"Her abdomen is distended."
"No cardiac activity."
"Left pupil fixed and dilated. Right, non-reactive"
"Her husband's here, in the quiet room"
"I think we should stop."
"Does anyone think there is anything else we should do?"
"Pulse check."
"No pulse."
"Resume compressions?"

"Time of death, 17:22."
"Thank-you everyone."



I am currently a Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Fellow at McGill Reproductive health Centre.
I wrote "Only Voices" when I was an R1 on my general surgery rotation.  At least once per shift the trauma team is called to emergency room where we all convene to work together and attempt (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to save a person's life.  Running a trauma is one of Medicine's most beautiful and haunting artforms: A group of strangers with differing skills who all come together in the most stressful of situations and dance an almost perfect dance to do exactly what needs to be done.  When you are one of those dancers, you are focused so hard on your own task yet also completely reliant on the tasks that everyone else has to perform.  When the dance is pulled off beautifully, each role accentuates and augments every other task.  Listening to the voices in the trauma bay gives you a sense of everything that is going on and where, exactly you fit into the dance.  It isn't until the dance is over and the room is empty, save for the debris left from hurried work of all the participants, that the reality of what just happened actually sinks in.  Only Voices is not based on any one particular trauma, but it is also based on every trauma.

1 comment

  • Beautifully written and haunting.


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