As if life wasn't scary enough! Grey's Anatomy was a hypochondriac's dream last night. The writers served up a not-so-gentle reminder that all it takes is one hour to take us from perfectly fine to dead as a doornail.
Meredith Grey called it "the golden hour, that magical window of time that can determine whether a patient lives or dies." Now is where I'm supposed to tell you that they were making it all up, so you can go back to Googling "sexy shoes" or whatever it is you planned to do today, right? Sorry!
Taking over the busy Seattle Grace/Mercy West emergency room at night was supposed to give Meredith a leg up on the competition for chief resident. But it put her in quite the pickle. She promises her patient with a little bit of chest pain that he'll get out soon to take his son to a basketball game.
Any guesses where this one's going? Young, thin, healthy-looking Dad's got an aortic dissection, which ruptures on the table, and less than 45 minutes later, Meredith Grey is calling his time of death.
This is not a silent killer. You do get a warning, but you have to heed it. Nice Daddy was willing to ignore his chest pain to go hang out with his son, but he needed to be at the ER. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), dissection can be managed with surgery, but only if done before the aorta ruptures: "Less than half of patients with ruptured aorta survive."
Lesson to be learned: Don't screw around with chest pain. If it comes on suddenly and it's "sharp, stabbing, tearing, or ripping" and it moves around your chest and arms, get thee to a hospital immediately! Although it's usually a problem for men over 40, it can happen to anyone -- about two out of every 10,000 people suffer from it.
Scared yet? We're just getting started! Little Grey's got a patient with a blazing headache, plus one in his head. Yes, his girlfriend is a raging bi-otch who doesn't want to miss her dinner reservations because of her guy's little bit of head pain. So Little Grey puts him through all the medical tests and sends the two on their way as fast as she can. But she forgets to take a look at his signature on the discharge forms.
From the time he was admitted with a nice, neat signature on his admission papers to the time he was discharged, it's gone to a lazy scrawl. It's not a headache. It's a CVA, aka a stroke. Meredith to the rescue! She grabs the guy in the parking lot and gets him moved back inside for treatment, and he's saved.
Lesson to be learned: Some people don't even know they're suffering from a stroke. But if you have a severe headache that starts suddenly, gets worse when you change positions, hurts even when you're lying flat, and is enough to keep you awake, get to the doctor. That kind of headache can indicate bleeding on the brain, and the NIH recommends treatment within three hours after symptoms begin for the best outcome.
So there it is. As Meredith Grey said last night, "An hour, one hour, can change everything." I went into an episode of Grey's Anatomy thinking I'd just get a taste of my favorite medical soap, and I walked out with some life-saving information.
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