Code 15





MARCH 3, 2007

The port wine-colored rash that shrouded Andy Kaine’s body was an undeniable omen of his impending death. Clad in a sterile green gown and wearing a protective plastic face mask, Dr. Morgan Connolly, chief of Emergency Medicine, moved to the head of the stretcher. She motioned to the paramedic who had just transported the critically ill young man to the hospital.

“What’s the story on this kid?” she asked above the cacophony of numerous high-pitched alarms.

“He’s a freshman at Florida International University. His girlfriend found him in his dorm room about forty-five minutes ago. He was completely unresponsive.”

“What were his vital signs coming in?” Morgan asked.

“We had a lot of trouble getting a blood pressure. Maybe it was forty.”

“What about a pulse?”

He shook his head. “We never felt one.”

“When did you start CPR?”

“In his room. We also intubated him,” he said, pointing to the plastic tube that they had placed through Andy’s mouth and down into his windpipe.

Taking particular note of his ashen color and vaporous eyes, Morgan turned to Pam Devlin, the charge nurse. “His blood pressure’s not registering on the monitor. See if you can get one manually.”

“I just did,” Pam answered. “It’s thirty over zero.”

From her new vantage point, Morgan studied the amorphous, punched-out lesions on Andy’s torso. They each wept a blood-tinged straw-colored fluid and, as a group, seemed to be multiplying in front of her eyes. Morgan was quite familiar with the highly contagious strain of meningitis. It was one of the few diseases that instantly filled her with an all-encompassing feeling of doom and helplessness. Morgan took a step back.

Even though she knew a full-blown code blue was almost certainly an exercise in futility, she felt she had no choice.

“We’re going to give this a shot. Continue the chest compressions.” She then pointed to a plastic IV bag suspended from a metal pole. “Open up that saline all the way. Somebody get me a full loading dose of penicillin.”

“He’s crashing,” Pam said, pointing at the flashing red display on the blood oxygen monitor that was in a freefall. “I can’t get a blood pressure.”

The respiratory therapist, who was standing next to Morgan, continued to squeeze the breathing bag. “I’m not getting much air in. His lungs must be filled with fluid.”

Morgan eyes bolted to the cardiac monitor. It showed flatline. “Keep up the chest compressions and give him an amp of epinephrine.”

“Giving it now,” one of the other nurses answered as she injected the medication into Andy’s IV.

“He’s not responding,” Morgan yelled. “Give him another amp.”

“Going in now,” the same nurse answered.

For the next half hour Morgan and the code blue team did everything possible to bring Andy back to life. But his face remained the color of chalk, and his eyes fell deeper into his skull, leaving his pupils widely dilated and hollow.

Finally, Morgan stepped back from the stretcher. The words of her mentor and professor of emergency medicine echoed in her mind with the same sobering effect as they had fourteen years ago when she was an intern: Any physician worth their salt will learn to recognize the difference between a resuscitation and a resurrection.

Morgan pulled off her gloves and noted the time.

“We’re done here,” she announced in a monotone. “Make the time of death ten past nine.”

Morgan stepped away from the bedside and pulled off her sterile gown and mask. She tried, but she couldn’t shift her eyes from Andy’s lifeless face. Over the past ten years she had seen death come in many forms. But the loss of Andy Kaine and what was soon