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Leading A Double Life

Kwei Quartey

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Leading A Double Life
12 min2017 MAY 4
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LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE__EPISODE 002Code BlueHi, everyone, and welcome to episode 2 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, stories of what it’s like to be a medical doctor and a writer. This episode, Code Blue.The emergency room double doors burst open and two ambulance guys tear in with an unconscious man on their gurney. The ER trauma team usher them in as one of the EMS techs gives a brief rundown of what has happened. The man is a gunshot wound victim. As soon as he’s hooked up, the cardiac monitor shows he has flat-lined. The physician leading the team barks orders for IV infusions and different medications to inject into the victim’s veins in an attempt to resuscitate him. There’s been no response in the first ten seconds. “He’s still flat-line!” the doctor yells dramatically. “We need to shock him!”A team member removes the counter-shock paddles from the defibrillator, applies gel to their surface, rubs them together and puts them on the unconscious man’s chest. “Clear!” she shouts, and everyone steps back from the gurney. A shock is delivered, causing the man’s body to lift involuntarily a couple of inches off the bed.This could be a typical code blue scene from any number of popular television series about the drama in an urban ER. Pretty exciting, right? Maybe, but there are a couple big bloopers in the scene I’ll reveal to you a little later on in the podcast.But before I do that, here’s another scene, quite different, this time from a Netflix show called Rosewood: Preparing for a postmortem exam, Morris Chestnut as Beaumont Rosewood, a forensic pathologist, stands over a dead woman on an autopsy table. Rosewood has blue nitrile gloves on and wears a red V-neck shirt with dark blue jeans. He picks up the scalpel to begin his first incision. If you haven’t already figured out what’s wrong with that scenario, I’ll let you know in a little bit.TV programs and movies with medical or forensic content may consult physicians or other medical experts to ensure the scenes come off realistically. However, I feel American TV in particular appears preoccupied with having physicians, staff, and patients all young and beautiful. In the real world, it is often the graying, experienced physicians and nurses who are in charge of the team on duty in the ER. A dying patient really doesn’t care how beautiful his lifesavers are. My observations are that Europeans and Scandinavians are less afraid to show plain, average looking people on TV and in movies. The point is, they appear both genuine and genuinely smart.I don’t have much need for Code Blue situations in my detective novels, but forensic pathology and postmortem exams are a different matter. They are relevant and often crucial. All of my Inspector Darko Dawson books include at least one autopsy, and my novel Death By His Grace briefly describes some of the fascinating forensics of blood spatter—fascinating to me, anyway. By the way, if you use Luminol to make traces of blood fluoresce, the blood is destroyed forever and you can’t run any DNA on it.There’s something mesmerizing about the autopsy ritual—the donning of protective clothing before entry into the postmortem room, the approach to the dead person lying motionless on the autopsy table, examination of the external body before the traditional Y-incision made on the cadaver’s chest, and the anticipation of what information lies in wait to spring its surprise. It’s important to me also that the pathologist treats the dead body with respect, no matter how maimed and disfigured it may be. The murder victim is a silent self-witness to the crime. She can’t speak, but the autopsy is the way we ask her to nonverbally tell us the story of what happened. It’s certainly poignant, even maybe a little sad,