Before I wrote Steel Rose and City of Brotherly Death, I wondered how healthcare workers would handle zombies. What would my role as a respiratory therapist entail in a zombie invasion?
Let’s consider a brain-dead patient, someone whose heart still beats, but the lack of brain wave activity defines him as legally dead. The patient breathes through a tracheotomy tube with mechanical ventilation until he goes to the operating room for organ donation. My duties would include keeping his airway clean and making sure his ventilator works. Supposing I did my job, never suspecting that the “dead” person could be a zombie waiting to feast on someone?
Let’s backtrack to possible events before the patient’s admission. Perhaps our patient gets assaulted by a zombie, and he blows its head apart. All well and good, but the zombie bites him. Our guy’s shaken up and has no business getting behind the wheel. But he does anyway and drives to the police station. Instead, he winds up in a horrible accident that leaves him with traumatic brain injuries and broken bones. The severity of his wounds necessitates a tracheotomy. The unsuspecting paramedics put him on a ventilator and rush him to a hospital. The doctors may not notice the bite until too late. They’re more worried about the patient’s possible brain death.
Hours later, the zombie’s bacteria infiltrate Trach Man’s system, most likely before the hapless therapist or nurse come in to suction him. Mr. Trach Man yanks out his breathing tube, lurches out of bed, and chases his caregivers, all the while spewing bloody secretions from his tracheotomy before feasting on someone’s brains and flesh. Other staff may hear the screams. Because guns are banned at most hospitals, most people will stand by wringing their hands while their coworker(s) dies. The braver ones might tack the zombie, mistaking him for a combative patient, and get bitten themselves.
Of course, the staff therapist can run. He could call Security or try to fight back. His tools (scissors and a screwdriver) won’t protect him from zombies. If he’s lucky, he’ll be employed undercover by the zombie squad, using the therapist’s uniform as a beard because that’s the only way he’ll survive.
Hospitals are supposed to have surveillance cameras, security officers, and training to handle such situations. They are supposed to be able to handle terrorists, right? Perhaps they could stop a would-be child kidnapping in progress? That may be; but given the potency of the zombie’s bacteria, most staff won’t figure out what’s going on until it’s too late in the ballgame for a lot of people.
For the respiratory therapist’s sake, I’m hoping that Mr. Trach Man started to turn on his way to the hospital, while the paramedic is administering CPR or inserting an IV. That would be disastrous, but most ambulance vehicles are equipped with a kind of circular saw, along with the standard life-saving equipment. The paramedic could ditch the ventilator and resort to sawing and tossing bits of the former patient out the backdoor. So much for the Hippocratic Oath department.
Suppose the zombie outbreak happened because of an alien conspiracy. Instead of bacteria, perhaps the aliens installed a computer chip or robotics to make the dead body come to life. In this case, whacking the zombie with a portable oxygen tank would disable the computer and immobilize him. If the therapist, nurse, or are other worker decides to fight the zombie this way, they had better strike true, or else end up as the zombie’s next meal. Of course, given most hospitals’ policies on violence, the caregiver might face termination of his job. But he could always even the score by pushing an administrator toward the zombies, right? The plot thickens.
Sometimes I’ll do logical, until my imagination gets the best of me. 🙂
I like to run logical scenerios through my head all the time
Always good to have some medical knowledge in story telling. Death is a more complex area of human experience now than, say, in previous centuries. At one time a hand glass would be put against the mouth and nose of the person. If it clouded over they were alive and if it didn’t they were dead.
A lot of people got buried by mistake that way, too. Brrrrrr! ~ Barbara
Yes there were people mistakenly buried alive. Poe among others made much of this in his writing. When you think of it there is an obvious connection between someone buried alive and the vampire and the zombie of fiction. Brrrrr! Is right!
I’m going to miss Coffin Hop and all the themed posts!
Me, too. I had a lot of fun with this. 🙂
Throw the administrator at the zombies and run.
Something like that does happen in Steel Rose….:)