And it is said that the world can be ended in seven days. Imagine
traveling the streets of Washington, D.C., in an ambulance, as a patient,
and you will come to understand what links us—how a week in this city
can shape a century—or bring an end to the race as we know it. See who
measures out health care and decides your destiny. Discover the secret
the Watergate Plumbers were in search of. Deep Throat never told you.
I will. Survival comes with the code contained within these pages—but
requires some presidential assistance.
Inside the ER, the drivers arrive unannounced. Resuscitations are taking
place in two different cubicles, and physicians and nurses hover over
mobile beds, shouting commands and acknowledgments.
“Lactated ringers! Give me another amp of calcium!”
“Right here. Ten milliliters calcium gluconate going in. Forty-four
milliequivalents bicarb. This is your second amp!”
A doctor reaches for a long-needled syringe and injects it into tubing
connected to the vein of a naked woman.
“Move away, everybody! Stand back!” he shouts from the side.
“Clear, please! Paddles on. Okay, fire!”
A blunt noise is followed by silence. Everyone watches the cardiac
monitor, ignoring the odor of singed flesh.
“Okay, resume CPR. Get ready to defibrillate again. I saw a rhythm.”
Hinton stands in the first cubicle, uncertain what to do. He knows
CPR, has performed flawlessly on the practice dummy, but he’s still
nervous he’ll be asked to help. Olson wipes dust from his glasses and
leans against the incubator, waiting for someone to come forward with
“Hold CPR! Okay, everybody back! Clear, please! Fire!”
Another silence, shorter than the first, is followed by a resumption
of frenzied activity. Pharmaceutical interventions proceed futilely.
THE END OF THE RACE 27
“EMD! I don’t see a rhythm!”
“Pump harder! I’m not getting any pulses!”
“Somebody get OB down here! We called ’em five minutes ago!”
Hinton’s anxiety increases as he watches the heart tracing go flat.
The ER doctor changes places with a nurse who has lost stamina doing
compressions, and he moves closer to the bedside.
“You!” the physician says, spotting him. “I need you to switch with
me so I can run this code!
Hinton passes around the machines and stands next to the woman.
She’s spread-eagled on the emergency table, secured with gauze
restraints over her wrists and ankles. The IV bottles frame an image of
last rites as he puts the palms of his hands on the sternum and begins
“One thousand one, one thousand two . . .”
Her stomach is tight with air and the fetus pressing up on it.
“There they are!” the code doctor calls out as obstetricians approach
from the side door. “Get some instruments!”
Olson keeps his spot by the side of the incubator, cleaning his glasses.
Two orderlies next to him make their own assessment, having watched
the woman come into the ER with her boyfriend, both unconscious.
“Don’t think I wanna try anything they used,” the first says. “That
woman’s gonna go a lot lower than she ever got high, can tell that just
by lookin’ at ’er now. An’ that baby. That’s a crime.”
“Yeah, I heard that. Look at ’em. He’s colder than she is.”
In the next cubicle, the boyfriend’s resuscitation is not going well.
A large tube sticks out his mouth, and a nurse pumps saline solution
to rinse out the stomach. Besides an occasional retching noise, there are
few signs of life from the drug-laden body.
“Man, ’least he might live,” the first orderly continues. “She ain’t
gotta a snowflake’s chance . . .”
“Wait a minute. Watch, man. Just watch now, here comes OB, they’re
gonna, oh Jesus, can you believe this? Watch this, Olson, you watching?”
Codes rarely run longer than 25 minutes in the City Hospital. This
one has been going for 20.
“Damn, man,” one of the orderlies whispers. “Chief resident’s
doing it! Can you believe it, Olson? I’m telling you, the lady’s gotta be
Olson wipes the back of his neck with a handkerchief and looks
over the crowd, watching the obstetrics residents rush into the room.
28 R. GODFREY
They speak with the emergency room doctor and go to the side of the
Hinton presses on the woman’s sternum, giving short, deep
At the foot of the table, a surgeon directs his junior partner, who slides
a scalpel across the taut, distended surface of the woman’s abdomen.
Blood rushes out as successive layers of skin and muscle give way to
the underlying womb.
“Hurry up!” the chief resident urges. With the same knife, the female
resident cuts horizontally across the uterus and scoops out a helpless
form. Blood drips onto the mother, and the baby looks dusky.
“Give it oxygen!”
Hinton’s elated as he watches the baby squirm, turn pink, then emit
a high-pitched cry. The chief resident clips and divides the umbilical
cord and moves briskly to the incubator.
“Keep it warm. Bag it if you have to,” he tells Olson. “Get it to
Children’s Hospital in five minutes, and don’t crash!”
He reaches into the incubator, pulls out a blanket, and the baby cries
as he wraps it and hands it to Olson.
“Wait a minute, Doc,” he protests. “We need papers signed. We need
a name . . .”
“Jane Doe. Now go!”
“Don’t worry about a thing,” Olson tells Hinton as they climb into
the back of the ambulance with the incubator. “You’re gonna be steward
on this run so you can get experience. We’ll be there in no time.”
He slams the door and hops in behind the steering wheel. As he flicks
on the red lights and glances back, Hinton looks worried.
“Damn, what am I supposed to do?”
“Keep it pink,” Olson tells him, accelerating forward. “And don’t
let it spread bad stuff!”
Hinton puts on gloves and searches through the cabinets. When he
looks back into the incubator, the baby has stopped crying. The pink
flush of its lips has become a mottled blue. A cold sensation runs through
THE END OF THE RACE 29
“Olson . . .”
“Baby’s blue. Where’s the Ambu bag?”
Olson gestures into the rear in several directions, hoping to pinpoint
the bag for ventilating.
“Over . . . there . . . look on top of the whadda-ya-callit. Right
“Come on!” Hinton says, tossing away an obviously oversized adult
He has an urge to jump out, to abandon this failing venture and its
tiny victim. Instead, he reaches for the infant, lifting him gently from
the incubator so that he can seal his mouth around the nose and lips.
He blows short, quick breaths.
“Damn!” Olson proclaims, looking back at the blue-colored baby
and then ahead at approaching traffic. “I seen a lotta resuscitations, but
you take the cake, buddy. Your eyes are gonna turn yellow from all that