LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Ever wonder what goes on inside a bustling, non-stop emergency room in one of the city’s busiest hospitals?
Paul Magers got a look with the help of Dr. Evelyn Lee, who was nearing the end of her residency at County-USC.
“We already have 4-5 patients lined up,” she says, racing down the hallway. “And there is nowhere for them to go right now.”
The waiting room is filled, patients literally lining the walls to see a doctor.
“This is called holding the wall,” she says.
It’s the middle of the day at one of the busiest ERs in the world.
“This is the trauma area,” she says, “This is where we see our sickest patients.”
The busy pace has not put off Dr. Lee.
“There is where we grow as residents. And where it challenges you the most,” she believes.
She is in the final stretch of her four-year residency in emergency medicine.
During the four years, she has seen hundreds of thousands of patients come through the ER and she has seen it all.
“That’s part of the draw of this place,” she said. “We’re in the middle of gangland territory.”
Patients come in from all kinds of backgrounds, from all walks of life. Including some in custody, others running from the law.
“We get what is called ‘Homie Drop Offs,” where they just drop someone off and run away,” Lee said. “And we take care of them. No story. Nothing.”
Staffers at County never know what’s coming next. They prepare for bullet wounds and heart attacks. The crisis right now — an ingrown toenail.
“Can you feel me touching you?” she asks the patient.
She acknowledges later the toenail is not exactly the most exciting thing about her job.
“A toenail doesn’t make you feel like you’re saving anyone really,” she says. “But it makes the patient feel a lot better.”
As senior resident, she is also tasked with carrying the “Code Bag”, which is filled with all the tools and meds needed to open an airway or start a heart.
“We have our medication box,” Lee says, “we have basically airway blades in order to put a tube down the throat.”
The day is often filled with Code Blue alerts — a patient in danger of dying without immediate attemtion.
“You do your best and then sometimes, it’s just a rhythm that’s not sustainable with life,” she says.
“And then if the patient expires, you come back and see more patients,” she says. “You still go back to work.”
She sees more patients. Fills out more charts. Then sees more patients. Then fills out more charts.
“I wish someone could do all the charting,” she laughs.
The life of a resident isn’t the glamorous one they sometimes show on TV.
“Unkempt, disheveled, tired. That’s the life of a resident,” Lee says.
Despite all that, “you realize there is nothing else you’d rather do,” she says.
Evelyn Lee recently completed her residency at County-USC.
She is now saving lives in a Torrance ER.
Dr. Lee also happens to be the baby sister of CBS/KCAL9 meteorologist Amber Lee.