(CBS) — You may have seen the new CBS drama, “Code Black.” How true to life, is the series?
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot spent an evening in one of the busiest emergency rooms in the Chicago area to see what it’s like, firsthand.
A gunshot victim, a stabbing, a person in a car crash, trauma surgeon, Dr. Thomas Cartolano, calls it a typical day at work.
“For someone who doesn’t do this for a living and doesn’t understand what we do sometimes, what we see, the facts are way stranger than fiction,” Dr. Cartolano said.
“Things move very quickly,” said ER resident Dr. Mark Bamman. “There’s a lot of things going on but it’s kind of an organized chaos.”
Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn has one of the busiest ER’s in the Midwest. Last year, more than 100,000 people came through the doors.
The hospital actually sees more emergency cases, such as heart attacks or strokes, than traumas.
Time is a problem when it comes to patients waiting to be seen in the ER.
“It’s frustrating because we constantly feel like we’re running in place and we’re getting nowhere, because we can’t stop the volume that’s coming through our door,” said assistant clinical manager Jamie Reynolds.
Long ER waits are one of the realities shown in the documentary “Code Black,” which inspired the new CBS series. Nurse Cheryl Hickey, saw the documentary.
“It is a reality that emergency departments are overcrowded,” Hickey said. “It is a reality that emergency departments do end up going on diversion, due to the overcrowding.”
While Advocate Christ Medical Center sees all patients who walk or drive to the hospital for an emergency, ambulances are diverted to other hospitals when the ER is at capacity unless a person has a life threatening situation.
“It breaks your heart because they need us and we need to be there for them,” Hickey said. “Sometimes we are that last hand that they hold. That last voice that they hear and that is something that stays with you forever and we know, that that’s a gift.”
Hickey says that’s real life in the ER.
The ER at Advocate Christ Medical Center was built to accommodate 55,000 patients a year. The current ER expansion, to be completed in 2020, will allow more than 120,000 patients to be treated each year.