Sunday, March 11, 2012

Assorted Memories (involving Emergency Rooms)

Assorted Memories (involving Emergency Rooms)

While working in triage I had two patients come in. One was a 20-something black lady with some routine complaint like abdominal pain or cramps or a bad hair day or something. The other was a 20-something white man who complained of something equally vague. I asked them both to provide a urine specimen so I could start their workup while waiting for a room in the ER to open up. The woman came back with a cup full of normal-looking urine. The man handed me a cup filled with black ink. “This is your urine?” I asked, eyebrows raised to the top of my head. “Yes,” he said. There was one open room in the ER. “Come with me,” I said as I led the man back. The woman observed me leading him back first, even though he had arrived after her. “Oh, I see how it is!” she hollered, following me to point her finger in my face. “You takin’ the white guy back before me!” I calmly turned around and stuck the jar of pitch black urine two inches from her nose. “Ma’am, this is his urine. If you can top that, I’ll be happy to bring you back first.” She looked at the vial of horrible liquid, turned around and sat quietly in the waiting room, no doubt thanking God for not having whatever causes black pee.

Working in the ER. There were five psychiatric patients admitted to the emergency room with nowhere to go. That particular hospital didn’t do psych, so the psych patients basically just wait there for a few days till their commitment papers expire. I had zero interaction with any of them all night, besides breathing the same air. At one point in the night, I was talking to a few of the other nurses. One of the nurses’ eyes opened wide as he glanced behind me and he muttered something like “Oh, shit!” Naturally I turned around to see what was happening. As I did, one of the psych patients was literally in mid-air, hurtling towards me, about one foot from me. He landed on my torso, surrounding my head with his arms and wrapping his legs around my waist. In a tiny instant I briefly toyed with the idea of asking him if he needed a hug, but then wondered if he might have finagled some sort of weapon which would currently be in his hands behind my head. The only thing I could think to say as I placed him on the floor and restrained him was “Again?!” as this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. I am quite literally a freak magnet. (Click here and here for more freak stories.)

Though I had technically finished my shift, I decided to stay a little later to help with a patient who had just arrived. He had gotten a rubber ball stuck in his rectum. He saved himself a lot of embarrassment by being straightforward to the question ‘How did it get stuck there?’ He simply said “How do you think it got stuck there?” Well, OK. As the doctor pried it out, the guy had a good sense of humor and laughed as I congratulated him on the delivery of his bouncing baby ball. The doctor asked “Do you… um… do you want it back?” He replied completely straight-faced, “No, that’s ok. I have another one at home.” It was the first time I had seen an emergency room physician collapse on the floor in a fit of laughter.

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