After having worked in the ER for eleven years, I seldom thought, nor now think, of what the experience is really like on the other side of the curtain, so to speak. For each of us, our routines become just that…routine. However, I got a letter from my brother that gave me a view from that other side.
” …I took her to the hospital because she was extremely short of breath. The ER was filled to capacity and three people, including my wife, were stuck in the hallway. The person in the room adjacent to where they parked her stretcher evacuated his bowels for two straight hours. The stench was unbearable. I could hardly eat my sandwich. The poor nurses were having a bad hair day. It began shortly after we arrived and the crapper, crapped all over the gurney before they could get him on the bedpan. After the initial blast and clean up it happened again about every 10 minutes for two straight hours. The poor schmuck must have not unloaded for at least a month. The soiled linen cart was next to my chair and the smell escaped every time the nurses opened it to toss in more soiled sheets and it was enough to gag a tapeworm. I wondered how the hell you ever worked in the ER for so many years.”
Well, needless to say I was mopping my eyes, and realized that what bowled my brother over was just another day in the ER for me. I guess that one solution would be to have rooms like they have in certain bars and restaurants. The smokers have to go in there so as not to offend the other diners. So it could be a negative pressure room to put patients in who need to be separated from their breathing neighbors. I’m not quite sure what we would call this room. The room where we set broken limbs is dubbed the “bone room.” So I think we could come up with a room to put patients to prevent my brother’s near-fatal experience. Hospital humor being what it is, I’m not at all sure the reading audience will appreciate it, and I may have to write the next column on repentance and spirituality.
We all have stories from our workplace that would lay others on the floor laughing. We all need to lighten up and laugh at the absurdities of life. In any ER that takes major cases, there is no lack of hilarious things to report. It makes me think of my own favorite story: I went to the stretcher in Bed 14 and told the very proper woman sitting on the stretcher that I needed to move her to the pelvic room (the chart said she had pelvic pain). She gathered up her purse and coat, and I took her into Room 12 and had her completely undress, and put on a gown. I then assisted her up on the OB-GYN stretcher and placed her feet in the stirrups awaiting the doctor. Shortly thereafter, a girl about 14 years old, came up to me and asked if I had seen her mother. I know I don’t have to finish this story. I think it lived as a classic in the ER for a long time, and makes me still laugh to this day just thinking about it.
I know a lot of people think medical people have a sick sense of humor. I disagree. I think that hilarious things just happen more often in a hospital ER. We also save lives on a regular basis, so perhaps I will be spared the wrath of my readers.
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