More Notes from the ER

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by Lucky Garvin

I’m the sort of person who makes all kinds of notes so I don’t forget stuff; then I forget where I put the notes. [This cannot be good.]  But something happened the other night in the ER – a paradigm shift – for which I needed no note.

There were four of us working, but such was the patient load, the waiting time was 8-9 hours. I went from room to room seeing folks, fully expecting to be blasted for the delay, but surprisingly all of them were calm, understanding the situation.

Then I entered Room 18, and the temperature dropped twenty degrees. I extended my hand and said, “I’m grateful for your patience.” She ignored my hand, looked away, and responded, “I ain’t got no more G—D—patience.” I asked to listen to her lungs, she angrily shrugged off the sheet that covered her, still never looking at me. Her problem was bronchitis. I explained the diagnosis and treatment; she never looked at me.  I opened the door to leave and she stopped me. “What was your name again?” [a complaint to administration?] I told her, and I have never seen a more bizarre response.

Now staring at me, both hands flew to her face, and her head began shaking: Laughter at my name? What?

She gathered herself; now looking directly at me. “You remember Sally Jones?”  Sure I did. I’d treated her and her family for years. She had died three weeks prior.

“She was my best friend. She talked about you all the time.” The room assumed ambient temperature. She reached out and shook my hand warmly. “It’s so good to finally meet you.”

I was amazed at this U-turn of events. Nothing had changed; her long wait; her symptoms; but, everything had changed. Oh well. It is interesting to note: as I said she had bronchitis; she was a smoker; she had been sick for two weeks. Leaving the room, remembering her initial anger, I’d agree to take responsibility for the nine hour wait, if she’d take responsibility for the two week delay. Fat chance.

She came to me by ambulance from a nursing home. No bigger than a tea bag, she was eighty-seven years old, and blind and demented. She had a knot on her head. She’d been injured when she and her roommate got into a fist-fight.

“Why am I here?!” she asked after I’d introduced myself.

“Got a knot on your head.”

“How come?”

“Word is there was a fight at the nursing home.”

“Anyone hurt?”

 “You’d think old people would know better.”

“How’s your head?”

“Got a knot on it.” Something struck her. “Was I in the fight?”

“Dead center.”

She lay there thinking this over for a while . . . “Did I win?”

I met a minister the other day. He had fallen and had numerous abrasions. “You’ve got to fix me up quickly, Doc,” he announced, “I’ve got to preach on Sunday.” He was 101 years old.

A conversation I overheard in the hallway:  “I had a baby boy a year ago!”

“Oh! How old is he?”

I spoke to a 94-year-old from a nursing home, asking her what she did for fun. “I sit around and watch the old people fall.” Jeesh.

A deaf woman sat with her son in the examining room. The son `translated’ for the mother. As a part of my questionnaire, I asked her, “Have you been passing much gas?”

The son repeated the question. “Have you been passing gas?”

“Nope,” came the reply, “must be the doctor.”

No respect; none.

Frontier medicine – an old woman was convinced she was dying; that the proximate cause of impending doom was owing to the frog in her stomach. Nothing the doctor could say would convince her otherwise. So she lay on her bed resigned and prepared for death [from frogitis.]

The doc visited her the next morning, but on his way, made a side trip to a nearby creek…

He dosed her with ipecac, a vomit-inducing agent; and vomit she did. He furtively removed from his pocket the little one whose services he would temporarily require, made as if to sweep his hand through her vomitus, and showed the frog to her. She was amazed and got right out of her ‘death-bed… and the frog was delivered back to the creek.

Sometimes theatrics serve physicians as well as science does…

Look for Lucky’s books locally and on-line: The Oath of Hippocrates; The Cotillian; A Journey Long Delayed.