The front lines

She was talking to a drunk laying on a gurney in the curtained room next to mine. I felt a little guilty for eavesdropping, but, after all, it’s the emergency ward and there are only curtains separating you. This doctor, whose lot it was to work the midnight shift this week, was plainly skilled at her craft. Dealing with a hostile patient who was uncooperative and here against his will, she displayed patience, assertiveness, courage, persistence, a knowledge of psychology, and a non-judgmental attitude. Even though this was his third time here within the last two months, and in the face of his refusal to provide a urine sample or take a blood test, she managed to get permission from him to call his mother, who eventually arrived and took responsibility for him.

Then there was a nurse who had to deal with an aggressive man who was attempting to barge his way in to see a Doctor for some advice on a serious matter at home. She was plain spoken and well aware of hospital policy towards this kind of thing, and calmly explained to him that he would have to register along with everyone else and wait his turn, or he would be removed from the building.

A little girl was in the waiting room with her parents. She had swallowed a quarter, but seemed none the worse for wear, but they wanted to get her checked out. A nurse came and chatted with her, asking her how old she was. She said “I am four”. Then her mother said “Actually, I think she is four and a quarter.”

In the same waiting room was an old couple (or, It could have been a man and his sister). He was in a wheel chair with a cast on his foot and a shoulder brace, awaiting some X-Rays. The woman seemed to take delight in telling the story of his “self-inflicted” injuries, saying he was standing on a kitchen stool against her advice, and had fallen, breaking his foot and dislocating his shoulder. He kept grimacing and waving her away, but she said “It’s your own fault, LaVerne”. It was all in good humor though, and everyone in the room was kibitzing and telling their own stories.

A little boy was brought in who had swallowed a bottle of pills, but he seemed okay as he said to his father “Hey, how come that guy’s got a broken leg?” LaVerne said “you wanna hear the story?”

Later, as they got me into a room, I noticed a Police presence as a gurney was rolled in with a twenty something woman on it who had overdosed. There had been criminal activity involved, and she was here to get clean before being taken away.

At one point, I asked to be disconnected so I could go to the washroom. When I opened the door, I saw that there was blood in the toilet and more on the walls and door handle. I turned around to let them know, at the same time meeting up with an orderly who was donning rubber gloves. He said “Yeah, we know”. That’s all I heard, and never found out how the blood got there.

In this miasma of humanity, there were more things added to the mix. The screaming of terrified children. The sound and smell of someone vomiting. More shouting and the sound of a scuffle as the aggressive guy returned and was hustled off the property. A woman crying as she wheeled her demented grandmother in.

My particular gurney was moved, because they needed the room, and I was parked to one side of a long hallway, then informed I had to stay for another four hours for more blood tests. The nurse apologized, put all of my belongings on the gurney with me, and said “Yeah, this is what we call health care today. At least you can say you were one of the Kids in the Hall!”

God bless these people. They are not all angels, of course, although I did meet some that fit that description. There were others that got a little desperate at times, but kept up a professional attitude as best they could.

I only hope that if I am ever brought in for something “self-inflicted” that they are as kind to me.

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