Sunday, March 6, 2011

my life exploded: the aftershock (part ii)

6:45 p.m.

We walked through the emergency department doors. I followed Dr. D to the reception desk.

"This is the patient I called about earlier; she is suicidal and having an acute crisis."

I started at the floor. Some acute crisis, I thought. This has become a way of being. It is not a big deal. Hospitalization is overkill.

The receptionist asked me to take a seat.

"I need an insurance card, picture ID... is this still your address?"

I watched as she looked my name up in the computer and promptly slapped a green label on all of my paperwork with "CONTACT PRECAUTIONS" written in bold lettering. My wound with the MRSA that I had contracted in the fall had long ago healed, but according to our hospital policy, any time I entered the facility as a patient my coworkers would have to gown and glove, even if my cultures were now negative.

A nurse met me at the door. It was Meghan. We had taken an EKG class for nurses together when I had first started working at the hospital. We used to sit together, eat lunch together. She sat me down in the triage room and started taking vital signs.

"So, what brings you here?" She asked awkwardly.
"Umm. Nothing." I said. I was at a loss for words. I watched as she turned to the computer and typed in "Nothing."
Dr. D chimed in, "is it all right if I speak on her behalf?"
"Well, that's up to E," Meghan said.
"It's okay."

Dr. D started to present some kind of explanation for my admission that was a little more substantial than "nothing."

A few minutes later Dr. D said his goodbyes and told me that he would call in the morning. Meghan walked me over to a room.

I sat in a chair against the wall, silent, listening to the relaxed chatter of techs and nurses, people gently giving each other a hard time. A young guy in stolen green surgical scrubs, probably not older than twenty, sat outside my room by the nursing station watching me. It was strange, being the patient behind the glass doors in the bed, forbidden to close my curtain. I can't even count the number of times that I have floated to the emergency department and done the exact same thing; observe psych patients awaiting their assessments, one eye on the patient and the other perusing an issue of Fine Cooking.

A knock on the door. "Hi, I'm Beth, I'm your nurse tonight."

I looked at her. She must have just graduated from nursing school. I had never seen her before and she had a new grad kind of clumsiness and lack of confidence to her.

"So, first I'm going to need you to change into these scrubs."
She set a pair of blue disposable scrubs on the stretcher.
"No thanks," I replied.
"Um, okay." She walked out.

Beth walked back in a few minutes later. "About the scrubs, actually, it's our policy that you wear them."
"I'm sorry that I'm not following your policy, but I will be keeping my clothes on."
She walked out of the room.

A few minutes later the young tech came in.
"It would really help us if you would put on these scrubs. Could you do that for us?"
"No. Sorry." I offered an exasperated smile. He walked out.

Beth came back in.
"They're just scrubs. Couldn't you please just put them on for us?"
"No," I replied politely.

A few minutes later the charge nurse came in.
"These scrubs are for your safety. If you don't put them on, I will call safety and security, call the response team, and have you put in restraints."
I was baffled. Could they really put a nonviolent person in restraints? Should I just give up or exercise a little civil disobedience? The whole ordeal seemed so dehumanizing.

I decided to just fuck it and put on the stupid scrubs. What did they think I was going to do? Take the staples out of my Dansko clogs and eat them? Pull the underwire out of my bra and stab myself in the neck? Hang myself with my pants? Saw myself in half with the zipper from my fleece pullover? The possibilities were endless. Then again, I was in a room filled with other things I could harm myself with, cords and tubing, blunt objects, needles from the UA kits (which are not locked up), metal and electrical sockets. Hmm.

A while later, Beth came in to draw my blood. I told her she could do my hands if she wanted. I have pretty serious protruding veins on my hands and they are easy to see and an easy stick. She decided to go for my left AC. I told her that my AC was sometimes hard to see, but very bouncy. Tourniquet on. She probed for a while with her finger. She swabbed my skin with alcohol and followed quickly with a butterfly.

No flush on the butterfly. I had this overwhelming urge to grab the butterfly from her and do it myself, but I sat there passively, even relaxed while she prodded around. She pulled out the needle a few moments later.

"Let's try that hand."
Tourniquet on, alcohol prep, big fat juicy (but superficial) vein. She needle went in. I saw a flush. She continued to push the needle in. She popped a tube into the vacutainer. No blood.
"Pull the needle back a little," I gently prompted her.
I watched as a bluish lump started to form under my skin around the needle.
"I blew your vein, didn't I..."
"Yeah, it's okay." I popped the tourniquet.
"I'll go find someone else to draw your blood."

A few minutes later another nurse came in to draw my blood.
"I think I must have freaked her out," I said.
"Yeah, drawing blood on other healthcare providers never puts anyone at ease." The nurse quickly drew my blood, gathered and labeled the full tubes, and walked out.

I sat in the chair, alert, listening to the rhythms of the emergency department. A crying baby, a screaming psych patient, the scuffle of shoes and EMS radio giving report in the background. Time passed slowly.


  1. Oh man. That must have been really hard to be admitted to a hospital where you know people. (Is this the hospital that you work at?) Also, what's up with the scrubs? I didn't know (but maybe I'm just ignorant) that psych. patients have to surrender their clothes before they're on the psych. unit.

  2. Yeah, it's the hospital where I work. Apparently at our hospital it is a newly implemented policy. They argue that it's for the patients safety (i.e. I might have a box cutter in your pocket and slit my throat). The ridiculous part was that the pants they gave me had drawstrings (which is something that they won't even allow on the psych unit).

  3. That really sucks that you know people at the hospital you went too... I'm glad you got help though, hang in there!

  4. Hope you feel better. The ridiculousness of the place doesn't surprise me. I think the staff are meaner at the adults' hospital than children's. I've worked with plenty of teenagers who were on my unit because needed monitoring (thus couldn't be in psych) and we have always tried to honor their wishes... How rude of your nurse. But I guess she's new. Your observation is correct. Hang in there. Please feel better.