What do you hear? Silence? Commotion?
During yet another crazy, bustling ER shift, I squeezed into a sliver of unused counter space at one of our nurses' stations to finish writing on a chart. I was facing one of my favorite secretaries, Louise, who sat opposite from where I was standing.
"Is it me or is it loud in here tonight?" she asked.
Besides being good at what she does, "Weezie" also was born and bred in our hospital's town and seemed to know everyone. "That's my great aunt's best friend's nephew's son's girlfriend--well, ex-girlfriend, I mean. They broke up last week." Some of my heartiest laughs at work have come from Weezie. You should have heard her three-year rant after turning 50 about still getting her period! The first time she missed her period, I should have bought her a Georgia O'Keefe print to celebrate! There would be one more unclipped Tampax coupon in the Sunday paper that week.
"Way too loud, Weezie," I answered, still writing.
She was right, too. It was deafening. And now that she brought it to my attention, my ears were hurting. The ER seems to be very moody, bipolar almost, in how quickly the atmosphere can change. And judging from the volume tonight, we were in a manic phase. Without looking, I knew there was a full moon.
I stopped writing and looked up from my chart, appreciating the bedlam. Looking down one hallway and into the next, all I could see were patients lying in cots lining the halls, nurses and techs scrambling in and out of rooms, pacing family members, ambulance crews waiting with their patients for a room assignment, and security taking their usual strolls.
"I think this might be one of the worst," she said. Those were big words coming from Weezie.
I went back to finishing my chart, hoping this most recent patient would recover from her stroke symptoms.
And then it happened.
It was the most momentous, most sudden silence I have ever appreciated at work.
I knew that whatever was going on was huge, HUGE--nothing can silence an ER like this!
Debating whether to look up or not, it was Weezie's voice that convinced me.
"Oh my God," she exclaimed. Weezie exclaiming? This must be colossal!
I looked up at Weezie, her mouth gaping, and I followed her pointing finger.
Staggering down the hallway, towards us, was a middle-aged man. Moving slowly. Passing by patients and their families. He seemed real nice and friendly, nodding to this patient and waving to that one, in a vote-for-me kind of way. I'm quite sure, though, that he wasn't running for public office.
And, oh yeah. I may have forgotten to mention--the guy was butt-naked!!!
There was no gown, no clothes, no shoes even. His pudgy, hairy middle-aged body was there for the world to see. If not the world, at least our lucky ER. Who knew that little Susie was going to have her appendix taken out and see her first naked stranger!
I would like to say that I rushed over to help this gentleman cover up but I, like everyone else, was so completely stunned that I couldn't move. Couldn't budge from my spot. Couldn't shut my gaping mouth, either. I had seen much craziness in my career but nothing that stunned a crowd quite like this. Boy, did I like this guy.
It had been upwards of a minute before security responded to this kind gentleman's wayward stroll. With an armload of blankets, they covered him up and coaxed him back into his room. Right before he stepped back in, he peeked out to give us, his adoring fans, one last wave! Yes, with his hand. I hope for his sake this guy had a lot of alcohol on board.
It turns out this patient, who I'm proud to say wasn't mine, had fallen asleep at a bar counter and had been brought to us by the police to observe and "check out." Somewhere during the ER's chaos, this gentleman, who the nurse had rightfully checked in on many times, was able to climb out of bed, strip off his gown, and take a lovely, relaxing stroll. I think this could qualify in the "memorable stroll" category--mine, not his. He wouldn't remember a thing.
After the guy's last wave to us, we all looked around at one another. Our faces were indistinguishable--we all wore masks of disbelief. It took just one brief smile, one quick laugh from one of the techs, and we all burst out howling at the absurdity of the situation.
"Alright, Weezie," I said, after we had caught our breath, "who was that?"
"Why are you asking me? How would I know?" she asked, incredulously.
This was a first from Weezie. But if you ask me, I'll bet it was her sister's ex-husband's old high school teacher's third cousin, twice-removed.
Next posting will be Friday, November 27. I'd like to wish everyone a blessed Thanksgiving holiday. If you eat too much, tough, I don't want to see you in my ER! Thanks for visiting and reading my posts...