I love a distraction. Especially in the ER. Sometimes the distraction can be subtle and minor, one that I have to search out to find. Other times, though, a distraction can be glaringly obvious, practically smacking me in the face. Whatever the diversion, these moments can make a hectic, chaotic day in the ER much more tolerable. Not to mention fun.
Although it's usually the patients who provide the main attraction, occasionally it can be the waiting family or friends of the patient. For example, Aunt Alice's nose mole and smeared lipstick might make me do a double-take, detracting from the attention I would otherwise have given her nephew, the patient. Grandpa Ben isn't fooling anyone about his gas problem either, sitting over in the room's corner wearing a smug smile, shifting around on his chair before releasing another foul air biscuit.
The possibilities of distractions are endless and, quite frankly, most welcomed by my receptive self.
A few weeks back, I had a two-for-one zinger--both an intriguing patient and her entertaining boyfriend. The patient herself had a significant history of anxiety, bipolar depression, and schizophrenia and, while at an appointment at her mental health clinic, she had become extremely anxious and began to hyperventilate, ultimately passing out. This lead to her trip to our ER via the ambulance service. Her boyfriend, I was told, met her after she arrived.
Walking into Room 22, I found an anxious-appearing, thirty-ish, blond woman with extremely poor dentition. In fact, one of her front teeth was angled outward, barely hinged to her gums, and her tongue seemed to constantly caress this wayward tooth. Her blue eyes seemed out of focus, glazed-over even, probably a result of the valium given to her by the prehospital team. She fidgeted with her hands while her right foot rhythmically rubbed up and down her left shin. Her room smelled quite strongly of stale cigarette smoke.
Standing in the obscure corner of the treatment room was this patient's boyfriend. He was a small man, maybe 5'5", balding with a gathered ponytail. As I took his appearance in, he looked shyly down at his feet while pressing his hands together in front of him, prayer-like. Interestingly, he had no shirt on, just sandals and some worn jeans. His chest was sunken-in and fuzzy. His abandoned white t-shirt rested on the room's only counter top.
Between the two of them, I would have been quite content to spend the rest of my shift hanging out in their room, people-watching. I had a feeling that this interaction would be a memorable one.
The patient eyed me suspiciously as I approached her with my hand extended, ready to introduce myself. While in the middle of saying my name and explaining that I would be her doctor during this ER visit, I heard a loud exhalation followed by a hum originate from behind me, from the corner where the boyfriend stood. Quite frankly, it startled me.
I turned my head to look at the boyfriend, only to find him performing exaggerated motions of what I assumed to be some form of martial arts. After several moments of unorganized, flailing movements, he quit humming and folded his hands back together, bowing his head to me. Although I'm sure he didn't mean it to be, his actions and behavior were quite comical, and I fought myself from laughing out loud.
"Eddie," the patient shrieked, bringing my attention back to her, "cut that shit out. I ain't gonna watch your bogus karate while I'm lying here sick."
At this, Eddie began to hum loudly (again), keeping his head bowed, his hands folded, and his eyes closed. Suddenly, though, as if an "on" button had been pushed, he launched into another routine of air karate, randomly slicing and jabbing his hands while awkwardly kicking his feet outward. For his grand finale, he did a spin kick, almost tripping and falling to the ground on his landing. After collecting himself, he again folded his hands, bowed his head, and nodded to me before closing his eyes.
Funny, but I didn't feel threatened or in danger. I was, however, completely and totally mesmerized.
"Eddie," screamed the patient again, "if you do that one more time, I'm going to climb out of my bed and come over there to kick your ass. Got it?" Eddie apparently didn't, or else simply chose to ignore the patient's threats, remaining in his deep meditative state.
I tried to diffuse the situation. "Eddie," I said, smiling, "that's some really good stuff. Are you a professional?"
I had barely finished my question when the patient chimed in, laughing hysterically at my question. "Professional? You've got to be kidding!" she exclaimed, now choking on her words. "Hell, he's just making all of this shit up as he goes along."
"Well," I said, "his routine sure impressed the heck out of me." I was telling the truth, too. His routine was unlike any I had ever seen before.
With this, Eddie bowed forward again, I assume in thanks of my words.
"Bullshit," the patient said, emphatically, "he doesn't know shit about karate or anything else. Tell him, Eddie." I looked from the patient to Eddie and, after he remained silent in his own world, back to the patient again. "Oh, that's right, I forgot," she added, now sarcasm dripping from her words, "you don't talk during your karate sessions. How could I have forgotten?" She rolled her glazed eyes as she spoke.
Ouch. For her sake, I could only hope that Eddie would never try out his routine on her.
They became the couple of the moment in our ER. When they were alone in their room, there seemed to be a quietness, a calm, to the area. But the moment someone, anyone, walked into the room, the show began. A loud exhalation by Eddie. Humming. Eddie's routine of his remarkable abilities, capped off by his spin kick and landing. The bowing of his head and folding of his hands in conclusion. The girlfriend's free earful of screaming at Eddie for his ridiculousness. The exit of the person who entered.
The nurse walked out of Room 22, shaking her head and laughing after witnessing this same show that I did. So did the x-ray tech. And EKG tech. "Is this for real?" I heard several of our staff ask, after checking out the scene on their own.
"It is," I assured them.
After clearing the patient with a good physical exam and several tests, we quickly discharged her, if only to get Eddie out before he hurt someone or himself.
You can't buy a ticket for this stuff. And you surely can't make it up. The only thing you can do, really, is appreciate these distractions that come with a job in the ER. Well, that and closely inspect the room's corners to make sure there isn't a hidden camera trying to record your response for some reality TV show. That you've been set-up, somehow.
I look forward to the next distraction to arrive. Somehow, as sure as time keeps ticking, I know I won't be disappointed.
As always, big thanks for reading. I hope you have a great, distracting weekend...