We had just gotten cursed out by some guy who felt that he shouldn’t have to wait so long to be seen (for hemorrhoids). FUN FACT: if you’re sitting in an ER on a Sunday night – waiting – that means you aren’t:
But he was there, telling us what worthless assholes we were, how bad the hospital sucked, “how only white people get picked to see a doctor…” You get the picture; this asshole was telling us what assholes WE were for choosing to make him suffer his unbearable ass pain. Except, we couldn’t correct him on the Fun Fact – that would be bad patient care. So we took his close-talking, finger-in-the-face insults, as usual. And it made us feel frustrated.
I turned to ShiShi and said, “Something isn’t right. I don’t feel right.” She agreed; “Yea me too. Is it a full moon or something?” You’ve probably felt “that feeling;” the pre-diarrhea, vague rumble in your gut that lets you know something suuuuuper uncomfortable is about to pop off. “That feeling” doesn’t always come, but when it does, it’s always right. There was a lull in triage (and no beds to accommodate the full waiting room, even the hallways were lined with gurneys). We leaned back, took sips of our coffees, and felt like the assholes the ass pain patient had just told us we were.
Then, it popped off.
A racing engine. Long screech of brakes. Heavy flip-flop running sounds, and then
The kind of screaming that makes you kegel and your blood pressure shoot up. The guttural scream of fear, agony, of grief – it’s all the same scream.
This very large, surprisingly young girl was losing it in the lobby. I told her to show me what happened. ShiShi said – “Get the kid, I’ll get the gurney.” Unfortunately, it was a practiced teamwork; ShiShi ran into triage, and on her way through, told the ambulance receiving triage nurse to “call the Deputies — activate the trauma — order blood,” then grabbed the “walk-up” gurney and came out through the ambulance bay to the ER entrance where I leaned into a car parked almost IN the waiting room. This took 10 or fewer seconds.
In the passenger seat, there was a young guy who was barely conscious; head bobbing, eyes rolling back. I slapped his cheek a little: “STAY AWAKE. TALK TO ME.” He focused his eyes a little and said: “Hurry, man – I’m gettin’ light.” There was a lot of blood. I learned this when I slid my arm under his legs to put him on the gurney. Blood went up to my elbow. There was a pool of blood in the floorboard.*
I threw the (probably 18-19 year-old) kid on the gurney; ShiShi and Ericka started pushing him toward the trauma room. I cut his shirt, looked at his back, another hole. “Damn, ok.” Laid the kid back and wrote his name, birthdate, and allergies on the gurney sheet. I got 3 digits into his mom’s phone number before he lost consciousness. Pulse check – yes. Okay.
We get into the trauma room. There’s a nurse, an ER resident, and the attending. The trauma team has only been paged a minute ago, so they’re walking up and running down from wherever. “As far as I can tell, 19-ish-year-old male, GSW’s to the right thigh, right shoulder and left shoulder blade. He was conscious a minute ago, now he’s not. Floorboard full of blood.” Ericka cuts his right pant leg, I cut his left pant leg. Almost in unison, like a freaky, inappropriate commercial, we slowly look up and make eye contact. In my pant leg, was a bottle of lighter fluid. In Ericka’s, a pack of pristine, large Tiger Prawn!! I asked, “Would anyone object if I took the Prawn? I mean, if we put them in evidence, they’ll just go bad.” Everyone paused, shook their heads, ShiShi slapped the back of my arm, and we all continued. We needed the grim levity. The prawn was, indeed, evidence – but I couldn’t help it. This is the kind of comment you sometimes hear after hours of being called an asshole and having someone’s blood up to your elbow. From what we gathered, it was the kid’s birthday, he went to the food store, shoved shrimp and lighter fluid down his pants, and ran. The security guard chased him, the kid brandished a weapon and the security guard shot him. Over a freakin’ pack of shrimp. The kid maintained his pressure; there was blood on hand if necessary. We had moved quickly and gotten him from car to Trauma to OR in a very short time. I never knew his outcome, although he was looking pretty good when he went to surgery. I soaped and chlorhexed myself from the armpits, down, changed clothes, and went back to triage. My coffee wasn’t even cold yet! The ass pain guy was there: “When the F*** can I see a F’ing doctor?? You’re running around, helping everyone except me!” I started looking at the waiting room census when – a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck! Yes, really. It was an undulating, almost relaxing movement, but WAY stronger than usual. The power went out, then immediately backup generator power. I checked my phone and saw – through the security cameras – that there was power, no smoke or flames shooting from my house. ShiShi came back: “You good?” “Yea, I’m good. You alright?” “Hai.”
What was “That feeling.”? A kid and his pants full of shrimp….
*As an aside – it was a bad idea to go to the car, anyway. The MANTRA of EMS is “Scene safety, BSI…” Half the times, the Deputies would recover weapons from the vehicles, the passengers being in too much of a hurry to dump their guns! It’s not that hospitals have any different rules – just sometimes things don’t play out exactly as you’d like. Deputies get called to restrain, disarm, eject, assist, enforce…Sometimes there’s just a shot person and you get there first.