Another night in the ER. I think it was a Friday or Saturday night and as usual, around 2 am the victims of heavy partying start to trickle in. Most people that come in by ambulance are black out drunk and we see the occasional overdose. The ambulance crews have created what we now call the “party bag” for the drunks who are expected to vomit at any second. They take a biohazard bag and cut a hole near the top big enough to fit around the patient’s head. They slide their head into it and the bag sits, open, in front of them so that when they puke, the vomit goes into the bag instead of all over them. It works pretty well and I think it’s a great idea.
We usually keep our drunk patients in a hallway bed or in an area we call the vestibule. That way our patient rooms can be utilized by seriously ill patients. The vestibule is a small area in between two sets of doors that is right across from where our Paramedics manning the EMS radio sit. The vestibule is usually reserved for the louder or smellier drunk patients and I try and stay clear as much as possible. Part of the paramedic’s job is to man the radio and part of their job is to be in charge of the care of our hallway/vestibule patients in order to free up nurses to be assigned to more sick patients. I do not envy their job as most of their patients are hard to work with.
This particular night the ambulance brought in a young female in her mid 20’s. Her girlfriend rode in the ambulance with her and the two made an interesting couple. The patient was blacked out and we slipped capnography on to make sure she was still breathing effectively in her sleep. We put her in the vestibule because it gave them more privacy short of an actual room. Her girlfriend was definitely irritated that she was ending her night in the ER watching her partner sleep instead of being wherever they were staying. It only took a few minutes of her answering questions to detect a European accent in her voice. I guessed they were here visiting, but something seemed strange.
The Paramedic working these patients that night was an attractive female and sweet as can be. She was doing what she could to help make the patient comfortable and making sure the girlfriend got some water or coffee. She had it all handled without needing any help which was pretty typical of her.
At some point later on in the night the patient woke up. She was still drunk and pretty oblivious to what was really going on. She didn’t like the fact that she ended up in the ER but was too drunk to get up or even make basic sentences. I watched as the paramedic went into the vestibule to go answer a question that the girlfriend had and all the sudden heard a lot of yelling. I couldn’t make out everything that was being said and moved closer to see if it was about to turn violent. All the yelling was towards the girlfriend and I couldn’t figure out why. It seemed the yelling was in half English and half some foreign language. Soon, more staff had gathered to watch the show.
Out of nowhere, the patient stood up. She yelled, “You cheating whore!” Then, she slapped the living daylights out of the girlfriend. Right across the face and almost knocked the girlfriend to her knees. Next, the patient yelled at the paramedic and then sat back in the bed, vomited, and passed out. It was such a confusing scene I think it took a few minutes for me to process what happened. I saw the paramedic ask if the girlfriend was ok and then she walked back over to where some of us had gathered and were trying to make sense of what just happened.
“It was like a scene out of the Jerry Springer show!” she exclaimed. “I’m not really sure what just happened. The patient woke up, started yelling and thought her girlfriend was cheating on her with me. I was so shocked I didn’t even know what to do. Of course we denied it, but we couldn’t convince her that I was just working at the hospital. We’ve never even met before! As much as we tried to calm her down it didn’t work. So, she just slapped her and called us whores!”
At that point, I couldn’t help myself. I busted out laughing at the crazy things alcohol does to your mind. Shortly after the incident, the girlfriend came up and stated she was leaving and that her girlfriend could find her own way home from the hospital. Something told me that this was not the first time something like this had happened with them. She gave us the patient’s personal belongings and then walked out the door into the night.
The rest of the shift we kept asking the paramedic how her new girlfriend was doing. She laughed it off and was already over it.
The patient slept off the rest of the alcohol’s effects and was still there when I left that morning. I don’t know what ever happened when she woke up. I’m sure it was pretty confusing for her to try and piece together all the events of the night before. I’m sure the hardest part was trying to figure out how to get to wherever she was staying during their visit. I would have liked to seen her trying to patch that relationship up and what it took to get out of the doghouse.
-The Witch Doctor