The Affair

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


The Dance

Before I worked in the emergency room, I worked as a patient transporter in the same hospital. It was an easy job and I enjoyed it. Not only that, but it allowed me to be everywhere in the hospital and meet all different kinds of people. I knew all the nurses on each floor. I knew their bosses. I knew the staff in the ER, surgery, post-surgery, admissions, and discharge. I knew where everything was and all the different ways to get around. That really helped me when I went to try and get a job at the ER.

Anyways, this story takes place during my days as a patient transporter. I was picking up a patient from Radiology and taking him back up to his room. He was a middle aged man maybe in his 40’s. He was lying on a stretcher and I was going to push the stretcher throughout the hospital to get him back to his room. I asked him how he was doing and made sure he was all set to go. Then he tells me, “We better hurry. The nurse gave me something to help me go to the bathroom and I have to go really bad. I feel like I could pee any minute.”

“Do you want to try and go now? The bathroom is right here,” I suggested.

“No, I’m pretty sure I can hold it and I’d rather go in my room,” he replied.

“Alright Sir, you better hold on. I’m going to get us there as fast as I can. Hope you like to go fast.”


As a transporter, I got really good at pushing stretchers, obviously. I took that patient almost at a sprint down the hallways. I cleared people out of the elevator so we could get in. We went from the 2nd floor to the 11th and of course this patient’s room was at the end of the hall. I was drifting on turns, clearing people out of the way, and making driving noises with my mouth just to add a little more drama to the situation.

We get to his room and I come skidding to a stop with the stretcher halfway in the room so that all the patient has to do is get up and walk 8 steps to the bathroom. “Here ya go sir,” I say. “There’s the bathroom.” I was proud at how quickly we got there.

“Well, the problem is I can’t stand on my own I need help getting from here to the bathroom,” he replies.

So without skipping a beat I move around the stretcher and hurried to get to the patient. I could tell he was definitely getting ready to go. I had him sit up and swing his legs off the stretcher and plant them on the floor. The easiest way to move someone who is the same size as you or heavier is to do what we call, “The Dance.” Basically, you have the person put their arms around your shoulders and you put your hands in their arm pits. You get into a squat position and raise the patient up. The idea is that they are supporting their weight using their arms around your shoulders and you are assisting by holding them near their armpits. It sounds weird but it works effectively and definitely looks like you are dancing.

However, this dance did not go so well. As soon as we stood up the patient says, “Oh no! I can’t hold it anymore. I’m going. I’m so sorry. I can’t stop. Oh no. I’m so sorry.”

I look down and urine is dripping onto the floor from the front of his gown. This grown man is literally arm and arm with me, his face is literally 6 inches from mine, and we lock eyes. I’m doing the dance while staring into the eyes of a grown man who is pissing himself.

I try and move my feet a little farther away so I don’t get splashed. There is a lot of urine. I can tell the patient is very embarrassed. I would be too, so I feel bad for him. I try and reassure him and tell him it’s no big deal and that stuff like this happens. It’s just never happened to me before. Or like this.

I notice the urine has stopped and I say, “Alright come on sir let’s see if we can’t make it to the bathroom so you can change and get cleaned up.”

“Oh no! I’m not done. I’m not done.”

“What do you mean? I don’t see any more pee.”

“No! The other end. Oh God!”

Sure enough I look down and I see loose stool start dripping down to the floor. Seriously? How did I get stuck in this situation? What am I supposed to do? Those thoughts zoomed through my head with no answers. I’m now literally arm in arm with a grown man who has just pissed himself and is now pooping himself. I have no idea what to do.

I thought about calling for help, but we were all the way down at the end of the hall. I couldn’t reach the call bell and I couldn’t let go of the man or he’d fall onto the floor and be even more covered in urine and stool.

As my mind is racing, the patient is continuing to poop. Lots of poop. I’ve never seen someone poop this much. Finally he says, “Just sit me back down on the stretcher. I can’t stand anymore.”

I look down at the stretcher and it is soaked in wet stool and has a pretty good size pile that must have come out with some momentum because it made it all the way onto the top of the stretcher.

“Sir, I don’t think you want to sit down in all that.”

Right then, the nurse walks by and half glances in the room and keeps walking. It was almost like she wasn’t expecting to see anyone in there and when she did she was so confused at what she saw it didn’t register. Five seconds later she walks back and sees what’s going on. Sees me and the patient standing there arm in arm and the mess on the floor and the stretcher. She doesn’t say and word and just stands there in shock. I look at her and mouth the word “HELP!” and give her a look of desperation. She says she will be right back. Great. I needed her now.

“Just let me sit down. Please.” The patient’s legs are wobbly. I can’t tell if he is still pooping or not.

I finally say, “Ok. On three. One. Two. Three.” The sound of his weight squishing down on his own stool makes me gag inside. I didn’t want to sit him down but I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I was tired from supporting his weight this whole time.

The nurse comes back with isolation gowns and shoe covers. She hands me a gown. I feel like it’s a little late for that. She also brings a bed-side commode and sets it up next to the stretcher. I pick the patient up again and have him sit on the commode so he can finish his business. That’s when I finally begin to smell what has been around me this whole time. It was the worst fecal matter smell I had ever been around. It’s also when I noticed just how much of a mess this was. Pee and poop is everywhere. There was so much of it!

I felt absolutely disgusting. I looked at the nurse who was looking at me in disgust. She says she will take it from here which I am happy to hear. I spend the next 30 minutes cleaning the stretcher with every powerful cleaner I can find. Then I spend the same amount of time cleaning myself. I still didn’t think it was enough so I took the stretcher outside to our stretcher cleaner that we use mostly to remove blood from bad trauma alerts. I parked it there and left. I called my boss and told her I needed like 30 minutes of fresh air so. They began to ask why and I hung up. I didn’t want to talk about it.

I sat outside in the shade for 30 minutes in silence. Not even thinking about anything. Just breathing fresh air. When I went back to my boss, she had heard what happened. She said if I needed another 30 minutes she would understand. You bet I took her up on that offer.

That was the worst experience I’ve had this far with a patient in terms of bowel movements and urination. I don’t know if anything will ever compare.

-The Witch Doctor