Before I worked in the emergency room, I didn’t realize just how many mental health patients come through our doors. We have teens who are suicidal, middle aged men with schizophrenia, and women that don’t fit any particular category- they’re just plane nuts!
Most of the time, I find this area of medicine interesting and fascinating- other times it can stressful, annoying, or boring.
The other day I had what we sometimes refer to as “psych row.” This consisted of three patients who were all in the emergency room for mental health reasons. One guy had a thick beard, and even though I was dreading spending time with him- I actually really enjoyed talking to him by the end of the day. He said some seriously funny things and was surprisingly intelligent over a wide range of subjects.
After eating his lunch tray, he starts putting all the garbage into a bag and I hear him mutter, “if I can’t give a tip, I can at least clean up this mess.”
Later, a guy who’s completely inconsoleable, having just smoked down some good ol’ spice comes rolling by.
“Don’t worry man, you’re gonna be ok!” Says my bearded friend to the arriving patient.
Later, we get in a patient who turns out to be a real handful- she’s totally psychotic, drunk, and was found wandering in traffic.
The medics say, “we could barely get her into our rig- good luck getting her into a gown.”
As I’m filling out some paperwork I can hear beardie talking to our new arrival.
“Hey sweetie,” he says in his best attempt at a calm, comforting voice,
“we’ve got this nice dress we need you to change into.
You’re really going to like it, it’s like a sun dress!
So can you go ahead and change into this dress for us?”
I didn’t realize that in the short time that this guy was in the emergency room for a mental health evaluation- he’d been hired on as a “patient care assistant.”
Even though he was completely sweet and spoke very kindly to this psychotic woman- she neglected to put the gown on- heck- she neglected to recognize any part of the reality that you and I know to be true.
Later though- she would prove that she still has an understanding of time and space- as she kicks me- pretty dang hard- right across the side of my head. I’m trying to help the nurse hold her down for a blood draw- since she’s been taken out of restraints- and she decides to swing her leg up and connect her shin bone to my jaw/temple- as fast and hard as she can.
I wasn’t expecting the strike and I’ll admit- she got me pretty good- oh well, doesn’t really bother me- not the first time I’ve been kicked in the head…just the first time outside of the ring.
She did warn me though- she told me she wanted me the eff out of her room- because I’m black…