Today I worked (mostly) in the triage area of the emergency room. For those unfamiliar with triage, this is the area you see first when you walk into the emergency room.

The glass windows, manned by the brave souls- stationed, waiting to recieve whatever complaint comes through the doors. I’ll readily admit it, I love being in triage. I’m fascinated by the human drama that unfolds as someone checks into the hospital.

The emergency room seems pretty straightforward…you go there when you’re having an emergency. As I’ve learned, everyone’s interpretation of an emergency is different. Working in a busy hospital, in the downtown of a large city, we get a whole host of different complaints and characters that come along with them.

Chest pain always gets attention, sometimes it’s someone who’s actively having a heart attack. Other times, it’s the fella that tells me, ” I was jumping a fence and I fell off the top and my chest was the first thing that hit…on a rock.” That was two days prior, now ( strangely enough) he’s having chest pain.

Mental health has become a significant portion of our caseload in the emergency room and just like anything else, it’s always something different. Sometimes it’s a person that knows they’ll get a warm bed and a sandwich, other times it’s extremely sad. I’ve had some enlightening conversations with patients who came into the ER because they were suicidal.    We all get the blues sometimes, but some of the stories that have come my way have broken my heart and made me grateful for the life that God has blessed me with.

Even though we are designated to recieve trauma patients by EMS every other day (we’re a level 2 trauma center,) a traumatically injured patient can walk through the doors of triage- any time of day or night. We’ve had gunshot victims show up in the parking lot, stabbings walk in, and people who’ve been in the car accidents that present looking fine on the surface, but turn out to have serious internal injuries.

No matter what the complaint is, everyone presents differently. You’ll see someone who has been vomiting for two hours (and decides it’s time to hit the ER) and can’t be consoled by the most experienced of staff members.  Two minutes later, a person comes in, wheeled over by a doctors office, with a heart rate of 180- calm and cooperative.  While we all deal with pain differently, and display our emotions on different levels, the stories that people give (to complete strangers) at the triage window is what really makes things memorable.

Today a guy comes in, but he doesn’t want to check in as a patient. He wants a needle. For obvious reasons, we don’t give out needles just because you want a sharp. The guy says that he just wants one and that he’s willing to pay for it….he would buy them at the store but he doesn’t want a whole box.  Thinking this guys a drug user? I know I would’ve, but the nurse continues to listen to his story (thoroughly entertained, I’m sure.)

“I’m not a druggie” he says ” I wanna drain a cyst on my cat’s back.” I’m thinking this would probably be a job best handled by the vet but our friend informs the nurse that “they want 47 dollars just to see the cat!”  Turns out that the cat is well over ten years old and sounds like it’s had a rough life.

The best part of the whole story, he tells the nurse,”and you know how he got the cyst?…hawk done swooped down in to get ‘im!”


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