Stories Where You Least Expect Them

patient-in-hospital-roomThe other day I was walking by a room when I heard a patient call out “Nurse!” and went in to see what he needed. (On a side note, why don’t patients ever call out “Doctor!” or “Pharmacist!”??
It seems like the only nouns that get called out across hallways are “Oh God!” “Jesus!” “Jesus Christ!” and “Nurse!”… might this mean, utilizing a form of logic, that nurses are deities? Just a little something to think about.)

The patient wanted to know what was going on, what was the hold-up, when was he going to be admitted, the usual suspects of questions. I tried to answer them as best I could by looking in his chart (as I was not his primary nurse) and then was ready to leave.

He struck me as a markedly cantankerous old codger and I wanted to get out of that room as fast as fast could be. And during that critical moment where I normally would have said something pithy and moved on and out of that room, he said something that kept me close to the gurney.

I can’t remember what it was now but I pulled up a chair and talked to him for about ten minutes. Now in ER time, that is like an eternity to just talk!! But I didn’t really have an assignment and it wasn’t that busy so I felt like I wouldn’t be missed anywhere but here.  The man went on to tell me how he had been healthy up to this point in his 83 year-old life and was recently diagnosed with Lymphoma.

Even though the cancer diagnosis wasn’t a walk in the park, he said it was a fairly routine abdominal surgery and unforeseen complications that had kept him in and out of the hospital for three months. He told me that his friends had tired of him being sick and had fallen by the wayside.

We discussed how three months is usually the fall off point for many people’s attention span: after a death, sickness, unemployment etc. People stop paying homage when they get bored. But his stories were the most fascinating part of this encounter. He is a pretty famous poet, author, and movie director. He was absolutely fascinating. We had a great conversation and I ended up transporting him up to his inpatient room since his primary nurse was busy with a trauma patient. Going up to his room, I was looking through his chart so I could give report, and found an ERMD who said in his dictation “Patient is a poor historian.”

I smiled to myself. I guess that doctor just left the room at the wrong time.

[image: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | Blend Images | Getty Collection]

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