This morning rounds proceeded at the usual pace. I struggled to stay awake as the intern presented the train wreck that was transferred to our team last night from the ICU. I remembered the case well and, after coming to the conclusion that this patient will probably die regardless of what we do, I chose to sit half committed, stuck in the maze between sleep and wakefulness.
As I drifted between the beautiful blond that invaded my dreams and the reality of ultimate failure and powerlessness an agonized scream interrupted my conscience.
It was an elderly gentleman yelling for a nurse. Probably just moved his bowels and needed his diapers changed I suppose. I cracked a smile at how, as a young intern, I often rushed to the bedside only to find a delirious patient with no real complaint.
“HELP” this time it was louder and stronger. “HELP”
It was interrupting the presentation.
Fighting the urge to “HELP” I continued to sit still, obnoxious. I’ve been fooled enough times and I know that the nursing here is not that good, to say the least, and that often people get left in their diapers and although that often is not so comfort…
It was unbearable anymore.
I jumped out of my seat. Could this patient really need help? Could he be having difficulty breathing? Maybe he’s about to fall off the bed and is holding on for dear life? Maybe his roommate is not responding and he’s trying to warn the doctors? I escaped into the corridor.
On my way to the room, as the screams compounded, I continued to imagine. Rambling in my mind about how ridiculous the nursing is here and how it’s even possible that a patient, any patient, would be screaming help without any response. I made my way down the hall and arrived at the room.
Sitting on the edge of a bed was an elderly gentleman, well groomed, lightly amused. I said “What’s wrong sir, how may I help you?”
He looked at me and said “I’m losing control of this car, it’s going too fast. And my hands are FREEZING”. He announced this last piece of information as my brain signaled IDIOT, IDIOT, IDIOT…you got taken again.
Not knowing how to respond I said the only thing that instinctively came to mind.
“Sir”, he turned his head.
“Sir, how about you slow down and…”
“Roll up the windows. It’s cold outside”