Short story: Patient Care Attendant.
Its 4:10 am when sleep is the sweetest and I’m at work at the end of my lunch break. I’m not ready to go back out; I have been dozing on and off while holding Jane Eyre in my hands for a class assignment. I gathered up my will and my cheerfulness while a nurse busts in the break room to say: Cecile, I can’t keep an eye anymore on your patient, the bed alarm has been going off way too many times.” While Cecile, the nurse, continues to sleep and answers by saying that it is ok. I do what I have learned to do best, I just sweep it under the file of “You Are Not Going To Believe What Happened At Work Today” knowing that I may never share the incident either because I will not remember it because far dramatic things would have occurred or because my unwilling listener will be too impatient to wait for me to get at the interesting part, and will move swiftly to a different topic.
For now I just been told that my patient in room 8 has been transferred to ICU and I should go to room 30. The expression on my face says: what? Then I remember I don’t like room 30, but I tell the nurse: ok as if she needed me to agree with her. First thing that hit me right on the nose is the smell of cigarettes that his clothes are filled with and the blank face that he gave me when I gave him a weak hello decorated with a forced smile. I took place at the edge of my seat knowing full well it was momentarily since patients in such situations were good at being unpredictable, but a half hour passed and his eyes were fixated on the window seeing what I couldn’t see. I feel a déjà vu moment where I am writing a short story about my experience with an alcohol withdrawing, smoke smelling, blank gazing patient, but my moment is interrupted as he gets up and says he’s ready to go to the bathroom and I give him a nod as if he needed my approval. He returned a few minutes later to his gazing position ignoring me. Few minutes later, we started our world scale confrontation about him leaving the hospital. Slowly but surely he grew firmer and firmer in his desire to leave and I grew less and less confident in my speech about him not being able to fend for himself and needing medical attention.
As my confidence level went down and my irritation went up, I started wondering who will be the first to break down. It wasn’t my first time taking care of an “unstable” patient, but you never know what to expect, each patient trying to keep you guessing where the line between sanity and insanity lies. Its then he decided to start telling me about this sweet and innocent girl who needs his protection and how they never been this long away from each other. “Get me out of this f…ing place! You have no f…ing right to keep me here!” The number of F-bombs he dropped was parallel to his irritation level. I didn’t know their relationship, but I thought about telling him that he was the one who needed to be taken care of. I knew he could easily get out and he did twice and with the nurse’s help we managed to return him to his room. Every time he stood up, it wasn’t his legs only that were wobbly; his mental map was blurred by the medication he had received to help him calm down. He kept thinking that the bathroom door was the exit door and that he was at the train station and if I was willing to let him out, he would be able to cross the street, hop on the bus and find his girlfriend. I tried to reason with him that he was at the hospital and there was no bus running at 5 in the morning on Sunday. He was about to cry and I to run. We were two free men unable to find our way out of this place. Our insecurities have stopped us from finding the exit and we blame each other for it. I told him he could leave at 6:30: “the doctor is the only one who can sign off on your leave, wait till 6:30” he gave me a look that wasn’t nice at all, held tightly his plastic bags that contained his few belongings and started to count down the minutes. I was hoping by then to see the nurse come in even though I knew it was unlikely. I really wanted to see the denouement of this situation, I had come to appreciate his resolve and knew he would leave as he soon as I left the room, I also knew that his wobbly legs wouldn’t carry him to where he wanted since he didn’t even know where he was. Despite how frustrated he was with me, he never got physical, not that he stood a chance against me, but the hospital is the last place where I would think about defending myself physically against anyone. Experience had taught me that you had to keep your calm no matter what, but experience had also taught me to not hesitate to call for help. Which I did. The nurse Cecile finally came in at 6:50, just when I felt like we were about to start sumo wrestling, and she exercised her nursing powers over him by getting him to take off his shoes and his clothes, get in a gown and then in bed. I just stared, amazed at her power, and thought to myself that in another life, I would love to have that kind of power. We both exited the room, after reinforcing on the patient his need for care. It was 7:00 o’ clock, time for me to leave my pager and my patience behind and get back to my fast lane life where people were unreasonable, but I didn’t have to take care of them.