A bit of vision, a bucket-load of imagination
August 10, 2007
All in a day’s work.
ED’s a busy busy place. The impression you create when you stand still is instantaneous. Suddenly you look like you have nothing to do. Either that, or you don’t have a clue on what to do.
A typical shift in the emergency department includes tons of walking around and being on your feet like 95% of the time. People are always whizzing past you and vice versa. Due to the fast paced order and environment I’m in, not everything is always what it seems to be.
I was walking hurriedly (how appropriate) past a row of cubicles and I spied a lot of white sheets as I went past the confinement room. The confinement room is a stronghold-like room where it’s used to house uncooperative/violent/mentally agitated patients, and the door is a heavy-looking huge slab of white with semi-frosted glass panels.
I immediately back-tracked my steps and peered carefully through the glass.
I saw a figure in bed, all tightly wrapped up in the sheets. A dead body, I thought.
Next to the bed I could see a lady in a chair, resting her forehead on her hand as she sat very quietly and motionless. Her eyes were closed; as though in deep prayer.
She must be a relative of the deceased. I slowly backed away from the door and began to head towards the main workstation to resume my work. It is very likely that the deceased patient has been re-allocated to that room in particular as it is quiet and the relatives would have their space for a while.
I was scanning through the list of patients up on the whiteboard and my eyes fell on a young patient who is presenting with double vision. Great. I remember needing to perform an eye examination as part of my assessment somewhere down the line and this patient would be a nice opportunity. Whipping out my drug-company-freebie pen, I jotted down the cubicle number on my palm and proceeded towards the direction of that patient.
Eh, it’s that same cubicle as before. The confinement room.
Hmm? Maybe I was mistaken. I could still see the lady from before still in her seat; eyes downcast. Back to the board to double check, I figured. A slight frown was starting to etch over my face; I was pretty sure I got the number right.
Nope, I wasn’t mistaken. The patient assigned to that room really did came to the ED with double vision.
I blinked furiously while maintaining my gaze at the whiteboard. Death due to double vision? I mean, I knew there could be a lot of underlying cranial/systemic pathologies which could manifest itself as a disturbance to one’s vision but…hmm. I honestly didn’t expect the patient to deteriorate so quickly having just presented himself with double vision in the first place.
I stood outside the door. Should I go in to check? Would it seem insensitive and inappropriate to stride in to double check the deceased’s identity while they’re grieving?
Being indecisive, I find myself looking through the glass again. My hand was already clutching the door handle and I was about to pull the door open when I saw something very very shocking/disturbing/what have you etc.
The wrapped-up body MOVED. Oh my gawd.
I was stunned in place as I saw the figure shifting around in bed, and suddenly the lady whom was seated next to him started talking to him. In the next subsequent moments I realised a few things:-
1. The patient really came in with double vision. He found the place pretty cold so he wrapped himself up with the sheets and lay in bed with his back facing the door.
2. The lady next to him, turned out to be his mum. She had actually fallen asleep on the chair earlier when I saw her, which is of course a thousand miles away from anywhere near grieving/praying/mourning.
3. The room. The patient was allocated to that room due to the shortage of free beds in the other cubicles. Nothing to do with the family wanting some time or a quiet place whatsoever.
So that’s how it actually was.
I swear I almost peed myself when I saw him moving. I guess this shows that you don’t need to have double vision to do a double (or triple!) take.