Sunday, August 23, 2009

Horror at the Hospital!

My application form to University read as follows:

Application to read for the degree of:
1st Choice: MBChB (Academia. Medicine. Doctors. Patients. Studious. Saving lives)
2nd Choice: BA Film and Media.(Actress. Glamour. Oscars. Broadway. High heels. Fabulous)

No jokes.
Those were my two career choices.
Of course, I was more than fully qualified for both, being both studious and superglamorous.

However to my drama teacher's dismay, and to my hard-working parent's delight, I swapped Broadway for a different kind of theatre, the operating theatre.

And where my actress colleagues were cabaret-ing down the path to stardom, I was dragging my weary feet up and down hospital corridors for hours on end.

"Don't worry darling," my mother cooed, "You can always sing and dance for your patients! After all, they're the ones who need the entertainment the most."

*Which I've tried to do! For more info see my post entitled TLC*

A truism indeed,dear Mum, but not one which will bring me closer to my dream of making out with some hot Hollywood male lead!

Sometimes, when I get particularly nostalgic about being on stage, I go on a little journey into my mind to that happy place where I was adored by applause at the end of each show.

And sometimes, when I'm alone in the eerily quiet front room, it truly does seem that I'm involved in some kind of hospital horror flick...

*Insert MGM theme tune here*

Based on a true story...
The shocking blood-curdling tale of...


Three am.
Graveyard shift.
Dr MB and Dr K are snoring in the tea room.
Things are unusually quiet.
Most of the patients are sleeping and the psychs are still heavily sedated.

A lonely little doctor keeps watch.
She sits forlornly at the large desk situated in the middle of the unit.
The temperature is bordering on freezing, so she has wrapped one of the blankets normally reserved for patients around her shoulders.

She can forget about closing the windows.
With the scourge of Tuberculosis ravaging the community she serves, it is better to risk hypothermia than catch TB by closing the windows and concentrating the dreaded germ in one space.

From her position she can spy on all parts of the front room, except for the small, dark chamber at the back of the unit where the psychiatric patients are kept.

Bad things have happened in there. Very bad things. Things the hospital has forgotten about yet which are still talked about in hushed tones, behind locked doors.

Suddenly she spies movement at the entrance to the psych patient chamber and an involuntary reflex forces her pretty head to look in that direction.

What she witnessed will forever be burned onto her retina.

A dark, vile creature had emerged from it's slumber and was crouched on the ground staring menacingly in her direction. Saliva dribbled incessantly from it's fangs and bubbled with each threatening growl.

It stood up, and stretched out it's arms. Gnarly filthy talons pointed in the small doctor's direction.

It spoke.

"Woman!" It hissed through its rotten mouth. "Woooman! Wooman!"

The beast took one giant step forward in her direction and began thrusting its festering groin in what could only be interpreted as a beastial mating movement.

"I want woman!" it screamed as it lunged in mad lust for the helpless beautiful health worker!

But luckily she was possessed of some mad ninja-type skills which greatly assisted in her evading rape by a psychiatric patient.

She managed to awaken her sleeping colleagues who took great delight in tackling, and maybe unintentionally eye-gouging, the beast to the ground, whereafter she got her own revenge by sedating it with 30 mg of Valium and 10mg of Haloperdol intravenously.

Suck on that, you psych beast bastard!!

Nobody get's near my goodies without my permission!

That was a true story, and not the only one involving narrow escape from physical bodily harm by psych patients.

The "beast" was a bona fide, hypersalivating, utterly psychotic psychiatric patient,namely Mr MX

The "two sleeping colleagues" were played by Dr MB and Dr K, who enjoy nothing more than a bit of psychiatric tackling sports.

And of course, the protagonist, the "stunning lonely doctor" played be me,Dr S.

*And...bow. Smile. And...bow again.*

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

(W.Shakespeare, As you Like it)

Screw being an actress!
My reality is way more entertaining right now.
Who needs the flashing paparazzi lights when you've got the flashing ambulance siren signalling an incoming life-threatening emergency?

Theatrical emotionally draining diva's? I've got soul-sucking whiny still-smoking-asthmatics to deal with.

Drama, Comedy, Horror, Romance? Why, I can get all of that and then some in one patient alone.

Perfect Hollywood endings? Well, we don't always get those. Most of the time our endings are tear-jerkers.

But sometimes, we watch patients who were rushed in on stretchers on the brink of death, walk out of the hospital smiling.

And that's all the applause I need to ensure that I keep coming back to work, shift after shift, after show, after show...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Brothers, Sisters, and the Godfather.

I spend more time with my work colleagues than with my own family.

This happens when one is a mean, lean, life-saving machine working night shifts when everyone is sleeping, and is sleeping when everyone else is working.

I'm spending so much time at work that it's like my work colleagues are starting to become my family.

It's inevitable.
The team effort it takes to piece together a polytrauma victim, take down a violent psychiatric patient, or resuscitate a patient back from imminent death is certainly a bonding experience.

Witnessing one's colleague being vomited/urinated/shat/bled/spat on are all priceless moments of hilarity that provides the fodder for friendly family-type banter.

Spending four nights on call in a row with the same people provides insight into their characters which would otherwise not have been learned during polite dinner conversation.
Sleep deprivation is like being drunk, it loosens the tongue and disinhibits the mind.

What I'm saying is, we're getting way too comfortable.
It's only a matter of time before we start farting around each other, and then rating those rectal whistles like real siblings.

Here's the family breakdown:

Dr D: A specialist neuorologist. She does locums in our trauma unit sometimes to supplement her income. She's like everyone's mum. She doesn't hesitate to dole out the "mama treatment" when you've screwed up or are pissing her off, but is also quick to praise, offer advice and soothe.

Dr MB: You've read about him and his drunken exploits already. He gets to play the role of the mischievous older brother.

Dr S: That's me - taking centre stage as the misunderstood, brilliant, beautiful and slightly insane little sister.

Which leaves us with Dr K to play the role of father.

Except that Dr MB and I are convinced that he should actually be playing the role of Godfather.
And by Godfather I mean the scary Sicilian-mafia-gangster-type godfather, not the sweet loving I'll-take-care-of-you-when-your-parents-die-and-raise-you-in-the-name-of-Jesus type godfather.

There have just been too many incidents pointing to the fact that Dr K could currently be, or previously have been, a gang-leader on the Cape Flats.

1: He has an expressionless face with cool green eyes.

2:He broods. A lot. And skulks around the unit like a moody killing cat.

3:Whenever the hardened criminals come in to the unit and start trying to cause chaos he manages to silence them by just looking in their direction.

4:He revealed that he goes to visit some of his "friends" who currently reside in prison!! He claims that these friends are actually really good people and that when they get out they will be staying with him.

5:He only wears tops with long sleeves and high necks. We're convinced that this is because his torso is riddled with gang tattoos which he can't reveal in public.

6:During an episode of "immobilise the violent psych. patient", I watched as he controlled the guy with a one-handed vice-like choke hold. When we mentioned that perhaps this was not the healthiest method of immobilisation, he simply informed us that this was indeed the best way because once they become hypoxic they stop struggling!!!!!!

7: Whenever a gunshot wound comes into the unit he can correctly identify the type of gun that was used and the calibre of the bullet retrieved.

8: It's possible that he's packing heat.

Do you get the picture?

I mean it's pretty cool to have the damn Godfather on our team right? Lord knows we need some extra protection in this gangland trauma unit.
So now my pseudo-family is more like a pseudo-familia

And I'm loving it.

Except, that I'm also slightly nervous that I might do something to seriously piss him off and then wake up dead the next morning....

Only 5 weeks to go until the registrars rotate and he moves off to another unit elsewhere in Cape Town.

So until then it's yes Dr K, no Dr K, please don't kill me Dr K!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Boozy Sunday Brunch

Sunday morning 8am:

Arrive at work for the third time this weekend.
Dr K arrives shortly after that.
Dr MB is currently AWOL.

Sunday morning 9am.

In the short space of time that I've been at work, I've already drawn blood from three drunken drivers for forensic purposes. The police bring them in is as "DUI's" (driving under the influence). These patients are highly inventive and almost always create bullshit stories which are supposed to prevent me from taking their blood as evidence.

For Example: "I refuse to let you take my blood doctor, I'm a liver patient and the Professor of Livers at Groote Schuur said that you must be careful when taking my blood." Oh yes you most definitely ARE a liver patient my friend, being an alcoholic is compatible with destroyed livers. But I guess the liver is evil, and must be punished.

Or:"I have very thin blood doctor. And I have very thin veins. Don't take my blood or I will bleed to death. I don't want to bleed to death!" Oh yeah dude, I get what you're saying! You mean, you don't want to bleed to death like the people you could have hit while drunk driving would bleed to death? Good call, I wouldn't want to die that way either, you imbecile.

One of the three DUI's happened to be a police officer, caught drunk, on duty, while driving the police vehicle at 8am that morning.
This genius, after I shook my head at him, tried to convince me that he had just been working a very long shift and that he was so tired that he merely appeared drunk!
By the time I was done listening to how simply tired he was, I was getting simply drunk off the concentrated alcohol fumes emanating from his rancid mouth!

Sunday morning 10am:

Dr MB currently NOT at work.
Have received text message from him saying that his flatmate has parked his car in front of his and has lost his keys, thus resulting in his lateness.

I attend to a patient with multiple stab wounds. This guy is still trashed from last night. Too trashed to feel the pain of the, fortunately superficial, gashes on his scalp, back and torso.
He proceeds to blame the stab wounds on his wife. Apparently he was out drinking last night with his friends, when she came looking for him to drag him home. On their way home they were stabbed and robbed by gangsters. Stupid wife is clearly to blame,of course, and should have rather let him drink himself into a coma.

Sunday morning 10:30am:

While still busy suturing the lacerations, the cleaner stumbles into the room and stands next to my suturing trolley. He sways slightly while informing me in slurred speech that I need to throw the unused instruments in the special bin placed outside the room.
"Why thank you cleaner dude, I know this, but thanks for reminding me anyway!" I say. Cleaner dude now needs to leave me alone to finish suturing. Yet, he continues to stand there swaying to the rhythm dictated by the alcohol pumping through his veins, and stares intensely at the instruments on my trolley.
As a little bit of drool starts seeping down the side of his mouth onto my sterile field he begins again, "You know doctor, you must throw these instruments into the bin outside when you are finished, because that is where the dirty instruments must go."

Yes I know you drunken fool! Now take your alcoholic self off to the nearest dark corner and help us all by sleeping off last night's party before attempting any further brain function!

Sunday morning 11:00am

Still no sign of Dr MB. I'm starting to get worried. This is South Africa after all, and these foreigners from the UK don't understand words like, security, and hijacking and trellidoors and safety!

At this point I notice Dr MB's flatmate walking through casualty happily jangling his car keys...Dr MB is not in tow.

Thus my hijacking fears are allayed. Me thinks that Dr MB, like everyone else in casualty today, is also suffering the after-effects of drinking the devil's drool!

Sunday 11:30pm

The paramedics wheel in a morbidly obese lady with no past medical history other than being a known alcoholic. I get the feeling that in the last few months she has been sober less times than she has been able to view her own genitals beyond her massive stomach. She is currently comatose. It could be that she has drunken herself into a stupor or that she has suffered some other major pathology. First rule of intoxicated patients: Do not assume that all their symptoms are attributable to the intoxication. So after some major resuscitation, we send her off to Groote Schuur for a CT scan of her brain. My friend texts me later from Groote Schuur to inform me that she has suffered a massive sub-arachnoid haemorrhage*, whose initial symptoms were probably not picked up due to her having imbibed satan's sap all weekend. Brings new meaning to the term, "smashed out of your skull".

Sunday, midday:

Dr MB arrives, body intact, in the casualty unit. Hoorah!

He looks more like a patient than a doctor:
I begin my examination....
No evidence of hijacking noted, thankfully.
On observation though, possible evidence of a rough Saturday night: hair unusually unstyled, face slightly puffy and red, eyes glazed.
Clothes noted to be dishevelled: having fallen asleep in them last night is highly likely.
Non-purposeful wandering around trauma unit: a clear indication of hangover. That and the fact that he is periodically pressing his palms to his temples and moaning softly.
Patient delusional: Believes that he got two flat tyres on the way to work and thus had to spend the best part of the day sorting it out. Patient even promises to show me the receipts.

Patient forgets that I am female, have two brothers, am a wife, and a doctor. I can smell bullshit from kilometres away.

Never mind, Dr MB. I'll forgive you seeing that after your IV caffeine treatment you perked up and saw most of the patients for the rest of the day, while the rest of us slacked off a little.

I was just annoyed that EVERYONE was enjoying a boozy-Sunday-brunch style afternoon in casualty EXCEPT ME!!!!

It was then that I decided that I needed to get my own back.
Come Monday morning, I would stumble into work stoned, drunk, high on tik, still wearing last night's clothes and screaming like a lunatic that somebody needed to get me another drink...

But I didn't. I remained the diligent little girl that I am, had a good Sunday night's rest and arrived in good spirits, unfortunately not methylated spirits, for work the next morning...

Good little Dr S, always doing the right thing. I have terrible luck though. Knowing me, if I did ever try any nonsense I most certainly would be the ONE person in the unit to get caught, reported and probably disbarred.
Wait...hold up! Being disbarred means I never have to work as a doctor again right? Pass me that crack pipe!!!!


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