Restraint

Time for something humorous, doncha think??

One of my favorite quotable T-shirts is the one that says "some days it's just not worth chewing through the restraints".  I can totally relate to this!  I am, or was until last July, an emergency department nurse.  Working in the ED you get to see just about everything if you work there long enough.

For the past six years I worked in a smaller, but hellaciously busy, community hospital ED.  It is sandwiched between posh Marina Del Rey and the more artsy and homelessy Venice Beach.  So it sees an extremely bizarre cross section of society.  Actors, sports figures, producers, and other "upper crusty" people are treated along side the homeless, the drunks, the drug addicted, and the INSANE.  And when I say INSANE, I mean clinically and sometimes homicidally INSANE.  But this isn't a story about insanity.  I'll save insanity for later.  Today, children, we are going to talk about DRUNKS.

Some EDs are famous for their care of neurological injuries, some for pediatrics, some for cardiac emergencies.  Well, one of the things "my" ED specializes in is drunks.  We had (I only say "had" because I don't work there anymore, so I am switching to past tense) many "frequent fliers" who came to stay with us.  These chronically drunk individuals did not find their own way to the hospital.  Most of them weren't happy about being there.  But because they passed out on someone's porch, or peed in somebody's trashcan, 911 was called.  And because somebody died in custody years ago from alcohol related events, these publically drunken and often disorderly individuals become patients instead of inmates.  Whatever happened to drunk tanks?  Bring them back!

Hey, I said this was going to be funny.  I'll soapbox on the "social problem of alcohol" in the future.

This post is about, well, I'm going to call her Suzanne.  If I told you her real name, I'd be in violation of federal HIPAA laws.  Suzanne was one of our irregularly regular drunks.  Which was unusual, because most of the chronic drunks who end up in the ED are men and homeless.  But Suzanne was neither a man, nor was she homeless.  What she was, was a mean, mean drunk.  So she'd get brought in for one kind of disturbance or another.  She would attack her husband, or scream at her neighbors.  She scared people.  She would binge in a cycle.  Sometimes we'd see her frequently (like more than once a day), sometimes it would be months between her "visits".

At the time this story takes place we were under renovation and were running our department out of the very inconvenient and crowded back area of the department.  It was awful, but that's another story as well.

Suzanne was brought in wild eyed and screaming at the top of her lungs…."YOU'RE KILLING MEEEEEEE!  YOU BLEEPING THIS AND THAT!!!!", etc.  Criteria for discharge of a drunk is ability to ambulate independently and to make arrangements to get home if you can't walk there.  Suzanne was so out of her mind, that, although she could walk and probably even get a cab under her own power, we had to keep her until she sobered up enough to calm down.  And because of the ferocity with which she struck out at the staff on this occasion, once she was undressed and put in a hospital gown, little miss Suzanne got put into four point (soft, not leather!) restraints (that means arms and legs).   

And she got "chemically restrained" as well.  Which means she was given meds to knock her out until she sobered up.  We all hunkered down for a long day of Suzanne intermittantly hollering from the very farthest back room about needing this and needing that, and how we're killing her, and how we are this or that expletive deleted. 

After about an hour of this auditory assault, she quieted down.  We went to check on her, to make sure she was breathing and just sleeping, which she was.  So we exhaled a collective sigh of relief at the now "relatively" quiet state our department was in.  Once she was asleep, we relaxed.  Have you ever heard the adage, "let sleeping dogs lie"?  We expand that in the emergency setting to "let sleeping dogs and drunks lie".  So we let Suzanne lie.  We'd intermittantly listen next to the door for her breathing, but did nothing that would prematurely awaken her.

Another hour or so of this quiet (as it relates to Suzanne) had passed, when a thin, attractive blond lady approached the nurses station.  She was asking where she could find the bathroom.  Believing the woman to be a visitor, the secretary pointed through the exit door and told the woman that the bathroom was in the waiting room.

WAIT!!! The nurses practically yelled when they saw who was being given access to the "real world"!  It was Suzanne, looking very much like your average well-kept Marina Del Rey wife.  She was quickly corraled and led to an interior bathroom.  You can't just let patients under treatment walk out because they think they're ready to go, or even because they want to go.

One of the nurses quickly ran back to the room where Suzanne had been.  Wrapped up nicely into four little packages in the trash were Suzanne's restraints!  And they held clear evidence of the sharpness of Suzanne's ingenuity, as well as the sharpness of her teeth!  Not only had she chewed her way through the restraints, she then went through the trouble to untie them from the gurney, and neatly wrap them up before getting dressed, brushing her hair, and applying make-up, and heading out to the nursing station a new woman.  A clear message was sent to the staff that day!  Just try it!

Some days it IS worth chewing through the restraints.  Ask Suzanne.  We let her go after exhibiting such amazing problem solving techniques and dexterity! 

But she'd be back.  They all, almost always, come back. 

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About Lou (Linda)

Just a girl from Colorado trying to live life to God's glory with a certain amount of gusto! View all posts by Lou (Linda)

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