The posting of this story was made because of a special request from my sister, Diane, as noted in the comment section of “Restraint.” It was originally “published” as an e-mail to the Christian Girls Choir over a year ago. The “choir” will be blogged on a later date. If any of the choir is reading, they surely remember this story. It is another story about a day in that crazy emergency department:
We all thought this couldn’t possibly have ever happened before, but in retelling the story at the change of shift, we found others who had a similar story to tell. But to all of us in the ER today…it was a definite first!
Denise was brought in by the police as an “okay to book”. “Okay to books” are people who have been taken into custody, but then come up with a physical complaint to get out of going to jail (“I can’t breathe”, “I’m having chest pain”, “My arm hurts” -duh, you’re in cuffs-, “I have a rash”, etc…) In these situations, these people are brought to the ER still in custody to be evaluated by a physician and deemed “okay to book”. Most of the time these people are making up their complaints. For a few it pays off; it’s not worth the time to the police to stay in the ER waiting for this process and they are released. But for Denise, this was not the case. She was felonious! And felonious individuals just don’t get let off that easily.
Let me interject with another related story about an “okay to book”. This young man was brought in with a chief complaint of having an asthma attack. And he was. He really did need to be treated before getting booked. But his story has another twist to it. The “victim mentality” twist. Once he was cuffed to the gurney, I asked the police to step out so that I could talk to the patient privately. Patients will tell nurses pretty much anything because we are so trustworthy in their eyes. So this guy was quick to tell me that he had been caught in the act of robbing a house, and was chased by the police. He had a crack habit and smoked regularly. He had smoked it that morning. He wasn’t really a thief, he had to steal to pay for his drugs. And he told me that he was going to sue the police for making him sick. He was sincere. He believed he’d been victimized by the police. Yes, a guy who KNOWS he has asthma, and smokes crack anyway, and steals to pay for it, and gets caught in the act of robbing…and because the police CHASED him, and the exertion caused an asthma attack, he was going to sue. Poor little victim. I leaned into him and patted his arm and said, quite sincerely to him, “if you think you are going to win a suit against the LAPD with a tale of woe like that, then you have worse problems than being a crack addict with a robbery problem.” And I popped the nebulizer over his nose and mouth.
Back to Denise. She was to be processed for felony robbery. She shoplifted cheese (yup, cheese – we asked what kind, but just got strange looks from both the cops and the patient), but in doing so, she assaulted the store clerk. Heroin was involved. Her complaint was nausea and vomiting. She was probably in need of a fix, but she wasn’t sick. Being a little bitty thing (about 85 pounds and 5’2”) the police stood watch outside her door and took her out of the handcuffs. They could easily handle her!! (These “in custody” patients are generally cuffed to the gurney). There was a seasoned officer and his rookie partner doing duty on Denise. And they never left their post.
So it came as quite a shock to discover that, after a couple of hours in the ER, Denise’s room was empty! Mind you, there was no way out of that room except that door. AND Denise’s clothing was missing. The rookie ran to and fro like a Keystone Cop, not knowing what to do and looking like he was either going to pass out or puke. Hospital security was notified and before long the ER was swarming with our guards and about a dozen cops. A quick search of the ER, the hospital, and its environs yielded nothing. If we couldn’t find Denise, these two cops were going to be in for the ribbing of their lives from the rest of the force!
Denise’s nurse had a lightening bolt of an idea. Which for this nurse, usually meant something stupid. Let’s just say, he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Almost as dumb as a box of rocks. His idea? Maybe she was in the ceiling. We all thought this was a ridiculous theory, UNTIL, on inspection, a small triangle of hospital gown was seen protruding between the drop ceiling tiles!! In order to flush her out, this nurse (jokingly, mind you) loudly said “She’s in the ceiling, use your gun!” While the rookie comes running WITH HIS HAND ON HIS GUN (unbelievable), a plaintive voice was heard from above crying “Don’t shoot me” as another nurse intercepts the rookie, and quickly informs him that a firearm wasn’t going to be necessary! The ceiling vent tile was removed and two sooty arms reached down around the ventilation hose. In a half whining, half panicked voice, Denise cried “I DON’T WANT TO BE UP HERE!!” It was pitiful.
The seasoned cop grabbed her roughly by the arms and pulled her down, headfirst, into the exam room catching her by the waist halfway down, while the rookie tells Denise that she is “in SOOO much trouble!” in a voice reminiscent of an “I’m going to tell Dad” moment from childhood. We had all lined up at the doorway, heads at varying heights extending back 15 feet, to watch the spectacle. All of us dying of laughter. Denise had managed to get her clothes, climb up on the counter, and use the cabinet shelves as steps to reach the celing, remove a ceiling tile, get into the ceiling, replace the tile, and get dressed, leaving just enough gown trapped to give her away. All without making a sound. She couldn’t get far though, all the walls to her room were load bearing and extended to the roof. She had been trapped up there.
It wasn’t until she had been led out, scuffing along in her bare feet, hands now back in cuffs, and taken away that her shoes were found by the maintenance crew checking for damage, still up in the ceiling!
She never did vomit. But I bet once those cops got back to the precinct and started getting’ razzed by their fellow officers THEY just might have!
***Emergency roomism: An emergency roomism is a word that “sounds” like what a patient/family member/visitor THINKS they’ve heard something called, but it isn’t exactly right.
Emergency roomism for the day: Q-Ticks
Some need translation. Does this one need an explanation???? If it does, those are Q-Tips.