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Life in an Emergency Department

Updated on April 11, 2013
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On reception duty - Life in an Emergency Department

A tall, spiky haired lady stands at my desk. She looks around, then leans forward theatrically, over-enunciating her words. " Erm, hello. I've got some material stuck up my flute." Hmmm. One of those. " I wondered if any of your nurses might have a special instrument that would help remove it." I ask how long she's had the problem. " Oh, since first thing this morning," she says. " I was cleaning my flute, when somehow the material got jammed." She lifts a black box onto my desk, and opens it to reveal, yes, a flute. " I think you need a music shop," I tell her.

Father and son are in next . The son's limping badly and trying not to cry. Dad looks equally upset, saying," We was only play wrestling, love, but I think I've broken his toe." I turn to the son to ask , " And how old are you ?" His face flushes. " Thirty-one," he mutters. "Yes, old enough to know better."

I'm lucky that this is a small town emergency department, and I cover the reception desk some Saturday mornings. Weekend nights must be challenging in large hospitals. It's disappointing how many people misuse the service, and pop along with a sore throat they've had for days.

Tiny, exotic nurse Lola scuttles back in from her break. She swears she never exercises, but it's possible the speed she talks burns mega-calories. " OMG I've just had a six piece breakfast from the canteen plus a giant chocolate bar plus an enormous coffee with four sugars so I feel well good, all hyped up and ready to go, but I'll get a massive energy slump later and I'll have to have a monster sh*t and I'll be all hot and bothered and go bright red and wonder why I ate all that. Story of my life." Thanks for sharing.

An ambulance pulls up outside. A smartly dressed woman emerges, comes over to reception. " They said they'll be out in a minute," she says uncertainly.. " I need to give you my husband's details." The chap, Dave, is forty-two years old. As the minutes tick by, I know they're not going to be bringing him in. She knows too. " He's dead, isn't he?" She's not really asking me. " Let's just see what happens," I say, and sit her down.

" I need to phone our son, Simon," she says. Apparently he is at University three hours away. " I won't tell him over the phone. I'll say, Dad's ill, don't panic, but please come straight away. And I'll have to call Dave's mum."

" One of the doctors will speak to you soon," I tell her. " You'll know more then." She smiles sadly. " Oh, I know," she says. " I know." Forty- two years old, I think, it's no age. I excuse myself as another ambulance arrives. It's almost a relief to leave her. Then I see two ambulances have arrived together . Not a good sign.

The first ambulance holds two shell-shocked young parents, both in floods of tears. The second carries the reason for their tears. A cot death victim. The parents are ushered into a side room, where I have to take details of the baby. Between hiccuppy sobs, the father manages to mumble, " Daisy." I come unstuck asking Daisy's date of birth. Today's her date of death. She's six months old. Suddenly, forty-two years seems like a good option.

Everything's Peachy!
Everything's Peachy! | Source

Next in are a married couple. He does the talking, as she has a can of peaches stuck to her lip. " The wife was opening the can, like, and when she'd made a little hole, she fancied drinking some of the juice so it didn't spill. Damn thing trapped her lip, and she squeals when I try to pull it off. " After a long and embarrassing wait huddled in a corner, the woman is seen by a doctor. He goes to the kitchen, gets a can opener, and makes a small hole in the other side of the can. Vacuum released, lady extricated. Years of medical training went in to that.

A young dad arrives looking sheepish and presents his cute four-year-old son. " Sorry to bother you," he says," My wife insisted I bring him in. She's at home with our new baby, she's making a fuss about the lad being too pale." The little fellow smiles. He's certainly pale. They sit quietly in the waiting room playing with Lego. Later in the shift, I hear the boy's being admitted. He has leukemia. I think of his lovely smile, of the young mum back home waiting for news, and send a little prayer for them.

A frazzled mum turns up with her toddler son, who's sporting a cut to the forehead, along with an impressive lump. Gran's come too, and it's just as well. The mum starts crying as she tells how junior fell over, then she suddenly vomits into a waste bin. Gran momentarily drops the tissue she's been holding over the cut, which starts to bleed again. Mum turns white as a sheet and crumples to the floor. Guess we've got two for the price of one.

The next man comes in with a badly gashed leg. He's taken straight to a cubicle, and the nurses quickly assess him before I go to take his details. When I pop in, he's down to his underpants, and a nurse produces a hyperdermic needle. " Just a little prick," she says. He winks at her. " That may be," he says, " But it's what you do with it that counts."

And so the patients keep rolling in. This is life in an emergency department. There's always something different round the corner, people needing assistance and reassurance. Sometimes a sticking plaster will do the trick. Sometimes their visit marks the start of heartache. I take my hat off to the doctors and nurses, and am glad there is some small way that I can help.

Hats off to this guy!

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    • StegToDiffer profile image

      Spunk Nellie 5 years ago from New York, NY

      What an interesting idea for a Hub. It never occurred to me that an emergency receptionist would be such a fascinating job. This Hub was moving and--intermittently--very funny.

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 5 years ago from uk

      Thanks,StegToDiffer. You do get to see life from a different angle working in a hospital.

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      What wonderful, funny, hilarious, fantastic and heartbreaking stories, Innerspin. I love the tin of peaches story - as you say, it really shows off the doctors' skills to the best advantage. I love this Hub, it's like little snapshots of life. voted up and shared :)

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 5 years ago from uk

      Hi Redberry Sky, thanks for the kind comment. The snapshot effect was my aim, so it's great that you mentioned that. I do wonder if that lady ever ate peaches again.

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      I think even a trip to casualty couldn't put someone off peaches! Maybe it would teach her to use a bowl in future, though ... :)

    • gmarquardt profile image

      gmarquardt 4 years ago from Hill Country, Texas

      Great stories. During my "visit" to the hospital, it took over thirty minutes for the technician to insert a foley in my arm. From then on out, I was known as the "tough prick!"

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Like it! I'm glad you're here to tell the tale, gmarquardt, it was a rough ride for you. Thanks for commenting.

    • aykianink profile image

      aykianink 4 years ago

      He got...stuff....... stuck to his.... junk. Oi. Fun read. Good job, Inner. Indeed, a hospital in a metropolis must see some crazy things.

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Thanks for your comment, aykiank, it's a funny old world.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 4 years ago from UK

      Having worked in A&E for a few years during my rotation I can totally relate to these tales from Casualty. IT is a gift that keeps on giving: happy and sad, outright hilarious to downright devilish, funny howlers to moments of quiet contemplation. You have a remarkable gift of writing these anecdotes as is.. so the reader feels like they are there. awesome.

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Docmo, that means a lot coming from someone who's been there. I'm sure you have many more memories of your own. Oddly, I never usually write in first tense, it just felt like the thing to do. Some incidents live on. Thank you.

    • WritingPrompts profile image

      Karen 4 years ago from The Garden of Eugene (Oregon)

      What a lot of ups and downs in a day! I thought the peaches and the little prick were hilarious. Very sad about the baby though. It must take a special kind of person to go from one extreme to the other so quickly.

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Thanks for the comment,WritingPrompts, it can be a bit of a rollercoaster. Most people seem to take one thing at a time, get on with the job in hand, then mentally process things later if need be.

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      This was so interesting to hear from your own experience.It must be an adventure working in the emergency room. The story about the flute made me laugh but the one about the little boy with leukemia is so sad. You are probably one of the first people patients see so you have a big impact on their experience.Voted up!

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Hi, healthylife2, thanks for commenting. Glad you found it interesting. I'm always happy to help out, it's the doctors and nurses who do the hard part.

    • Richard Vagel profile image

      What it says on top. 4 years ago from New York, New York

      I thoroughly enjoyed this hub. Great read and it kept me entertained, very engaging.

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Lovely to read your comment, Richard Vagel, thanks. I ended up in an emergency department as a patient on Tuesday morning, and have just come home from having my appendix out!

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      I'd buy the book. Let me know when you publish it! :)

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 3 years ago from uk

      Wow, LongTimeMother, I better get writing! Thanks for your comment.

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