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The Daily Rhino
Monday, November 05, 2007

All Hallow's A&E

Originally published in the November issue of Medical Student Newspaper.


IT’S HALLOWE’EN in A&E. I start my shift at 10pm with a few minutes’ grace to read some emails. A study in The Lancet examined romances in medical dramas and found a “marked preponderance of brilliant, tall, muscular, male doctors with chiselled features, working in emergency medicine”.

Two out of six. As I can’t really take any credit for being male, I better try to enjoy my last month ‘working in emergency medicine’, which won’t be easy.

My first patient is what we politely refer to as a complete loon. I’ll call her Agnes and she’s visiting us from the local psychiatric hospital. Agnes has been sectioned for some time (don’t ask me what number) and hates the psychiatric ward she is on. It quickly becomes clear she is fabricating a story to get out of her ward. The psychiatrist must have seen her, realised he knows nothing about medicine and sent her to A&E.

It is, however, a little difficult to understand her as she has two Nicorette inhalers in her mouth. Not to mention the five Nicorette patches on her abdomen, her brown sunglasses, orange hair, five overcoats and two scarves.

Her sense of humour seems to be intact though:

“Doc, I’m telling you now, if you send me back there I will kill myself.”
“Well that’s convenient,” I replied, “because when people want to kill themselves we send them to psychiatric hospital.”
“In that case I don’t want to kill myself, I want to live!”

I’m rather in the mood for seeing some ghouls and ghosties tonight, and head to Minors in the hope of stitching up a pitchfork-laceration or vampire bite. I’m collared on the way by sister saying two are waiting in Resus.

I generally like working in Resus. You see, the overriding gripe I have about A&E is time-wasters. I have to resist slapping jackasses with nothing better to do with their time than ignore the sign saying “Accident and Emergency” and waltz in with problems they’ve had for years. But Resus patients (normally) aren’t faking it.

We’re short-staffed and I end up seeing two patients simultaneously. This is not only dangerous, it’s confusing. Luckily (for me, not them) they had almost identical problems (chest infections and fast AF) and pretty similar names, so I just said everything twice.

There’s no chance of me getting to Minors to see any pumpkin-heads after I’m finished with the two old boys in Resus, as “people are breaching in Majors.” Nurses always shout this at me under the impression I’m going to care.

A guy who felt his throat was closed for a minute, but is fine now. A girl who had chest pain but thinks it was wind. Then a bad-tempered Francophone jobseeker who broke his foot and was put in a cast two days ago, has a fracture clinic appointment in the morning and saw his GP two hours before coming to A&E. I explained broken feet do normally hurt, but he wasn’t satisfied.

In fact he turned out to be a real prick and I had to threaten to call security, in French, before he left. Not before shouting in Franglais:

“Where you from? How old you? You’re too yang bro! Je veut un autre médecin. Na, na, you got a long way to go.”

Whilst he was undeniably a tosser, he was probably right.

Where are those damn vampires? A frikking zombie at least, please Satan brighten my evening with something macabre.

The three others doctors on duty and myself wade through nursing home specials, neurotic parents, drunkards, asthmatics and more chest and abdo pains than you can shake a steth at.

6 o’clock in the AM rolls around and I realise no fluid has entered or exited my body all night. I decide this is a perfect opportunity to dipstick my own urine, which is so dark it absorbs all light in the bathroom and I piss on my scrubs.

2+ protein, 1+ blood, 1+ ketones. Ketones? I wonder what my blood glucose is? 2.9! Sweet, a new record. I mean, I think I’m going to faint. I rush dinner having wasted half my break investigating myself.

Back on the shop floor and I pick up the next card. “Limb problems” is the non-specific triage category and at last it’s a bunch of piss-artists in fancy dress. w00t!

My patient is not only dressed as an axe-wielding blood-soaked doctor, she’s an absolute hottie (I only mean that in a purely Hippocratical way).

Good-natured drunks are always fun so I act the part. Whilst taking a history I point to her friend in vampire garb and ask, “he with you?” and then examine her neck.

"What are you doing?" asks the friend.
"I need to know if she’s turned."

So she clearly has a thing for doctors and I will be spending the next half hour with her in a small room sewing up her elbow. I silently offer thanks to the Prince of Darkness as my mind turns back to that Lancet article.

However as she’s face-down for the stitching, I (tragically) spend most of the time talking to her friend, who wants to become a doctor. I give him half-mumbled answers as I get so engrossed in trying a fancy mattress-running suture combination on this hapless girl’s elbow.

When I’m done she bounds off without so much as a “thank you doctor, you saved my life” and an unexpected kiss on the lips, or a “how can I ever repay you?” and a lingering kiss on the cheek or even a “call me!” and an airkiss. In fact there was a distinct lack of kissing.

Somewhat confused as to how I could POSSIBLY have been turned down, I remembered I was lacking in brilliance, height, muscles and chiselled features. Soon I would lose my job title of emergency doctor as well. I mulled it over and decided I would rather undergo extensive leg-lengthening surgery than take another A&E job.

I finally allowed the chatter of friend-who-wants-to-be-doctor through and in an unusual display of paternalism, I put a hand on his shoulder and said “son, don’t do it.”

My shift would be up soon and I could grab a Rosie Lee’s Full English on my way home. Working nights eliminates your ability to do anything, so I’ll get back to working on my serum and saving the world from vampires next week. Right now, I’m just the daysleeper.

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