Agraphia Medical Tragicomedy

29Jul/10Off

Psych Is Scary

3AM, and the all-too-familiar beeping starts.  I awake to the dull amber glow of my pager.  Call the nurse for bed 29, please.

"Zac... we have a patient who is scaring us and we need you to come see him."  I rub the sand out of my eyes and stumble out of bed.

It's quiet in the hospital, but there is an ominous tone hanging over the night.  Wind whips past windows and the rain has been coming in bursts.  The nursing station is silent except for the gentle beeping of the monitors.  The lights are dimmed in the ICU, except for Robert's room, bed 29.  He's a psych patient who landed himself here by driving full-bore into a concrete median.  He's been in and out of consciousness since day one.

I walk down the darkened hallway and towards his room. Eerie noises emanate as I get closer; a mixture of wails and shrieks.  It's Robert.

Nurses stand back against the cabinets, and I see Robert lying in his bed, ripping and tearing at his restraints.  A thin line of spittle hangs down his mouth and a small trickle of blood trails from where he has chafed at the wrist cuffs.  He's hurting himself.  He moans like a caged animal.

"Robert, it's the doctor, just coming to check on you..." I stammer, but his eyes are wild and rolled in the back of his head.  The rain starts to pick up outside of the room, first brisk and then torrential. I don't want to be in the room alone with him, but the nurses file out now that I'm here.

He mumbles something, eyes darting around the room.

"I can't hear you, Robert, please speak up."  He meets my eyes for one brief moment, lucid, and motions me over.  Slowly, I advance.  I'm keenly aware of the darkened hallway behind me.  This feels like something out of a horror movie and I have the distinct sensation that something is there.   I glance over my back.  I'm being silly, it's nobody.  The hairs on the back of my neck crawl anyway.

Nervous, I lean in. "Robert, I can't understand you.  You're speaking nonsense."  He grunts some more.  I edge closer.

Suddenly, he sits bolt upright, his face inches from mine.  I jump back, startled. Panting, sweat beading off his brow, his arms are cords of muscle  as he fights the restraints.

Robert's head starts turning, slowly, staring straight forward, breath fetid.   A slow, terrifying grin spreads across his face as he fixes his gaze to mine, his cracked yellowing teeth in a rictus of madness.  Slowly, his head tilts, his bloodshot eyes boring into me.  The patter of rain is the only sound in the room.  And then he speaks, his voice deep, hoarse, and gutteral.

"Look... out... the WINDOW!"

Panicked, I spin around as a single bolt of lightning illuminates the room.  A shadow flits across the glass - no, it must be my imagination - but my heart is pounding.  The rain traces lazy rivulets down the window.  I turn back quickly, but Robert, spent, is lying back in bed, breathing softly, eyes closed.  The room is silent again except for the rain.

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  1. Sweet god. I’m going to have nightmares.

  2. Sometimes the psychosis is more charming. I remember one patient I had repeatedly pulled his NG tube out and flipped because the “evil santa claus” was sitting in his room. Truth? That was his 1:1 nurse, who was indian and wearing red scrubs. “Evil santa claus” might not have been the most PC term, but I could kind of see where he was getting it from! He did much better (and everyone else felt better too) when we put him in restraints.

  3. I might add that the 1:1 nurse was kind of roly-poly and a man.

  4. This is the coolest post ever!

  5. Dropped by this blog because I caught my girlfriend crying while reading this post.

    I just gotta say that you are an amazing writer! It must be tough keeping up with it despite your hours as a doctor, but it would be a shame if you ever stopped. It’s rare to find someone who writes so succinctly yet so insightfully. Keep it up!

  6. when my grandmother was coming to after a surgery once she did something very similar, and when i turned and looked out the window there was a pigeon there. it scared the hell out of me.

    I’m really enjoying your blog!


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