Thursday, July 7, 2011

Adventures in Sitting: The One Who Got Away

Occasionally- though lately it has been more often than not- I have had to sit. That's what we call it when a patient comes in for "psychiatric illness", or "suicidal ideation", or "ingestion", or "homicidal intent", etc, and a technician leaves off normal duties to make sure s/he is watched while in our facility. Either the patient has proven to be a danger to him/herself or others or has said the magic words "I want to hurt myself." Then s/he is granted the privileges of having someone watching them one-on-one for all the uncomfortable hours spent in the ER, of having that same lucky companion to accompany any trips to the bathroom, and facilitate the removal of all plastic cutlery from meal trays before eating. Apparently plastic knives have been an issue with cutters.
I hate sitting. It is an unwanted break from the action of treating emergent medical issues; it also makes me really tired, even though I'm not doing anything. My heart rate drops, my adrenaline gets used up, it's all sorts of terrible and useless. At least, that's how I felt, until I didn't meet my Mr. Towga.

One ordinary day, upon seeing me arrive to my shift, the tech I relieved sprang up happily, gave me a hug, and ran off to live his life. I was not informed that I was supposed to be sitting for two patients: one who had ingested a bottle and a half of aspirin, the other, usually a regular drunk, who had jumped into the river in an attempt to harm himself. I went about my duties, stocking and checking up on my new patients, when I heard "He went that way!"

"Were you sitting with that patient??" A nurse rushed up to accuse me. I looked at the rumpled empty stretcher.
"No, I was definitely not," I replied.
"Then who was? He jumped in the river yesterday. If he jumps in again, someone's head is going to roll. Are you sure you were not sitting with him?"
"I was never told I was."
"Then what are these?" She discovers sitter forms on the counter; it was a scary moment when I realized I was supposed to be sitting for both my ingestion lady and Mr. Towga.
"I was never informed I was sitting. I've never seen the man in my life."
"Well, we'll see about this," she huffed.

Mr. Towga took off in several wrong directions in his clumsy escape and was not wearing a hospital gown, only street clothes. Several seasoned nurses pointed him in the right direction of our exit. The last people to wave him goodbye were the security officers out front. It was only when he took off running that people got suspicious and realized he was a psychiatric patient.

The police were informed and a search was performed, but Mr. Towga was long gone. I didn't get in trouble because I was given improper (nonexistent) report, or so they say. I have a feeling it was more that some of our oldest and crankiest nurses were the gracious souls who showed him the way to the exit.

I take sitting duty very seriously now. Woe be to the uncooperative patient under my watchful eye! Mr. Towga came in again a few weeks later, thank goodness, and only as a drunk this time. I made sure to get a good look at him. Nice to finally meet you.


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