Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cops and Robbers

I went in for a day shift expecting a familiar patient load consisting of situations such as cp n/y dx’d (chest pain not yet diagnosed – I stared at that for a good 25 minutes before I gave up and asked what that meant), various dysrhythmias and diabetes. Well, I (along with my teacher) got assigned to be the nurse for a 35 year old man with a lackluster medical history but a remarkably colourful personal history. He was a prisoner and was jailed for a variety of offenses such as theft, drug possession and trafficking and assault. He was found to be confused and breathing very rapidly (Kussmaul respirations). He was later diagnosed with hyperglycemia. Of course, being a student, I was not allowed to go into his room alone, despite him being handcuffed, shackled and surrounded by 4 armed guards. Since interacting with prisoners is quite out of my range of experiences, I decided that I should go into the room with carte blanche. I don’t know how well that served me, but when my teacher and I went into his room to introduce ourselves as his nurses, we were greeted by a barrage of profanities and lewd remarks, the tamer of which included, “F@#k off b^&#$*s” and “I’ll kill you if you touch me with that thing [the blood glucose testers]”. A wonderful start to a wonderful day. As the day wore on, his comments became increasingly obscene until halfway through the shift, when he became a lot quieter and decided to let us do our work in peace. At one time, he even asked about an IV solution he was receiving and merely nodded when we explained its function.

Sadly, his tranquility did not last for the rest of the shift. Towards the end of the shift, my teacher allowed me to test his blood sugar levels. When I approached him and explained what I was going to do, he nodded in agreement and let me proceed. However, when I was about to lance his finger, he jumped up at me (he was still cuffed to the bed) and menacingly said, “Boo! Scared ya didn’t I sweetness?” Of course he did. I jumped back, dropped the lance, testing strips and created a mess that I did not want to clean up while his jeering laughter provided the soundtrack to the moment. I ended up leaving the mess because I did not want to be in that room any longer. I didn’t get a blood sugar reading

Having done a short stint in a mental health facility, I thought I would be better prepared work with ‘shady’ characters, but this man made me recoil. I did not feel sorry for him at all. He was convicted of and found guilty of serious crimes. He deserved to be in jail. And yet, I could not stop thinking about what being hospitalized meant to him. Did he see his room as a temporary respite from his cell? Or was this the same prison with different but weaker wardens? Is that why he felt comfortable trying to scare us? Did hyperglycemia and the ensuing diagnosis of type II diabetes really matter to him? Most of all, I wanted to know if he was sorry for the crimes he committed and if not, then how did he rationalize and justify his choices? I wanted to know the answers to these questions, but I did not want to be the one to extract that information from him. I wanted him to forget that I existed because knowing that I am known by someone who is comfortable with panning out brutal violence for slight provocations scares me. This is one abyss that I am happy to leave far behind

1 comment:

Jessica said...

You nerd. Referencing the "abyss"!!!

But yeah, I would have loved to have smacked that guy for scaring you like that. Perhaps the hospital is a step up from being in prison, but if you think about it, in prison at least you have more range of motion than being shackled to the bed. Who knows what this guy is thinking. Better left to the imagination I guess.