Series, The Doctor's View

The Doctor’s View: The Trained Suer

HeaderBy Denise Kavuma, Uganda:

You know those times when you have too much to do and instead of doing anything about it, you just decide to sleep? That sort of logic-less situation is exactly what happened this time around. It had been a fairly busy night with patients trickling in at a very annoying rate. Just when I thought I was done with one and could then go and take a break, another mother would bring her kid for treatment. It's the sort of night you find yourself wishing for some magical event, mad doctor, or mystical being to come and whisk you away to some far off place. I mean, Aslan isn't restricted to Europeans, right?

This went on endlessly until 3am that day; I had activated Zombie-mode at around the 1am mark and was just fed up. There is something to be said about parents who bring their children at 3am to a hospital because of a cough and flu. In many cases, the children have been unwell for say, 3 days, and it's not like they've worsened or anything; nope, the mother just had a bout of sleeplessness and decided to take a road trip to the hospital.

Well, it had been that kind of night and when the break finally came at 3:30am, instead of sleeping, I struck up a conversation with one of the people who was on call with me that night. It was a stupid thing to do, I know but I just couldn't take the risk of finally settling down in bed and then having the devil's phone ring 20 minutes later only to be told that yet another road-tripper had come in.

In the middle of the conversation, as we discussed which child we secretly wanted to pinch the most, a lady burst into the room and practically slid towards us on her knees. That would have looked pretty cool if she hadn't been crying at that moment. It was one of those times when you don't want to do anything and would much rather somebody else took the lead but well, I was the team leader and everybody was looking at me and raising their eyebrows as if to say “Well? Get your lazy punk-ass up and go talk to the woman.”

I did as their raised eyebrows implored me to and the story was that apparently this lady had a very sick sister in the hospital but the nurse who was attending to them was, simply put, just a rude thing. The conversation had seemingly gone something like this:

Attendant: my sister is not breathing well, do something!

Nurse: don't tell me what to do you @#%$! You should be lucky I'm even here; if it hadn't been for me, your sister would even be dead.

Attendant: *bursts out into tears* what? How can you say that, let me go find a doctor to help me.

Or so she said.

Of course by the time her story was done, my own eyebrows had merged with my hairline and I was feeling pretty skeptical about the whole situation. Dealing with the wards and their patients really wasn't in my jurisdiction and I was supposed to stay stationed in the ER the entire night but this lady was crying quite a bit and hey, I had no patients to see to at the time. I decided to go and have a quick look.

Hey, I was practically zombified at the moment; better I made a bad decision in my personal life than with a patient, right?

On reaching the ICU, I found a relatively breathless patient and after examining her and stabilizing her as best as I could, I turned to deal with the situation at hand. See, sometimes patients are brought to us when it's too late to do anything and the best we can do is ease their passing; this was one such patient. So it made sense that her sister was agitated; she really was just looking for some control of the situation…any control. Oh, but she picked the wrong nurse to try and wrest control from.

I knew this nurse; fastest tongue in the west (wing) and not a single apologetic bone in her body. She looked at me going about my business with the bitterest sneer you'll ever see on a woman dressed all in white and well, her reason for being displeased was eventually revealed. Apparently, sometime during the day, oxygen had run out on the wards (recall this is a PNFP in Uganda) and they had been trying to rectify the situation as fast as they could. The attendant, thinking that her breathless, unconscious sister was simply just being overlooked, had gone around crying and yelling and threatening to sue the entire hospital. It had been quite the scene and all the giant cheeses in charge of the hospital had waddled over and tried to placate her. In this nurse's eyes, apparently, instead of being grateful, this lady had just gone about with a smug smile on her face and had expected everyone to jump whenever she said so. And that had pissed the hell out of the nurse.

It made sense to me but I had to try and placate the two. It went something like this.

Me: oh, alright, I understand what's going on. I'm so sorry for what you went through ma'am…

Attendant: *promptly cutting me off* yes, yes, I know. It was all this woman's fault *pointing at that nurse*.

Nurse: excuse me?!

Attendant: look at her with her mean-looking face; she doesn't suit to be in this profession at all. How the hell did she even get so far?

Me: ok, now hold on…

Nurse: do you know who you're talking to? You ungrateful little…

Attendant: you're stupid; so stupid! Shut up! I am the client and you're the service-provider so shut up and do what I say or else I will sue you. I will sue you and the hospital and everyone else who works here.

At this point, I was starting to get more than just a little irritated; I really don't like people who harass my nurses. Somehow (don't ask me how, it surprised me too) I managed to calm both of them down and explained to the attendant that it was regrettable what she was going through but if she really wanted assistance, she should try to speak politely to all those she wanted help from. I then apologized to the nurse for her experience and explained that she should never argue with patients or their attendants; it never helps a single thing.

Then I fled that situation.

The nurse had stared at me with the same look I'm sure Caesar gave Brutus; she was wondering why I wasn't supporting her or having her back in any way, and rightly so. If it had been me in her place and a consultant had taken the patient's side, I would have felt humiliated and betrayed. The patient on the other hand looked like a cat that had eaten several canaries and even had some left over for supper. I bet she even stuck her tongue out to the nurse.

I just kept walking and made a silent vow to never stay awake if I didn't need to. Restless sleep was much better than cat-fights over the body of a dying patient.

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