Sunday, June 24, 2007

Watching the world go by.

I sit on the uncomfortable, white-sheeted, black mattress and remove my blue, bloodstained gloves. Sweat, pooled in the fingertips, pours out of the reversed, disposed gloves and drips off my fingers onto the floor. I run them across the side of my pants and waft them in the cool emergency room air. The pads of my fingers wrinkled like bloodshot eyes squinting at the sun.

My feet dangle off the side of the mechanical hospital bed. Evidence of dried blood is crusted on the hinges of the chrome rails; bleach radiates from the mattress pad and mixes itself with the other smells of urine, vomit, and sweat. My scuffed black boots float above the stale linoleum floor. It's hot outside, and I sit here at the proverbial fork in the road, typing my report and watching the world go by.

In front of me, a yellow plastic sign warning all passerbyers that the "piso es mojado". The streaks of the overused, infected mop radiate from under the fluorescent ceiling lights. Crocs, tennis shoes, boots, and dress shoes hurry pass the sign with indifference.

A look to my left reveals a row of beds like the one I'm sitting on. Like cars in a mid-day traffic jam, they sit their eagerly awaiting their purpose. Their patched, black mattresses lean against the wall showing the skeletons of the beds. Green oxygen bottles are tucked beneath the heads of the beds and wire baskets hang haphazardly under the sides. Large, white foot pedals with red and green ends protrude from the feet of the beds. Collapsible black handles are their imaginary headboards.

To my right, security and triage. A rectangular cubbyhole with scrubbed nurses, rolling blood pressure cuffs, a pediatric scale, a sink and some out-dated computers funnel the walk-in traffic of people's emergencies. Blue, plastic chairs with chrome, triangular legs attempt to contain the hysterical patients sitting in them. Swollen eyes, bloodied lips, and destroyed lives all pass through this gateway. Each, like the summer run-off of a mountain reservoir, are released in their own good time.

Another hole houses men in pale blue polyester shirts. Leather gun belts packed with tools of the trade rest on the hips of the uniformed security guards. A door to their left and a desk in front of them, they juggle the demands of the patients and family in the waiting room and the urgencies of the paramedics entering the sliding glass doors.

Those doors whoosh open and close with each motion detected by the electronic eye. In comes in a steady stream of paramedics from every agency in the city. Some, sick and in need of immediate attention, quickly bypass this area and scream down the hall, firefighters and paramedics in tow. Some, more often than not, await their inevitable passing of judgment by the ED charge nurse.

And with all this in front of me, I sit and type as the world creeps by. Restrained, crying teenagers spit at the authoritative police figures. Handcuffed inmates in bright orange jumpsuits shuffle their shackled feet towards their rooms. Wheelchair bound, homeless men with plastic walking casts berate all that pass. And, more often than need be, someone fighting for their very life, breathing either way too fast or way too slow, passes by my personal voyeur window of this world.

And there I remain, feet dangling and fingers typing, waiting to be called out on the next one. So I can bring them here and start the process all over.


Blue Ridge Medic said...

Excellent post.


Loving Annie said...

Good Monday morning Rocky,
'ven when I worked at UCLA, our ER was never that busy... Wow.
It sounds like you see more in one shift that I see in one week -

Anonymous said...

That was really good. It was like looking at a picture.


Claire said...

Your blog is absolutely fantastic and addictive. I finished my 12hr night shift at 6am but can't bring myself to stop reading! You really should publish and i really should sleep!!
Night night

Anonymous said...

Keep 'em coming. New post NOW! BTW, it's probably just a coincidence, but a very popular someone wrote a post in a strikingly similar way to you. I'd take it as a compliment.

Fried Pie