Thursday, February 09, 2006

Seeing Red

The first time we were robbed I was only eleven years old and new to this country. My parents worked harder than they ever have in my short lifetime and they were gone most of the day. We understood that they were trying to build a better future for their kids. Personally, I had special admiration for them.

It’s why my heart wept for them when we walked in on our belongings strewn about on the floor. They had spent a good fraction of their weeks’ earnings that day to take us out to an amusement park in the area. We had a great time. And then we came home.

Money was missing. Our house was a mess. They broke precious items from our past, invaluable diaries of our childhood. I could not imagine anyone doing this to my parents intentionally. They are such well intentioned people.

The second time was even more dramatic. It was another apartment we had moved to and we just came home from vacation. We feared going into the house once we opened the door in case the burglar was still inside but my fathers’ temper got the better of him and he raged inward hoping to take his anger out on a possibly extremely dangerous thief. Looking back on it now, I’m not sure I would ever do that but, at the time, I definitely admired him for it.

The last time was by far the scariest. After a long day visiting family we had arrived absolutely exhausted. My brothers and I headed straight to our bedroom while my parents kept busy arranging the house. As my mother proceeded to the restroom she heard a strange voice from within. She called our names one at a time, hoping for a reasonable answer, but only heard grunts from the inside of the room.

As she attempted to open the door a strong opposing force slammed it shut in her face. Instinctively, I believe she knew what was going on but waited until she called panic. Years later, she told me in confidence, that she did not want my father to attempt to catch him and felt we were all better off if he was simply allowed to escape through the same route through which he entered. And he did, jumping out our bathroom window to the ground outside.

My father chased out with a knife. I, now older, right behind him with knife numero dos. Luckily, the thief escaped and my father kept himself out of jail. We needed him a lot more anyways.

Our emergency room is situated relatively close to a large police precinct. The surrounding area is one regarded as having one of the highest percentages of drug usage and trafficking in the country. All in all, we get more than our fair share of intoxicated patients.

Often, patients addicted to opiates (heroin mainly) or those taking methadone who somehow managed to find themselves arrested end up in our emergency room. They are brought there by the local police who fear they may withdraw from their addiction while in custody. They are there to receive a, just small enough, quantity of methadone to prevent that very complication from happening.

This morning, as my shift was slowly coming to an end, one such character was carried in with a tag along cop for company. “I did tons of heroin in the last couple of weeks”. How much I may ask? “Six to eight bags a day”.

Looking at this poor soul, one hand cuffed to a stretcher railing, I asked the next most obvious question. “That must be really expensive, how do you afford it?”

He chuckled and grinned. Told me how he robs houses for money and valuables which he sells to supplement his healthy diet, which is how he now ended up with a badge for an escort.

But I only saw red.

Memories of fear, resentment, helplessness and hate flashed before my eyes and I felt my upper extremity exert an immense will upon the rest of my body to swing at this pathetic, chinless, wimp of a man. I wanted blood. His head now resembled a large target sign in my hallucination.

I found this part of the past buried within that was simply begging me to let the anxiety, nausea and vomiting that was about to commence erupt unobstructed. I wished for the pleasure of watching his heart race like a thoroughbred on the monitor, to see sweat and saliva engulf and swallow whatever little pride this man had left. Just for a little torture in the form of payback. Do you remember those people in the picture you broke, they were my parents and they didn’t deserve it!

But I didn’t.

Eventually, I gave him his measly dose of methadone, which secretly I hoped was not nearly enough. I sent him and the rest of the cops on their marry way to a cellar. And then I called my mom and she told me of all the cool ways my father made fun of her yesterday.

My parents rock!

Click here for signs of opiate withdrawal. The next post probes the question: Should physicians excuse themselves when caring for a patient whom they dislike?


Blogger Ali said...

I hope you gave him the extra large catheter - only if he needed one, of course ;).

My little old grandmother was all by herself in my aunt's house when a burglar broke in. She chased him out with a butcher knife. But this was in England, where the criminals are much less likely to be carrying guns (although that probably wouldn't have stopped her).

7:59 PM  
Anonymous Kel said...

That damn hippocratic oath.

I tend to steer clear of child molesters.

One came in from the Roundhouse for pneumonia/rule out TB. It was late in the year, he was going to the "ward service."

I informed my 'tern it was late in the year and his private patient. There would be very little that I could contribute.

It was probably the least nice thing I have done as an MD (including the D/C bed incident).

8:41 PM  
Blogger Echo Mouse said...

What awful things to witness. I'm so sorry that happened to your family and so many times!

What you experienced was a trigger. Perfectly normal. I hope you gave the guy barely enough and did whatever else you could to maximize his pain. I know, that's not right probably, but I can wish ;)

p.s. I've had 3 breakins too. It's why I'm afraid to be away from our house overnight, leaving our cats home alone. I don't know if I'll ever feel safe enough to do that again.

4:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At our facility they get some oral clonidine (not the patch due to certain individuals eating them necessitating hours of monitoring for hypotension), phenergan and well wishes on their acute withdrawl.

It is not like they are going to seize like the BZD patients.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know you're a good doctor when you feel bad for doing the right thing.

Nice job, doc! Cut yourslef some slack - you did aweseome in a very unplesant circumstance.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Dreaming again said...

I read things like this, and I'm so glad I never became a doctor! There are certain situation I just couldn't get past.

Nice to see you again, your 'new' blog looks great! I'm computerized again so back in cyberspace and back to blogging.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Health Blog said...

Our emergency room is situated relatively close to a large police precinct.

4:05 AM  

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