Sunday, 27 February 2011


Once again, we stand, trolley and patient between us, and we wait. The department is manic. Patients in every cubicle, trolleys in the corridors, nurses rushed off their feet, porters running backwards and forwards to x-ray and the wards, reception staff fending off the masses, and doctors sitting down drinking coffee. (Cheap shot, I know. But it made you smile, right? Unless of course, you're a doctor. And I don't mean it really...)

Jenny, one of our favourite sisters is in charge tonight. Even in the heat of a Saturday night A&E battle she remains composed and calm. A tap on the shoulder and a sheepish "Sorry, we've got nothing for a while!" at least acknowledges our presence, and lets us know that we haven't been forgotten. Not that it's easy to ignore us, both six-foot tall and dressed in blood-hiding green. Her only downfall is her gullibility, especially when it's busy.

Derek, our patient, well into his late seventies, must have been a stand-up comedian in a previous life. From the minute we met him and his probably broken hip, we were in fits of laughter, ranging from giggles to full blown hysterics. The added bonus of giving him some entonox and morphine to help relieve the pain only made matters worse. Trying to settle down once we'd stepped inside the hospital was a little like telling a kid who's having a mad half hour in the evening to calm down and go to bed.

As we stood in the middle of the department, we had time to hatch a plan and had the routine rehearsed to perfection. All it would take was a little composure - easier said than done.

"I'm sorry boys, and you sir," Jenny said as she turned to the patient, "but we're just trying to shift some people from here. We should have half a dozen spaces within ten minutes. I'll be back then and we'll sort you out."

"No problem!" I said, "I'm sure Derek won't run off anywhere in the meantime."

Composure? Lost. Awful joke, I know, but when you've already got the giggles, it doesn't take much. 

Jenny eyed us suspiciously, but went back to her duties and clearing the department. We watched as one by one she kept her promise. Some went up to the wards, others sent on their way with boxes of antibiotics or pain killers, and whilst it all happened, I had the chance to finish writing my paperwork.

Calm seemed to return. When a patient leaves A&E, whatever their destination, their entourage leaves with them, so it's not just one person leaving. Six patients sent on their way can easily mean twenty people exiting stage left. The decibel volume drops noticeably and the overall chaos seems to dissipate, if only a little.

Only five minutes later than the promised ten, Jenny comes back to us.

"Right, now where were we?"

"Morning Jenny. This is Derek. He's a Greenpeace activi..."

"You DO KNOW about Greenpeace, don't you?" Derek's interruption was perfectly timed.

Jenny looks momentarily taken aback, but maintains composure.

"I do know about them, yes. Let me find out what the problem is, Derek, and then we can discuss it later."


"As I was saying, Derek was on a protest at the local building site. Apparently they're building on what he says should be left as a nature reserve, so he decided he would start a one man protest. Up a huge crane."

"You were where?" Jenny asks.

"Up a crane. They can't use the damn thing if I'm sitting half way up it!" Derek's performance was so convincing, even I was starting to buy it.


"Anyway, we were asked by the police to be on standby, should anything go wrong, whilst they sent some climbers up to bring Derek down. As they neared the bottom of the crane, Derek decided to jump about two metres, fell onto the grou..."

"I didn't fall!" He looked genuinely angry. "Those damned coppers brought me down!"

"Either way, he landed quite heavily, and we think he might have broken his hip. The rest of his observations are fine, and he's normally fit as a fiddle."

"Right." Jenny looked a little puzzled, had a quick look at the side of the paperwork that has all the observations but none of the story, and allocated us a bed without any further questions. "I'll help you get him across."

Derek took a few more deep breaths on the entonox as we lay him almost flat in order to slide him onto the hospital bed.

"We'll have you over in seconds, you won't even know it's happening."

"OK, just do it."

I placed the paperwork on the tray at the edge of the bed, and between us we moved Derek onto the slightly more comfortable hospital trolley. We had to take our cylinder of entonox back, so before we did, I went to find a hospital supply rather than leave him without. By the time I came back, Jenny was reading the paperwork. Story side this time, and tapping her foot on the floor.

She read about Derek's fall at home. How he'd been on the way back from the toilet and slipped. How we got him down the flight of stairs, strapped onto a board and dosed up on laughing gas.

"Assaulted by coppers, huh?" She glared.

"Stuck up a crane, huh?" A hint of a smile.

"Greenpeace, huh?" We knew we'd won.

"You sir, shouldn't help these clowns to get away with this!" Jenny shook her head in disbelief. "You two, just you wait! I'll get you back yet! In the meantime," she paused, "thank you for cheering up a mad evening."

We laughed, all of us. Derek and Jenny included.

"Excuse me, nurse. Can I ask you just one question?" Derek suddenly looked serious again.

"Of course you can."

"Do you really know anything about Greenpeace?"

Two green-uniformed men turned and ran, giggling away like school kids.


Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Great tale for a rainy Sunday night. Thanks very much, guys.

Michael Morse said...

No better ally than a willing accomplice in the form of a patient when it comes to torturing the hospital staff. Great story, I had a lot of laughs while reading.

InsomniacMedic said...

Lynda - glad you enjoyed reading!
Michael - there's nothing quite as much fun as the fun we can have in this job... :)

Anonymous said...

I cant really say anything else that hasent been said, i totally agree, it was an extremely funny post ^_^
Its my first time on this blog and i must say im glad i found it! thanks, Matt :)