Practicing from the Heart in the age of Technology
This Halloween article has been a favorite of our readers, as many who work the ER, relate to the chaotic nature of such an evening, and so we decided to run it one more year. ENJOY!
Awhile back, I had the fortune or the misfortune of working the ER on Halloween night, which happened to fall on Friday. At the time, I was living in a small but very multicultural town in Northern New Mexico. The night turned to be wackier than any of us expected. Of-course the usual, Friday night crowd kept us busy with drunkenness, bar brawls, car accidents, sniffling noses, and the standard medical incidents. But the unusual was what made it, well, rather memorable.
It started with the usual minor accidents due to drivers watching the trick and treaters rather than the road and running into each other. Kids falling in the dark streets and bruising themselves, and so on. Then closer to midnight, two very striking young ladies showed up in the ER in witch attire. Well the outfits were more risqué than witchy and that attracted some unwanted attention. The ladies were from out of town - California to be exact - visiting friends for Halloween. They were sisters with a long history of asthma - yes, both of them. At the friend’s party, the guests got to drinking and smoking and more smoking and different kinds of smoking, and before long the indoor atmosphere got too polluted and our young ladies found themselves in severe distress. Their inhalers just weren’t doing the job, and they were rushed to the ER by the police - ambulances were busy chasing fender benders. In their haste, they didn’t grab their coats and showed up in revealing witch costumes.
It was particularly cold that evening in the high country of Northern New Mexico. As it was usual for our town, several locals and their homeless friends used to sneak in the waiting area of the hospital to get warm. They were regulars and generally subdued and quiet, if they got rowdy, we would ask them to leave, and they usually quieted down. But that night being Halloween, they had a bit too much to drink and the arrival of two very attractive blond witches - well, just got them too excited. The policeman who brought the witches was known to be a bit rough and, as he too was interested in the ladies, got into an argument with the others in the waiting room. In his roughness, he turned one of the unwelcome visitors to the wall and grabbed his Mace Spray and proceeded to use it on his subject. A scuffle ensued and as the officer pressed the Mace Spray, the man ducked and the officer sprayed himself in the eyes. Well you can guess the chaos that followed.
In the confusion, the uninvited visitors dashed out into the dark night. We covered our ladies with patient gowns and rushed them to the P.T. Department across the hall and locked the door. As it was the standard treatment of the day, we gave them each a shot of epinephrine and started them on a nebulizer. Much to our dismay, they told us that they had been dealing with asthma much of their lives. They were started on a new treatment by their pulmonologist back in California but didn’t know the medication they were given. Fortunately for us, it all turned out well. Our intoxicated friends made it back to the sanctuary of another warm place, we flushed the officer’s eyes and sent him home, dressed, bandaged, and splinted other injured patients, treated the sniffling children and cared for other medical problems. It was a full and eventful night. Our out-of-towners responded well to our treatment and left the next day for California.
We were lucky that night, for our patients were young and did respond to the management of their acute asthmatic attack. Today, of course, better treatments are available and with the help of telecommunication we can access patients’ medical charts from out of town and consult their providers back home - even on Halloween evening. New tools allow us to care for this mobile generation. Still, it helps to remind ourselves of how we dealt with medical urgencies back in the not so distant past.