What I saw in the Emergency Room

Published: November 3, 2011
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When I was told that my next 12-hour shift is going to be in the Accident and Emergency department, I was a little too excited.

I have grown up watching “ER” and later “House MD” because medicine in every form has never failed to captivate me. George Clooney looked like a Greek god in blue scrubs while running for surgeries in ER. So when I, a doctor was told that my next 12-hour shift is going to be in the Accident and Emergency department, I was a little too excited and scared.

Patting myself on the back, I reassured myself that it was extremely wise to be trained in major and minor emergencies because we live in an emergency hub. I told myself it was nothing to worry about – I would do just fine.

On my way to Lady Reading Hospital’s casualty ward my heart did a weird flip-flop when I reached a dilapidated building that seemed to howl:

“I am about to die, rescue me.”

Since it was my first time, I was asked to observe and that I did. Sure ‘medical casualty’ is all about serious patients but it has it’s perks too and these are the five kinds of patients that you will usually find in that busy “A and E” department.

The functional patients

Unconscious but vitally stable, this patient is usually a mentally disturbed young boy or a girl craving for some good old attention. We examine them properly, exclude any serious cause and then stuff a cotton soaked in ammonia up their noses after which they promptly regain consciousness, sit straight and cry for mommy dearest. Their hospital note usually reads “referred to psychiatry for further evaluation.” If you ever hear a doctor say, “you are functional”, be warned. In all probability they mean you are a “psych case.”

The meat-eaters

Overweight and most probably food connoisseurs, they are fond of meat at Namak Mandi so they eat as much as they can, get heartburn and epigastric pain the next day and come to the ER for rescue. If you don’t give them instant attention, all hell breaks loose and the advice to eat less, walk more and keep their weight in check goes in one ear and out the other – lost for good until the next episode of heartburn.

The hypochondriacs 

They are young, google-educated, nervous and extremely conscious about their health. They know about more diseases than a doctor and can put them to shame easily with their knowledge. You will find them rushing to the ER as soon as they feel a flicker of pain in their chest thinking it’s a heart attack. They want full work-up, even the laboratory tests that have not yet made it to Pakistan, round the clock attention and a heavy dose of counselling and the next time you see them, they will have researched another disease and presented with the symptoms of that.

The drug addicts

Lonely, miserable, haggard, and malnourished they come to the ER when they have no money for drugs and are in withdrawal. A painkiller injection – one or too many is all they want.

The perverts

They are hunters and roam around in the A and E department in search of a lady doctor just so she can check their pulse, temperature and blood-pressure. When I came across one, my experienced senior doctor told him to wait outside and that he is coming to check him after which the pervert immediately left the hospital premises complaining that he only wanted a lady doctor. Amazing, I know.

Bushra Maheen Rahman

Bushra Maheen Rahman

A doctor from Peshawar who writes, blogs at www.pistaye.wordpress and tweets @MaheenRahman

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