A zebra in simplified medical slang is someone or something that is not what it first appears to be.
First was the patient who was in for simple nausea and vomiting. Pretty straight forward until he puked so hard he turned midnight blue and keeled over. (Don't worry. He got back up. Eventually).
Then there was the guy in because his knee hurt. I triaged him and figured him for the ice/xray/splint hat trick. My feeling of laissez-faire ended abruptly when I took his blood pressure and it was 62/41. (He walked out on his own two feet. Eventually. Didn't even need a splint).
I totally understand people being sick, but do they have to be so sneaky about it? Present themselves as one thing and then turn into something completely different?
I was feeling a little cranky when I plopped down at a computer and complained loudly to anyone who would listen. I was on a roll about how unpredictably some inconsiderate patients behaved when one of the docs (who has an advanced degree in giving me hell) said
Did it ever occur to you that unexpected things might happen - considering that this is an Emergency Department?
and I said
Well, yeah....but does it have to be that kind of an Emergency Department?
He would have come back with something, but he was distracted by the medics bringing in the simple slip and fall of the elderly gentleman at home. Seems someone forgot to mention the twin traits of homicidal and schizophrenic in report.
As we all ran over to keep him from flying (literally) off the gurney, the doc looked at me with fire in his eye and said
Don't say a word.