Friday, February 22, 2008


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.

Who? Me?


ciara said...

i have nothing to say because i'm just laughing my ass off! lol

Kaycie said...

So, you had a good night at work, did you?

the mother of this lot said...

I still don't know how you manage to do this and then come home to a house like this one!

elizabethm said...

I am another one who doesn't quite know how you manage it. I'd have sneaked quietly out the back and gone home. Good thing people are depending on you not me.

laurie said...

at least your job is never boring.

does the full moon affect things, too?

Lisa said...

And did he fly? Eventually? ;o)


menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

You had no need to say anything! Sometimes silence says more than words ever can! Good work woman.

Jen said...

Sounds like another winner of a shift. *grin*

Lil Mouse said...

wouldnt they be more of a chameleon than a zebra? also, did you know that a zebra's stripes are like a fingerprint, no 2 are the same, now you know why you have such variety in your work! zebras!

Maggie May said...

This was very funny! A little insight into the "other side" of the emergencies from a medical point of view.
If I am ever unfortunate enough to need emergency treatment, I shall wonder what animal I am being compared to!

Eileen said...

This was an interesting look into what nurses/doctors have to go through when trying to treat people. It is like trying to fit together pieces of a puzzle or being Nancy Drew :)

Yet, I think this Zebra Theory can apply to most people, just living life. I know it is true for me.


Akelamalu said...

Another day in the life of ER! Never a dull moment eh?

ExpatKat said...

Love this zebra theory!
Can certainly apply it to my life too!

Simply Jenn said...

When you hear hooves, think horses not zebras. Too bad so darn many of those horses are zebras. The lying though? THat used to tick me off too.

Ellee Seymour said...

Talk about challenging...

janet said...

sounds like a lot of fun... heh.

Amy said...

Heh, heh, heh.

Sweet Irene said...

Well RC, why do all these mentally ill people show up unaccompanied by the proper caretakers? Are they not in special homes or institutions? I am really puzzled about that.

It seems so strange that these people are not in safe places where they belong and are just out there in society not functioning like they ought to.

I think this problem started with Ronald Reagan, didn't it, who emptied all of the psychiatric hospitals, or am I wrong?

It is a fact that schizophrenic homicidal people ought to be cared for and not be out lose in every day society. There should be places for people like this and they should be looked after.

That's just me, one Dutch woman speaking.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

Irene - the mental health care system in the US is awful. There is no safe place. It did start with Ronald Reagan, as you noted, when he pushed to close the state run facilities.

Now there's a terrible shortage of qualified treatment centers nationwide. I had a suicidal teenager just a couple of weeks ago that we ended up holding over night because we absolutely could not get her a bed anywhere until the next day at the earliest.

The mental health patients have no choice for the most part but to be out in society. If they have money or insurance they have some options, but a huge percentage have nothing. The ER is their only option.

Sweet Irene said...

That's a very sad thing indeed. It says a lot about a society when it is not willing to take care of those who are the least able to take care of themselves.

I am afraid that the Netherlands is turning into such a society also. We have abolished our National Health System and now we must all buy private health insurance, which leaves a group of people unable to afford it, for whatever reason, and uninsured. When an emergency happens, what do we do?

Luckily, our mental health care system is still very good, those who need it get the care they must have. We don't see many mentally ill people on the streets, although there are always some who slip through the mazes of the net.

But more and more we are becoming a modern society that revolves around the individual successful person and not around the general good of the whole group. Which is why I am still a socialist and will always remain one.

Being a psychiatric patient myself, I see where mental illness brings people and how it prevents them from building up a "successful" life. In America, I could easily become a homeless person, if I were not lucky enough to have a very caring husband and family. Luck is on my side, but so many others don't have that.

Ronald Reagan did many people an enormous disservice and it is a shame that nobody stepped in and put things right again. Somebody must address the enormous homelessness issue that is a result of this problem.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak out about this. I am a crusader for justice and I always fight for the underdog.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Hee, hee. I love these posts.