Monday, August 24, 2009

Risky Business

Swing BatterDespite what you may have heard on TV, psychiatry is not always a gentlemanly specialty. As a matter of fact, it can get downright physical and flat-out dangerous. One of those times started out like an ordinary evening. It was the end of my shift, I was wrapping up some last-minute details, when the PA system announced, "Code Green, ER." Now a code green means "out of control patient" and summons any available hospital personnel to help.

I'd been recovering from a disk injury I received managing another out of control patient and probably should have just let it go. But I've always wanted to be wherever the action is and I felt guilty staying behind, so I hobbled off down the hall, trailing my fellow therapists who could still run. I figured by the time I got there, everything would be over anyway. Famous last words.

I walked into the ER only to find security and staff standing around calmly and looking at me as if to say, "And where the heck have you been?" Rather than even try to explain, I asked instead, "What's going on?" Someone nodded in the direction of a young man who was shouting obscenities and wielding a telephone like a baseball bat. Anyone who came near, he yelled, would find out how much damage he could do.

At that moment, he gestured in my direction, "You! I'll talk to you!" I looked around, rather hoping he meant someone else, anyone else, and of course, everyone was looking at me as if to say, "Well, what are you going to do now?" I felt like an intern in a staged training session wondering when my supervisor would call a halt to the madness. No one budged.

So, I cautiously approached him and sat down on the floor (don't try this at home), figuring if this was as stupid as it looked, at least I had plenty of backup. To my surprise, he dropped the phone, and when I suggested we go into a treatment room and talk, he agreed. It was over that fast. I don't remember what was said nor what set him off. All I remember thinking was, you never know what's going to be important to someone. Maybe all he needed was to find out whether someone was willing to take a risk. You just never know.

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