There is something about sitting at the triage desk at 0321 that brings out the worst in me. I think it’s being appalled that people would show up at 0321 for the most trivial complaints, instead of being safely and snugly home in bed. I mean, who really wants to come to an emergency department in the dead of the night? Not me. I know what we’re like at 0321 in morning: cranky and having neither patience nor empathy.
So this young-twentyish guy shows up, and I know it is very serious, because his girlfriend is with him. And also because he’s clutching his stomach, like Sigourney Weaver is about to tell him there’s an alien baby inside. To the experienced triage nurse, this is a clue.
So what brings you in this morning?
“I’ve been throwing up at least 29 or 30 times. In the last half hour. ”
“And I’ve been making myself throw up by sticking my finger down my throat. What d’ ya think is wrong with me?”
Clearly, you are an idiot. This is what is wrong with you. No, I don’t actually say this: but I do think it really, really hard, brow furrowed, in the hope that there is some eerie telepathic link between us. There isn’t, unfortunately.
“Can I have a glass of water?”
Don’t you think, given your vomiting and abdominal pain in extremis that water might not be the best idea?
“It makes me feel better.”
No. You really need to speak to the registration clerk before I start laughing at you. Can the next person in line have a seat please?