Thursday, May 9, 2013

Scared Straight

As a Registered Dietitian in a mental health facility,  I've seen patients at their best and worst.  And I've walked into units during a code gray (patient that needs to be subdued) and have been interviewing patients when all of a sudden another patient became a code gray.

Yesterday was a little different.  Yesterday, I was actually talking to a patient who worked himself up to a code gray and I got scared.  I watched this patient go into sudden melt down and I stayed cool.  We were talking about his diet and he was telling me he wasn't going to eat because he wanted to die.

Truth is, many of our patients want to die, and often that's how they end up at our facility.  They walk in traffic, attack police officers, stuff like that.  So instead of accepting that this patient wanted to die, I asked for his food preferences.  "How about a melted cheese sandwich," I asked.  Patients in other units would kill for one, but I hold off on these offers for the patients who won't eat.

Things were going great until all of a sudden the patient snapped.  Took the diet sheets (diabetes and hypertension) but then ripped them up, spit on the ground, and started screaming about me and how I'm making him eat and he didn't want the diet information.  I moved into the nurses' station real fast, as the call went out for manpower and the nurses on the unit started putting on latex gloves.  It was time to give the patient a "cocktail" and put him down for a long nap.

I apologized to everyone, obviously missing some important cues, but the nurses wouldn't have it.  This patient was a volcano waiting to blow, and it was a matter of time they told me.

Funny thing is, the next day, he kept asking to see me.  Ate real well too.  When I saw him he was all smiles. The nurse on duty told me he wanted attention, and I had been particularly sweet to him.  Scared and sweet.  I totally felt the presence of G-d yesterday.  If I had been in his room, alone, when he lost it, who knows what could have happened.  I often see patients in their room, not too close, but close enough to be heard.  I could never have gotten out of the way fast enough.

Sigh.  What's the saying?  G-d protects fools and young children.  I stand before you, living proof.

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