Never say Quiet

I’m not superstitious by nature, but many ER doctors and nurses are.  They want to avoid working on Friday the 13th, or on a full moon.  And of course, they would never use the word “quiet” to describe the ER.  This is absolutely forbidden.  The fear is that once somebody says something like, “Gee, it sure is quiet here tonight,” immediately everyone will be punished with a tidal wave of complicated patients.

Frankly, I’ve never believed in this superstition either, but there was one night where my faith was tested.  It was around 11pm, and a local police officer was standing at the nurses station doing some paperwork.  He was new to the force (a veteran would never do this), and of course he casually asked the charge nurse, “kind of quiet for a Friday, isn’t it?”

This resulted in an immediate groan from 3 nurses within earshot.  I chuckled, but decided the comment would have no effect.  How wrong I was.

Not 2 minutes went by and I heard the triage nurse yell with fear in her voice “I need some help out here, NOW!”

A young man had driven up to the ER doors with his brother sitting in the passenger seat.  His brother was not moving, not breathing, not doing anything.  He looked about 25 years old, but had the gray color of a very old man.  We grabbed him, threw him onto a gurney and proceeded to give every treatment, medication, that we had.  But he was dead.  There was no explanation for it, no accounting for it.  One moment he was alive, eating a hamburger with his brother, the next moment he was gone.  He had always been healthy, he wasn’t a drug user.  There was just no reason for him to suddenly die like that.

The rest of the night was chaos, both with an onslaught of other patients and dealing with the aftermath of a family suddenly torn apart.

Many night shifts later, I still think about that young man.  And no matter what is going on in the ER, I never use the word “quiet.”

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