Tuesday, September 8, 2020

For one night only


I had just completed my post-graduate specialty training and was exploring different ways of working to find the best fit for my personal and family commitments.

I decided to do an overnight visiting shift with the local extended hours provider. This entails providing medical care to patients who were not sick enough to be sent to hospital, in their own homes.

As the doctor on duty, you are given a caseload of patients, a car and driver (Navigator).

The next case on my list was an elderly man who was agitated, unable to sleep and had got his medication mixed up. 

It was after midnight and his house was in a poorly lit row of terraces along an alley walk in a roughish area in the city. 

All previous night visits I had done were as a Junior doctor in the company of a senior colleague. 

I did not feel comfortable in that neighbourhood, so was glad to have the Navigator, a chunky middle aged man, with me.

I started to get more uncomfortable as we heard argumentative voices from within the house before knocking on the door. The impression I had was that he lived alone. 

The door was opened by scraggly man probably in his forties. The room appeared dark and foggy, but most of all, the stench! It was a mixture of all kinds of smoky things from marijuana to firewood, mixed with damp and cats. 

He pointed at an old man curled in a rocking chair in the opposite corner of the room and muttered some introduction in a slurred muffled voice. I gathered he was the patient's son. It was obvious that he was drunk/high/both or worse.

I made my way to the middle of the room and tried to find a standing spot amidst the clutter on the ground, holding firmly to my doctors briefcase for comfort whilst likely silently saying prayers of Saint Christopher, the saint of protection. 

There was thankfully no expression of aggression and I started to get the history of the problem with his mixed up medication. It was going to be very quick. He was alive and breathing, and I was struggling to breathe in the smoke. 

The next thing, I heard a loud bang behind me. My Navigator/bodyguard had collapsed! Much to my horror. I was in a dingy room in a rough neighbourhood with a frail old man, an intoxicated man and a semi-conscious big man in the middle of the night. 

I rushed to open the door and the fresh air must have helped him as he opened his eyes. I somehow managed to drag him to the doorway where he sat on the floor for a few moments trying to regain consciousness. 

The next few minutes were a blurr but I managed to give the patient quick advice on an alternative medication he could take immediately until the chemist opened in the morning and get Mr. Navigator into the car. 

To be fair I think the patient had temporarily forgotten about his own problems for a bit.

I drove the car back to station with my new patient reclined in the front passenger seat. My hair and clothing still pungent.

He had mostly recovered now and was apologising that his poor lungs could not withstand the condition in the house. 😏😒🙄

Anyway, that was enough adventure for me. It was some eight years ago and I have never done another overnight visiting shift since.

No, thanks. I nor do again. 

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