Tag Archives: trauma centers

The “Eyes” have it; they’ve got Sammy Davis Eyes….an Experience from My Clinical Pastoral Education Residency

Sometimes I gotta wonder about people, especially some religious people.  Of course we can all probably relate to some incident where someone with their religious beliefs led to somewhat unusual situations, even funny or tragic situations.

Of course when you work as a Trauma and Surgery Department Chaplain at a major inner city Level One Trauma Center like Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, the unusual, the funny and the tragic can all be wrapped into one or maybe two two stories, sometimes on the same day.  Such an occasion occurred about halfway through my residency year at Parkland in March 1994.

About a quarter into my residency my Clinical Pastoral Care Residency Supervisor moved me from the Internal Medicine service to Trauma, Surgery and Neurosurgery service which included the Trauma and Surgery section of the Emergency Department. This several years before the hospital began their Emergency Medicine Residency and unified the ER.

We saw lots of trauma, back then we had six fully equipped trauma rooms as well as about 50 other beds of various types in the Surgery section of the ER.  The Medicine Section had three fully equipped Cardiac Resuscitation rooms, numerous telemetry beds and about 60 addition beds and rooms of various types and specialties.  When things got sporty as they often did additional beds were used in side halls for patients with minor injuries which sometimes included minor gunshot wounds.

It was often the case that every trauma and cardiac room would be full sometimes with multiple “codes” going on.  We saw about every kind of injury imaginable on the surgery side of the house and in the course of my residency year I dealt with well over 300 deaths in the hospital.  That may sound like a lot but back then Parkland was a 940 bed hospital that was usually running 90-100 percent of capacity and it had eight Intensive Care Units dealing with some of the worst trauma in the United States.  The most death calls I dealt with in one night was eight in an eight hour eleven p.m. to seven p.m  On a typical day if I left the hospital dealing with two deaths or less I considered it an easy day but I digress….I think I was talking some unusual, funny and tragic situations come together.

Well like I said about halfway through my residency I was hanging out in the Surgery ER about 10 a.m. on Saint Patrick’s day.  The morning had been busy with the usual bevy of motor vehicle accident victims from the rush hour and had died down.  It was then that the Dallas County EMS brought in a young man on a gurney who was taken to trauma room 6, the one in the back corner directly across from the “Presidential Suite” which was always cordoned off by the Secret Service when the President was in town.

The situation didn’t seem that interesting at first as I did not see the young man’s face but he appeared to be stable and since I was spending time with one of the nurses who had dealt with a patient in pretty bad shape from one of the MVA’s (Motor Vehicle Accident patients) I waited to check things out.

About 15 minutes later I wandered down to the trauma room and saw some of the Ophthalmology docs looking at the young man’s face peeking under the gauze 4×4 that covered his left eye and shaking their heads.  When I walked into the room a good number of staff looked at me, some with expressions of horror, and others amusement and still others just weirded out.  So I asked what was going on.

One of the Surgery residents answered and said that the young man had been doing crack cocaine and reading the Bible.  So I said “you mean the “if your eye offends you pluck it out” verse?” And the resident said that’s the one.  I looked at the young man and saw a large black Bible on his chest clasped in his hands. One of the Ophthalmology doctors looked at me and asked “Is that really in the Bible?”  I said “oh yeah, you want to read it?” He said yes and a number of his colleagues nodded in agreement.

Now the young man reminded me of what back in my younger days was referred to as a “stoner” kind of like Sean Penn’s character “Jeff Spicoli” in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. So not having a Bible in my hand just a small Episcopal Armed Forces Prayer Book I went up to him.  I said:

“Mr. Spicoli (the name has been changed to protect the stupid) I’m the Chaplain what happened?”  His answer was classic, “Dude sir, it was like I was reading the Bible and I saw this verse about “my eye offending me” and just knew that I had to take it out.” I said “Dude, you know that some parts of the Bible aren’t supposed to be taken too literally don’t you?” 

With his one good eye he looked up at me and said “Like I didn’t have to cut it out?”    I shook my head feeling somewhat compassionate yet amused (a feeling that many who work in ERs and trauma centers can attest to having) and said “No Jeff you didn’t….you weren’t using before you read the Bible were you?”  He then said, “Yeah, like dude, like why not?” 

I shook my head and said “Jeff my friend, God loves you and wants you to read his word but not while you’re doing crack, it tends to mess up your interpretation of it.” To which Jeff replied “Really, yeah dude you might be right.”

Now this was obviously a nice but really messed up kid so I decided not to push him any farther and commented on his Bible.

“That’s a pretty impressive Bible Jeff.”

Jeff replied “Yeah I got it like last week or something.”

I then asked him “Can I look at it with these doctors a second?”

I promised to give it right back.  When he gave me permission, I gently took the Bible from his hand and walked to the disbelieving (not in God but in what was going on) physicians with it.   Thumbing through the pages I came to Mark 9:47 and let the doctors read it themselves.  They were genuinely shocked and kept looking at Jeff as they read it.  The Ophthalmologist who had asked the initial question looked at me and said: “I guess that it wouldn’t be good to read that verse while doing crack.”  I smiled, shook my head and said “No, not a good idea.” 

With that I took the Bible back to Jeff and thanked him and he said “anytime dude.”  The docs were getting ready to transport him to surgery so I wished him well and told him that I would pray for him for which he thanked me.  I felt bad for the kid and knew that he would not be on the trauma service after the surgery and when medically ready would be hanging out in the Psych ward.  That was the last time that I saw him and I do hope that he was able to break his addiction and get his life together.

However, the day was still young and I had the overnight 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on call duty in the evening. The rest of the day into the early evening was progressing rather uneventfully by Parkland standards, just your typical MVA’s, overdoses, cardiac arrests and shootings.

That changed when the Dallas EMS brought an African American lady who appeared to be in her thirties. Her eyes were covered with a bandage so I asked the paramedics what had happened.

One of them said, “Chaplain, you wouldn’t believe this in a million years, the lady’s sisters took her eyes out.” 

I said:  “Took her eyes out?”

The paramedic replied: “Yeah, like scooped them out, almost surgical precision. She said her sisters drove her from New Orleans to Dallas and along the way took out her eyes because they thought that she was possessed by the Devil.”

My reply was a simple, “Damn, that sucks.”

The paramedic continued “Yeah, she kept saying that her sisters said the she had “her father’s eyes” or something like that.” 

The conversation continued for a while as the paramedic vented about how idiotic and criminal what happed was and when he went to finish his paperwork and get back to his rig I went in to the trauma room where the lady was being assessed. I got a look at the eye sockets and was quite impressed.  The young man had gouged out his eye and made a mess. The lady’s eye sockets were just a little bloody and hollowed out like nothing had been there. It was rather creepy.

Since she was pretty out of it and not very coherent I backed out of the room, consult with the team and let them know what the paramedic had told me.  The story creeped them out as badly as it did me.  Later I would find out that the sisters had been arrested.  Evidently the lady was a school teacher and she and her sisters were heavily involved in hoodoo a blend of Voodoo and Catholicism. At their trial they claimed that they were “fleeing from the devil.” The victim refused to testify against her sisters but they were convicted of the crime. The link to the New York Times article and one from the UK Independent is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/1994/09/25/us/trial-in-woman-s-blinding-offers-chilling-glimpse-of-hoodoo.html?pagewanted=1

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/hoodoo-hex-on-interstate-20-the-blinding-of-myra-crawford-demonstrates-how-racism-and-fear-of-demons-linger-side-by-side-in-pockets-of-the-old-south-1412753.html

Never before and so far I have not seen a day where I have seen anything that unusual.  It was creepy like a really creepy horror movie.

All I can say about that day now was that “the eyes have it.” Unlike the Kim Carnes’ song, these folks don’t have “Betty Davis Eyes” but “Sammy Davis Eyes.”

With that to leave your stomach to churn I wish you a good night and pleasant dreams.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

4 Comments

Filed under healthcare, Pastoral Care, Religion, things I don't get

Monday Monday…a visit to the ER and the DMV

Well what can I say?  If you remember Garfield the Cat and how he hates Monday’s you can probably understand this post.  Maybe you have lived this yourself. Maybe not, but there is always tomorrow.

I really expected to have a nice day recovering and resting from my very draining trip to California to help out with my dad.  It started that way but didn’t end that way.  When I got home I found out that my license plates had been stolen off of my car.  Thus I knew that today I would need to go to the DMV to report them stolen and get them replaced.  I figured that this couldn’t be too bad, I called my boss yesterday afternoon and he graciously gave me the time to do so.  Of course I could not gotten through the front gate without them, but still it is good to have an understanding boss.

Late in the evening I started to get my things together for work.    After having watched the movie Fletch with Judy I was tired and expecting to go to bed.  Judy had told me earlier in the evening that she had a sore throat and had taken some throat stuff to make it feel better.  The throat stuff usually takes care of the problem.  This time it didn’t.  She started complaining of sharp pain of like 9 on the scale of 10 in her throat and that she was having a hard time swallowing.  This to me was odd.  Judy has a super high threshold for pain, that fact that she has been married to me for nearly 26 years testifies to this.  Once in Germany she had a cavity filled with no anesthetic when the Army dentist who had the shrine to Dr Mengele in his office refused to give a topical before sticking her with a needle.  She let a broken ankle go for a year before having something done about it.  Sorry I don’t like to suffer like that.  But she has a super high threshold for pain.  So at 0002 in this morning (for those not German or military both of Mickey’s hands are pointing straight up to the 12) yes Monday dark and early, we set out for Sentara Bayside ER.  I was not a happy camper.  I picked up one of my Andrew Greeley Bishop Blackie Ryan mystery novels and took Judy through the rain to the ER.

Now to me a real ER is where guts are hanging out, people a being coded in multiple rooms. In a real ER there are gunshot wounds, stab wounds, burns, strokes, heart attacks, people mangled in car or industrial accidents. Likewise there are always Police with knuckleheads who have been arrested, drug overdoses, suicide attempts and real live psychotic people who think that they are Jesus.  Death, crisis, mayhem that dear readers is my kind of ER.  Eating a cheeseburger with a trauma surgeon while looking at the track of a bullet in an open chest after some gang banger got whacked and we could save him.  That is an ER to me.  I did my residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas as the Trauma Department Chaplain and worked as an ER Department Chaplain in a Trauma Center in West Virginia.  I’m used to full waiting rooms, upset people and various forms of craziness.  I now work in a teaching hospital and have the adult and pediatric ICUs.   To put it mildly this was not what I experienced this morning.  We got there and there was no one in the waiting area, which unlike places I have worked before was nicely decorated and relatively comfortable.  They even had Lifetime set as the channel on the cable TV.  Judy went through triage quickly and was taken back.  After a while I was called back.  Judy was getting an IV placed and a full panel of labs and a CT Scan of her obviously swollen neck were ordered.  This was a bit scary for her, and a little unsettling for me as first she is my wife and I don’t want to lose her, but also because I know that if untreated whatever was going on could threaten her airway.  This is never a good thing.

The nursing staff and the ER physician were very nice.  I have no complaints.  For a while it looked like that Judy might be admitted until she responded to the three different IV meds and drips that she was on.  Now whatever was going on was potentially serious but seemed to have been nipped in the bud.  I did try to comfort Judy by telling her that it couldn’t be that bad because she wasn’t intubated, didn’t have a Foley catheter or NG tube, but she didn’t find that terribly comforting.  I young man how had cut his arm pretty bad after giving a dumpster an elbow was across the way and had a pretty cool cut, but still pretty mild by what I am used to.  Compared to the places that I have worked it was far too sedate.  It was really kind of boring.  I guess that is okay, I didn’t want Judy to be the one who got sporty and provide the entertainment for the evening.

We got out of the ER about 0330 and hit 24 hour Walgreens to pick up her medicine.  She even got good stuff for pain, Vicodin.  All I ever get is Motrin, no let me take that back, my Nurse Practitioner here put me on Ultram for my chronic pain in my shoulders.  But this isn’t like Vicodin.  The people in the pharmacy were all friendly, giving us a cheery “Good morning” every time that we turned around. We finally got home well after 0400.  Checking in with the boss I got permission to come in late.

This afternoon I still had to go to DMV to get the license plates.  I didn’t get much sleep and what I had was not very good.  Groggy and grouchy like a bear waking up from hibernation I put myself together.  I did not want to go to the DMV, but it had to be done.  Now the DMV sends chills up my spine.  I grew up in California, so my first experience of the DMV was in that fair state.  The DMV in California is like the major league of the DMV.  I’m sure that I stood in line behind Jimmy Hoffa one day well after he went missing never to be seen again.  He’s probably still in line.  The last time I went to the DMV here it was a long wait.  Today I expected the worst.  It started out where I thought that would be the case when the rent-a-cop at the door sent me outside and told me that I couldn’t have my Norfolk Tides travel mug filled with Dunkin Donuts French Vanilla coffee, Splenda and Coffee Mate Nonfat French Vanilla creamer in the building.  I thought, “well isn’t this just great….I’m tired as hell and have to wait in DMV for what could be forever without more coffee.”  I was even less happy than when I got there.  Thankfully the rest of the DMV time was not too bad.  The lady at the desk was friendly and had lived in California and even knew something about Mudville.  I left with my temporary tags and stopped by the Advance Auto Parts store on Princess Anne Blvd in Virgina Beach to pick up a new license plate frame and mounting devices.  Now Advanced usually gives military members a 10% discount on the purchase.  Showing my ID card I expected this.  However the young man refused to give it to me because “I had not specifically asked him for it.”  I thought this was kind of shitty as all the other guys there have went out of their way to honor this.  I decided to say the hell with arguing with him and just write a nasty comment on my blog with tags for Advance Auto Parts on Princess Anne Blvd in Virginia Beach.  Following this I got Judy some soft food to eat and went in to check in with the boss, drag all the stuff I would need for the week into work and to go through my hundred or so e-mails so I wouldn’t have to do that tomorrow.

In a few minutes I head over to the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish for a double header between the Tides and the Louisville Bats.  Tonight, though tired I need this.

Thank you all for your prayers, encouragement and kindness this past week.

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: The double header against Louisville was great.  The Tides swept the twin bill winning 6-2 in the first game and 2-0 in the night cap.  Justin Christian homered and Matt Wieters  a triple with Chris Tillman picking up his 5th win with no losses. David Pauley getting the win, his third and Jim Miller his 10th save striking out the side to close the game. The Tides are now 25 and 12 and up by 2.5 games over the Bulls in the IL South. I really needed tonight, the weather was a tad bit cold but it was good to be back with my Church of Baseball Friends.  Barry my partner down in section 102 B had his daughter down and it was fun to be with both of them. My section usher Elliott was back as was Chip up in section 202.  Had my usual King Twist pretzel from Kenny up on the concourse.

Leave a comment

Filed under ER's and Trauma, healthcare, Loose thoughts and musings, state government agencies