We went to see the movie “Sinister” last night. Cheap scares – like all of a sudden the villain’s head pops in front of the camera. Disturbing story line. Several themes in the movie went underdeveloped or were just out of place. WhiteCoats had high hopes, but give it two thumbs down.

Then it got me thinking. Ever have one of those patients who genuinely just scares you?

I’ve had a few in my career and the feelings you get are worse than any horror film.

When I was a resident, one woman got brought in by police in handcuffs because her sister found her at home sitting on the kitchen floor stabbing the wall with a big kitchen knife. Lucky for them that she didn’t hit an electrical line in the wall.

The patient arrives by ambulance in four point restraints. “Good luck with this one,” they said, “she was going after our throats on the rig.”

The skin about her face was deeply wrinkled. Her hair was jet black, long, and disheveled. Her eyes were expressionless and black. The skin hung around her eyelids, so it seemed as if she had to hold her eyes open a little more than usual to keep the skin folds out of her field of view. Her gaze was fixed on whatever walked in front of her. She  just stared straight ahead without blinking. And her voice was really low — like she smoked Lucky Strikes all her life.

She threatened us all. We better not be putting nothing in her IV because she used to be a nurse and she would know.
One of the nurses was a smart ass and said “Oh yeah, then what does the word ‘paraplegia’ mean?”
The patient turns her head toward me, cocks her head when she sees me, and then just stares. I stared back at her.
The nurse walks behind me and starts bending over and standing up to try to get in her line of view. I look back to see what he’s doing. He stopped and just looked at her. I looked back at the patient and she is staring at me.
The nurse kept asking her questions. “So, what’s ‘paraplegia’ mean? You are a nurse, right?”
She keeps staring at me and she cocks her head a little more [crack crack]go a couple of pops in her neck. She still hasn’t blinked.
Then in what sounded like a man’s voice she grumbles “Your soul is miiiiine.”
Between the voice, the hair, and the eyes, I got kind of freaked out on the inside.  But I was cool and I didn’t show it on the outside.
The nurse kept asking her medical questions. “What’s the usual dose of Lasix? How do you give epi? Name a famous nurse.”
The patient made a hissing noise and began writhing about on the stretcher.
“Enough with the questions, already,” I said.
Suddenly she stopped writhing, sat back up and just stared at me. She slowly cocked her head to the side and her eyes opened wider as she cocked her head. I laughed — more out of nerves than anything else. She didn’t flinch and she didn’t blink. I shook my head and left the room.

She got sedated and admitted to psych.

I still get chills just thinking about those eyes staring at me.

Great. Now I’ll have nightmares.


This and all posts about patients may be fictional, may be my experiences, may be submitted by readers for publication here, or may be any combination of the above. Factual statements may or may not be accurate. If you would like to have a patient story published on WhiteCoat’s Call Room, please e-mail me.


  1. That is indeed a scary patient – but that nurse is an arsehole of the first degree and was unbelievably irresponsible to totally, utterly pointlessly challenge/stress a patient already obviously in some kind of psychiatric crisis. I’m very glad you put a stop to it.

  2. Frightening to me, also.

    Doing hospice years back, I saw a lot of deaths, and most of them got a look of joy when they died, like a four year old seeing the Christmas tree with the presents lit up at dawn on Christmas.

    One—only one—-patient, nasty guy with no family or friends, got a look of horror on HIS face when he left. Not sure where he was or who he was seeing, but I seriously pray that I never, ever find out!

  3. I saw pure evil stare back at me through the eyes of a 6 year old. All I can say is his ED course was secondary to a 8″ knife.

  4. I have actually considered “Demonic Possession” as a discharge diagnosis a couple of times, but didn’t know the DRG code.

  5. My first thought …early on in the post – POSSESSED!

    I also think nurse was wrong to do that.

    It does sound like demonic possession. Especially since your senses were detecting something. That stuff is real.

    It would’ve creeped me out. Would be glad to have my CROSS displayed. 🙂

    I absolutely cannot ..will not …EVER watch a scary film. I couldn’t handle the fear. I refused to even see the Exorcist…Freddy Krueger and Halloween films, which are probably tame compared to current films. I know people like to be scared …but I can’t stand the fear. War movies,legal,dramas,suspense – not evil or sick is okay and COMEDIES the BEST. 🙂 I just cannot handle the evil/sick stuff. Only made it halfway through 7 and hate the memories of the images I saw. Also refused to watch Silence of the Lambs.

    It would be pointless to even try to watch because my head would be buried under something anyway.

    It’s a Wonderful Life – my favorite. Ahhh just typing that helps me feel better after reading this post. I’m off to bed now too and would much rather things of an Angel getting his wings. 🙂

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