I have come to grips with the fact that I am a mischievous 11 year old kid trapped in an adult’s body and there is nothing I can do about it.
I walk out of a patient’s room and grab the next chart. Eight year old girl. Chemical exposure. Several people are already giggling, but aren’t saying why. One nurse already said that the patient’s parents were pissed off at everyone. The registration clerk says “don’t laugh, now.” I wondered what I was going to see when I opened the door.
I walked across the department toward Room 6. I reached for the door and then stopped. I quickly looked back and five sets of eyes were watching me.
This is a set-up. I know it. Some practical joke is ahead.
I unlatched the handle on the door and slowly pushed the door open without stepping inside.
The door creaked ever so slightly as it slowly revealed what was inside the room.
No strange smells. That was a good sign. Someone was behind the door waiting to scare me or something, right?
The receding door first revealed a man in jeans, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap. His arms were folded. He didn’t look happy.
As the door swung further, there was a woman in slacks and a blouse. Her arms were also folded. She didn’t look happy, either.
Both were staring at the patient who was sitting on the stretcher behind the door.
I pushed the door open the rest of the way.
The patient was a pretty young girl with long blonde hair. But there was something different about her. She appeared almost cyanotic. Definitely cyanotic. No, wait. That wasn’t cyanosis. It only involved one arm.
It was blue paint.
Turns out little sis was hanging out with her 11 year old brother and her brother’s friend when they decided to pound a can of spray paint into the ground with a hammer. Brother hit the can just in the right spot, causing the can to bust open and spray paint all over his sister. Brother and his friend were completely spared the blue spray. They thought the outcome was hilarious. Mom and dad weren’t amused.
The whole front of the patient’s face was royal blue – except for her eyes and her teeth. The paint got on the front of her hair, also, making her bangs stick up in the air. The blue color also extended down onto her neck, to her left arm and the palm of her left hand. The parents changed her shirt before bringing her to the emergency department, so someone looking at her from the left would literally think she had blue skin. Fortunately, none of the paint got into her eyes and only a little bit of paint got up her nose.
Then the 11-year-old inside of me started giggling. “She’s starting a new show called the ‘Blue GIRL Group!'”
I was able to keep a straight face while I looked around the room.
No answer. Tough crowd.
“Guess I don’t need to ask what happened.”
[crickets] “OK, so are your eyes bothering you?” The glance to the folded-arm statues showed the stark contrast between her white sclera and her blue face.
Her mom yelled “Well … answer him!”
The patient shook her head.
The remainder of her exam was normal.
“You can try using some baby oil or mayonnaise to get the paint off. Can’t promise that it will work, but avoid using any chemical solvents – especially around the face.” I had a flashback to college when a freshman passed out in a frat house and they colored his face with blue permanent magic marker, put a white hat on his head, and posted pictures of the event all over the campus. He had blue eye sockets for weeks afterwards.
Still no one said anything.
“And no family pictures for the next couple of days.”
Mom cracked a smirk. The patient just looked over to her parents and didn’t say anything.
I took one more stab at it. “Come on, why so blue?”
That did it. The little girl finally smiled.
“I had to get you to at least smile before you left. Trust me, in a few weeks, even you will be laughing about this. And this is a story that you’ll be able to laugh about for the rest of your life.”
The family left with smiles on their faces.
As I walked out of the room, everyone was acting like they were busy. I could tell they were waiting to see the outcome.
“Dayum, WhiteCoat. How’d you get the parents to smile?”
As I pointed around the room, I said “I have one thing to say: Smurf you, smurf you, smurf you, and smurf you, too.”
Wrong thing to say. The rest of the day was filled with “fa LA la la la laaaaas” and “Smurf this” and “Get your smurfing smurf over here” and the like.
All this and a paycheck to boot.
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.