The Shoe


Fresh out of ER orientation and really wanting to prove myself to be a competent nurse. An unconscious petite young woman was brought in by DFD* ambulance.

She had a high fever and had experienced a seizure PTA*. She stood about 5 feet tall and may have weighed 100 lbs. As a team, we stabilized her condition and were preparing to send her to the ICU when a resident announced that he had to perform a spinal tap first.

Well hell.

The spirit of the ER was to “Treat & Street” meaning…“Stabilize them and get them out of the ER”. Our rationale was (since you never know what will come through the ER doors at any time) a bed must be available for the care of the next patient. It made sense to me and was a priority of the ER nurse to facilitate transfer to another area of the hospital as quickly as possible.

So, I (reluctantly) set up an LP* Tray for the resident and left him and three other residents to their own devices while I took care of other patients – this was my first mistake. About a half hour later, I couldn’t help but notice that they hadn’t finished the LP yet – the procedure usually just takes a few minutes. So, I poked my head in the door and saw that all four of them were still inside. “What’s up?” I asked. The senior resident replied, “Dr Surly (a pseudonym) is coming down do it.”  Another delay.

On a good day, Dr Surly, a tall, imposing doc was grumpy. Today, he was grumpier. Being summoned to ‘the pit’ because no one on his service was successful in performing a simple L.P. put him in ‘a mood’ to be sure. He walked into my patient’s room, and without saying a word, rolled up his sleeves and began the procedure. The tension in the room was palpable. Everyone, including myself remained in the room, silent.

I took this opportunity to quietly create a written inventory of my patient’s belongings - a hospital requirement prior to transfer – and (as I was told) one of the signs of a good ER nurse. I found her bag and began my list…
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of socks
  • 1 towel
  • 1 bottle of unmarked blue pills - “I should mention this later – after the tap is done”
  • 1 bottle of unmarked white pills - “Wow. This is critical information, but it can wait until after he’s finished” thinking to myself. 
Despite 4 Residents, 1 Staff Doc, myself and a sick lady, the only sound heard in the room was the ticking of the clock. Back to my list...
  • 1 set of keys
It was then I made my second mistake.

Reaching into my patient’s bag, I removed a HUGE tennis shoe. It must have been a size 13. Unable to stifle myself, I held the shoe high in the air and blurted out, “Holy Cow! Would you look at the size of her feet!” With that exclamation, everyone looked at our petite patient's feet. Without missing a beat, Dr Surly (with the spinal needle still in the patient’s back) said, “May I ask just what you are doing in my gym bag?”

One by one, the residents filed out of the room. We could hear them howling with laughter in the hallway. Then, Dr Surly’s eyes met mine - I burst out laughing, tears streaming down from my eyes. Dr Surly, ever the professional - successfully completed the LP. All the while, his shoulders quivering and biting his lip. As he was leaving, I handed his bag back to him and without a word, he walked out of the room.

I wonder if he got a kick out of finding the completed "Patient Valuables Record" I had left inside.

#TheIsolationJournals - Glorious Awkwardness

*DFD - Dallas Fire Dept
*PTA - Prior to arrival
*LP - Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap)

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