Monday, May 17, 2010

"Talk to me like I'm someone you love..."

May 16, 2010 3:00AM

I was particularly irked with a drunk this morning.

He came in around half past 2Am, brought by armed police officers, who wanted me to document and treat his injuries after he was involved in a drunken brawl at the station’s detention center. It wasn’t anything serious, just a laceration on the upper eyelid and then a few bruises here and there. The eyelid wound was bleeding somewhat profusely so i stitched it up.

Anyway, before that, i introduced myself and said i was Dr. So-and-So, and asked, how may I be of help, and etc. They looked at me, and said, “Miss, we don’t want any trouble, it really is nothing serious.” (I get a bit slighted sometimes when they call me miss, and call the older-looking male aide “Doctor”. Really, it’s not that big of a deal, but it just is a bit sexist of some people here to think that only males are more likely to be doctors, than females.)

Regardless of that, a 3AM visit is not the nicest hour of the day to show up with a non-emergency. (People should keep themselves safe if they can help it.)

I asked the patient to do certain things, while examining him, and he would do some, but was always saying, “You don’t have to bother with me really, this is nothing serious.” I muttered under my breath, “I’ll be the judge of that.”

Early morning visits from drunks are never causes for celebration among interns, or doctors on-duty for that matter. There’s the “attitude” they have, and the drunken swagger, the incessant prattle (oftentimes nonsensical,haha*), not to mention the fetid alcohol breath that gets breathed upon you while you’re examining them, or stitching them up like I was doing now...


It’s easy to dismiss their foibles like that because you don’t know these people and they are not in their right minds. Yet, sitting here in the quarters, writing this one, i have come to realize that by not “feeling” and “being stoic” towards these drunks, I had already chosen to be a callous individual. As far as patients are concerned, everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, whether they are intoxicated or not.

There was this book cover that I saw while I was at a bookstore one time, “Talk to me like I’m someone you love...” , which I took a picture of and saved, because it sounded like a personal mantra  and was applicable for anyone in any profession (actually, it was in the self-help section, and the book was about resolving relationship conflicts...not that I had any business of being there) .

In medical school, some of our professors would tell us that we should treat every patient as if they were a member of our family... because it would definitely change your perspective (and management) if you looked at them that way.  You couldn’t afford to dismiss a drunk casually if he were you father, cousin, or boyfriend, right?

You pay a little more attention to detail, when you think about things in that perspective. More attention = better care.


Now I feel like such a total spazz. Although this is the last leg of my 48 hour-duty stretch, and I was enjoying the few hours of patient-less sleep in the quarters when the drunk came in, it was still no excuse to act or think like I did.


Maybe it’d help if I thought of every drunk that came in as ____.


No, wait, scratch that. Ok, I can’t. _____ is just simply someone I wouldn’t want to associate with fetid alcohol breath, crazy talk, and a swollen face.  He’s just too...*sigh* dreamy.



Ok, good morning.

It’s time for rounds. :-)

*This particular patient whose eyelid I was suturing said, “Careful, don’t hit my contact lenses... (Me: Are you currently wearing contact lenses?”) No, I’m not wearing them, but I might turn gay any minute now....”


  1. That's a tough situation. If you think of the drunk as someone you love, it would increase your aggravation that he would do something so self-destructive. I would have a hard time figuring out when to be detached and when to feel. Also, some people need to be their most guarded with family members. Hopefully that is rare.

    I hope you get some rest when your duty is over!

  2. I have to's not about thinking of them as someone you loved, but instead, being compassionate enough to show them "a little love", but not be too involved, like you would a relative or significant other. The bottom line is not to be callous, every patient gets the same attention you would afford anyone who was hurt.

  3. Got it! I was really being too literal before. From what I've learned about you, I can't imagine you being callous. Maybe you were not your happiest at the moment, but not callous. =)



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