Thursday, December 27, 2007

A tale of two MVCs

Years ago, when I used to drive the big white taxi in the Republic of California, we would refer to a car crash as a TC, or Traffic Collision. Later, working in the ER in various locales, it was referred to as an MVA, or Motor Vehicle Accident. I hated that acronym because the majority of them were not accidents. They were the direct result of an intentional, but ill-advised, move by the dumbass who caused the crash. We have merged those terms into the current acronym, MVC, or Motor Vehicle Collision. I'm happy with the compromise.

On Christmas night, the waiting room was packed, the average wait for a bed was 3 1/2 hours, and everyone was cranky. At around midnight, there was an MVC with 6 patients, 2 of which required stabilization and transfer to the Real Hospital in the Big City for definitive treatment. You can imagine what that did to the wait for the non-emergent "emergencies" that were circling in a holding pattern in the waiting room.

But there was no Christmas Spirit to be found in this crowd. Jackass after jackass threw a fit because they were waiting so long. The desk clerk explained to the room at large that there had been an MVC with multiple casualties, and the resources of the EMERGENCY ROOM were being utilized for said EMERGENCY, sorry for the incovenience, we'll get you back as soon as we can, etc, etc.

There was a definite lack of comprehension from the waiting jackasses. The temper tantrums continued, the wait increased, and the misery multiplied. Many hours later, as my shift ended, we were still digging out from under the joy that was Christmas.

Fast forward 24 hours from the first MVC. It's midnight, and it's completely empty in the waiting room. Not a single soul is even waiting to be triaged. An MVC results in 3 patients, one of which needed to be stabilized and transferred to the Real Hospital in the Big City.

We were working short, so the triage nurse was assisting with the trauma. As people arrived and signed in with their non-emergent "emergencies", the front desk clerk warned them that there would probably be quite a bit of a wait (even though it appeared to be dead) due to the MVC.

The response from every single patient (and there ended up being 6 or 7 by the time the triage nurse made it out there) was a polite, "That's OK." They all sat quietly for well over an hour, with not one single complaint or question about how long it would be.

You see, this MVC had occurred fairly close to the hospital, and every one of the patients in the waiting room had driven past the scene. The mangled metal of two cars that had been utterly destroyed by the force of the collision served as a sobering reminder that their dental abscess, migraine, sprained ankle, finger laceration, sinus infection and UTI could have been much, much worse.


Real Life said...

It doesn't take much first-hand knowledge or experience to change a person's perspective (and subsequent attitude). I'd venture a guess that the impatient non-emergent individuals, or at least some of them, are lucky enough to never have experienced a true emergency -- never been stuck in what was once a car, never answered the phone only to receive life-altering news, never had to drive to a hospital not knowing whether their loved one would recognize them or even be alive by the time they could get to them.

We used to whine and complain to the high heavens when traffic on a highway would slow to a crawl -- or, worse, a parking lot.

Then my mom and I were the ones in the wreck (funny thing, the newly redesigned, "safest" ford explorer did somersaults down the road just like its predecessors), and a major interstate was shut down for 2-3 hours while they tried to figure out how to get my mom out of the mass of mangled metal.

We still don't *like* having to crawl along an interstate or get stuck in a 'parking lot' -- but we can't find it in us to complain knowing what one or more families is experiencing at that moment and what the next few weeks likely have in store for them. Instead, we say a few prayers for everyone involved, try our best to be patient and enjoy the time that we have -- together -- even if it is in a highway parking lot.

(granted, it doesn't make life much easier for those of you who have to deal with the impatience and entitlement day in and day out -- but still, there is a part of me that is jealous of them for not being able to comprehend the gravity of what someone else is facing)

Anonymous said...

We recently spent 7 days without power, the entire county. And not one person complained. Every business sign in the county had praise for the PUD workers. Almost everyone was polite in huge gas lines at the one open station. And I just can't help but think it had to do with the PUD guy who almost died the night of the storm. (no Hippa worries-primetime news) As the storm started, he was 40 feet up in a bucket when a sudden gust caught them off guard and he was flung like a tiddley-wink. Every road out of the county was blocked and it took a crew of about 10 men to chainsaw and bulldoze their way out to the Real Hospital in Big City. The news reported he had died (wrong as usual). He is doing well, now home. No one had the guts to bitch after the local boy with kids and sweet wife almost died so they could have a warm shower.

emergencyem said...

Great post, you have a way with words MG.

EDNurseasauras said...

Perspective. Get some y'all!

GuitarGirlRN said...

Admitted but without bed Patient: "I need to talk to my doctor! How long does that take?!"

Me: "Sir, I told you, your doctor is involved in a code upstairs and will be down as soon as he can."

ABWBP: "What the hell is that?"

Me: "When someone is dying and the doctors are trying to restart their heart."

ABWBP: "Can't someone take over from him so he can come talk to me about getting my Lipitor?"