The RN came to stand in front of me – on the other side of the nurse’s station where I was sitting.
“Just spoke to switchboard – apparently room 9218* has been calling a particular family repeatedly in the middle of the night yelling at them when they tell her it’s a wrong number. It’s stressing them out, as you can imagine, so help me keep an eye on her and stop her from using the phone tonight?”
“Oh, for crying out loud,” I said. “Well, I’m about to go in there… I’ll see what I can do.”
This patient was in isolation – not my favorite type of patient, simply because the gowns and gloves never ceased to make me feel like I was burning alive if I had to be in the rooms for more than a couple of minutes. Regardless, I suited up and stepped into the room just in time to hear her yell.
“STOP LYING! This IS Macys! I need the customer service desk! …No shut up! I know the Macys’ number by heart! You’re just an idiot!”
“Ms Barkly*!” I said, “Who are you talking to?”
She stopped and looked at me for a moment, and not taking the phone away from her ear she said “None of your business!”
“It is my business, Ms Barkly, because that is my phone.”
“No it’s not! You don’t even work here! Look! You aren’t even wearing the uniform! How did you get in here?!” She demanded.
“Ma’am, we don’t wear uniforms on this unit. I do work here, and that phone is my business; besides which, it is 1 AM and Macys is not open. Let me talk to whoever is on the line.”
She squinted at me and grunted. Begrudgingly handing it over after realizing I wasn’t going to just give up.
“Hello,” I said before introducing who I was.
A desperate sounding man on the other side of the phone explained who he was and how many of this middle of the night calls he had been receiving from her – always claiming she was trying to get a hold of Macys, then verbally abusing him or his wife. He also explained that all they could see is the generic Vanderbilt number on their caller ID – and they have a family member admitted on another unit so they can’t not pick up…
“I am so sorry sir,” I stated. “We were just informed of this issue a few minutes ago. I am taking care of it right now – her phone will be disconnected.”
With a deep sigh of relief he thanked me profusely.
“Apologies again, sir. Goodnight,” I said, and with one fell swoop I hung up the phone and pulled the cord from the wall. Letting the nurse know what happened when I walked out of the room.
Ms Barkly continued to verbally abuse me the entire shift – well, she did so to anyone that dared to come in her sight line. One big issue was trying to not allow me to use the disposable equipment reserved for isolation patients insisting that I should use the $500 thermometer on her instead. When I refused she insisted she would go get another opinion at another hospital that would treat her right – fact was we were the second opinion. She had already pulled the same threat at St Thomas’. Alright, lady…. I told her it was her decision where to receive the medical care for her gaping thorocotomy (Lung removal) wound on her right side. Big enough that to pack the wound, one’s forearm would go in completely.
Throughout the wee hours of the morning she continued to try to use her phone – abusing the Medical Receptionist (as she was within her sight line) about us bugging her phone and letting the aliens disconnect her and all sorts of nonsense. Of course it was all the poor Medical Receptionist’s fault because she had the unit’s multi-line phone so she must have flipped a switch from there. I apologized to Chris for what she was having to put up with, but she knew it was a necessary action I had to take.
Our unit was good about consistency of care – using the same staff to care for the same patients as much as possible, especially when working shifts in a row. They were also good about trying to accommodate staff requests when certain people did not want to work with certain patients. A request that a handful of staff made often for various, what I considered superficial reasons. I; however, only ever made that request once.
At the end of the night I approached the charge nurse.
“Please let day shift know that when making the assignments for tonight I request not to be assigned to Ms Barkly again. I promise you, I will lose my job if I have to care for that woman again.”
*Name and room number changed
# 3 of my medical memories