Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bizarre Encounters

"This is the Westin at the airport, Doctor Oppenheim. A guest has cut off his ear and would like to see a doctor.”

“I can’t sew an ear back in a hotel room,” I explained. “You should send him to the Centinella E.R.” This seemed to satisfy him, and he hung up.

This call arrived at 1:05 a.m. After some nervous minutes hoping he wouldn’t call again, I went back to sleep.

In fiction, the doctor would make the housecall and have a bizarre encounter. Bizarre encounters are more fun to read about than experience, so I work hard to avoid them. Before agreeing to a visit, I talk to the guest, so I can detect drunks, drug abusers, and the mentally ill. Medical science has no antidote for alcohol and, despite what you see in the movies, no injection will pacify a disruptive crazy person. I regularly assure hotel employees that it’s OK to call the police when a guest is out of control. Violent behavior isn’t necessary. 

Now and then I answer a sad call after a tragedy such as the death of a spouse or child. Relatives regularly beg for something to “put her to sleep,” but (again, despite the movies) no such drug exists. A general anesthetic works, but it’s risky to use one in a housecall as Michael Jackson’s doctor learned. I respond to these calls and usually hand over a tranquilizer, but mostly I sit at the bedside listening and delivering sympathy.  

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