“I’m leaving! I don’t care. I have to go!”
I heard it and I didn’t see who said it, but I knew it wasn’t a nurse. We say that kind of stuff in our head, a fantasy played out when the week has been unbearably long, the add-on cases never ending, and patients continued to be sent down poorly prepped from the floor.
Then I heard the sotto voice of a peer who I’d describe as unflappable.
“Okaaay. Well, your daughter is on the phone here and she has confirmed that although you did not make arrangements for her to pick you up and my call is the first she’s heard of this need, she can be here by 1:30.”
Then he got louder. I selfishly giggled — happy he wasn’t my patient. The nurse at the desk, her eyes grew wide.
“I don’t need her to come here. I’m a grown man. I live close. If you won’t let me take a taxi, I’ll walk! I gotta go!”
Anger emitted from his voice and I could hear sneakered feet hit the floor.
My buddy quickly explain the leaving AMA (against medical advice) form he needed to sign. She also humbly asks him to please let her take out his IV.
My manager steps over and reiterates why he needs to comply with our request.
“Oh. Now there’s two of you! I’m still going!”
And there he is. Now he’s in the galley area between the bays and the nursing station. Yes, he is alert, but he had general anesthesia. It’s still in his system.
We can’t physically restrain someone who is doing no harm to themselves or the staff caring for them. A call was made to the surgeon who’d treated the patient. The patient was again asked to stay and let his daughter come get him at 1:30.
He started walking. My boss followed him right to the hospital entrance and watched him weave in and out between cars. Two minutes later he drove past her, grinning and waving.
Dear patient that left AMA,
Maybe, just maybe, you think what you did was the proud thing, managing your “own business”.
Let me tell you what it was: It was stupid and selfish.
To think so little of the lives of others at risk while you are on the road “proudly” driving yourself home, how dare you.
To lie to our Prep central nurse, pre-op nurse, and probably to the office nurse that mentioned the need for someone to be with you after surgery means you wanted to make sure you could get on the road and sit behind two thousand pounds of steel going fifty miles an hour.
We’ve had others, but they understood — they waited. They were frustrated, but they waited.
Sir, you have no regard for life.
Have you never lost anyone? Felt the anguish of a family or friend you felt taken too soon?
Your anesthetic will wear off in forty-eight hours, but you will still need to wake up.
We aren’t going to forget you, but it will be for all the wrong reasons. You take for granted the one thing that all the money in the world can’t buy.
With cautious regards,
The ASU nurses.