This month I am the ward Attending at St. Vincent’s Hospital. The ward Attending is just like it is on TV. Pick a show: ER, Grey’s Anatomy, or more like Nurse Jackie. I am the doctor in charge, overseeing a resident and two interns. We meet each morning at ten o’clock and round on the patients that were admitted to my service. Usually these are individuals who have no private doctor of their own and so they are admitted to a House Doctor. No, like the TV show, House, but like Hugh Laurie, I portray myself as a curmudgeon, older, wiser doctor who teaches the young, nubile residents while spewing out snide comments because I’ve become bitter over the years thanks to health care and insurance companies. But I digress.
Being the house attending, we round on patients, who need us.
Well it actually boils down to homeless, foreigners, morbidly obese people on disability, crack addicts and alcoholics. Or any permeation including any or all of the above mentioned. So you see it is nothing like television, and now you understand why Nurse Jackie is a junkie herself.
Why just yesterday we were talking to Mrs. Jacobs, a 52-year-old, Christian, African-American, morbidly obese, diabetic woman who is out on disability. She was attending church services, dropped her glove and when she went to pick it up fell flat on her face and was taken to the emergency room. I’m still not sure why she was admitted but we were happy to help. I mean, St. Vincent’s is a Catholic hospital. When I met Mrs. Jacobs she was lying flat on her back, her entire body sprawled out like freshly made flan, her small head nearly enveloped by her chins.
“How are you today Mrs. Jacobs?” I asked.
“What do you think,” she responded sharply. And for good reason, Mrs. Jacobs has long been suffering with multiple joint pain due to an accident that occurred while at work, she went on to tell me. (I smell a workman’s compensation case). But low and behold, after a Cat Scan of the head and a series of X-rays, there was nothing new that was wrong with Mrs. Jacobs other than her body being three times the size for someone her height. She didn’t like when I told her that. In fact, she said, she was going to call the hospital administrator. But that’s okay. It’s good to vent your frustrations. It’s better than reaching for a jelly doughnut.
The next day when we visited her, she was sitting up in a chair. Or at least I thought it was a chair but realized she was on a portable potty. “Oh excuse me,” I said.
“No don’t go I have to talk to you,” she demanded.
“But your busy,” I said.
“No, I’m done.”
“Thank goodness,” I thought. “Then please don’t get up.”
“I prayed last night and the Lord healed me,” she said smugly.
In the end, I told her she would have to go back home today.
“Home!” she cried. “How am I going to get around? Who is going to help me around the house?”
“Gee, I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Jesus?”
But I’m not completely heartless, so I asked the social worker to see if there was anything she could do for Mrs. Jacobs. As the team and I said our goodbyes and walked out of the room to visit, Mr. Bartholomew, an alcoholic, crack addict with blood clots in his legs, I could hear Mrs. Jacobs screaming at me from her room.
“I am going to pray to Jesus,” she shouted. “I’m going to ask him to save you Dr. Spinelli because you need saving.” As I turned to tell her thank you but no thanks. I’m sure the Lord has more important people to save, I see her moving toward me using the portable potty as a walking, pushing it closer to me, the lid open, and dare I say it full of the Holy Spirit of Mrs. Jacobs.