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My God, What Happened to Her?

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I was running low on money late into my sophomore year in college. With the help of one of my professors whose sister was head of personal at a local hospital, I secured a position (sounds more impressive than "got a job") at a local hospital. Three nights a week, 11:00pm to 7am). The nearly two years in which I worked at the hospital proved to be quite an education. Among the many zany happenings were my getting conked on the head by a steel urinal wielded by a drunken patient and chasing a nude patient who had escaped from the hospital. "Fun" times.

Don Drewniak
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

I was running low on money late into my sophomore year in college. Thanks to one of my professors, Dr. “Jumping Joe” Reardon, I secured a job working three nights a week (11pm-7am) at a local Catholic hospital. I chose the night shift because it paid an extra twenty-five cents an hour, bringing my earnings to $1.45/hour. That is the equivalent of $14.03/hour as of this writing. Big money back then.

The nearly two years in which I worked at the hospital as an orderly proved to be quite an education, especially since I worked in a medical ward. Upwards of a dozen people died while I was on duty ranging from a fourteen-year-old boy to a woman in her mid-90s. However, more often than not, I saw people recover and smiling as they prepared to go back to their homes.

Working with a head nurse, a support nurse (sometimes two), two or three student nurses and a nurse’s aide, I was the only male on duty. This led to my being involved in several unique happenings, including two that I have never forgotten.

The medical wing was located on the sixth floor of the hospital and consisted of two corridors positioned in an L-shape. An alcoholic recovery room with six beds was located at the far end of one of the wings. During weeknights, there were rarely more than one or two “patients.” Saturday nights were quite different. More often than not, all six beds were filled. Some of the super-inebriated had to be restrained. The room was for males only.

It was on one such Saturday night/Sunday morning that all hell broke loose. I was sitting in the nurses’ station talking to a couple of student nurses when screams could be heard from one of the corridors. I dashed out of the station. Running toward me from the “alky room” as we called it was a man in his twenties who was about six feet tall and well over 200 pounds swinging a metal urinal over his head.

As he approached me, I tried a cross-body block. Down we went. In the process, he clipped me along the side of my head with the urinal. I blacked out for a few seconds. When I came to, the nurses and student nurses were cheering me. The runaway freight train was out cold. They thought that I had knocked him out. However, I knew that he must have passed out from a combination of the alcohol and exhaustion. I said nothing as one of the students put a cold compress where I had been hit on the left side of my forehead and gave me a kiss. Who was I to disabuse them of what they believed had happened? Thus a legend was born.

The head nurse on duty that night, Marie Victor, worked that shift five nights per week. Thus, she was on duty for a majority of the nights during which I worked. She was five years older than me, about five-four in height, slender and attractive. We became good friends. Whenever things were quiet and she knew that I had classes a couple of hours after the shift ended, she let me sleep in one of the broom closets. (No, she never joined me.)

It was about three in the morning a few months later when two local policemen and a hospital security guard walked into the ward escorting a muscular man who appeared to be in his late 30s/early 40s. A doctor and a nun, who was the night supervisor, followed them.

He kept repeating, “I need to see my wife. I need to see my wife.” The police along with the security guard got him into a bed. Shortly thereafter the doctor administered a shot to his rear.

“That will keep him out until the daytime staff comes on.”

Two student nurses, along with help from me, managed to get his clothes off and put him into a hospital johnny.

Somewhere around six that morning, I heard him screaming, “My wife, my wife, I’ve got to see my wife.” He was standing outside the door of his room wearing only his johnny. In his right hand was a crucifix that he was waving back and forth. It looked small hanging on the wall over the headboard of his bed, but menacing in his hand.

“Get someone to alert security,” I told a nearby student nurse.

Off he went down a stairwell. I followed. Down and down to the main floor lobby he went and then out the front doors. I continued to follow him.

“My wife, my wife, I’ve got to find my wife.”

He left the hospital grounds, crossed the street and backed up against a wooden, three unit garage.

“My wife, my wife, I’ve got to find my wife.” All the while, he kept waving the crucifix.

Where the hell is security?

Off he went running downhill toward the center of the city. I trailed him. Half a block later he dropped the crucifix and off flew his johnny. He collapsed a few yards later. He was out cold lying face down on the sidewalk. Still no security. I started yelling at passing cars, “Call the police, call the police!” I took his pulse — forty-eight. I was ready to try to flip him over to administer artificial respiration if his pulse stopped. Thankfully, it didn’t. I have no idea how long it was before two police cars arrived. Shortly thereafter came an ambulance from the hospital and a reporter from the local newspaper.

“Hey, what happened?” asked the reporter pointing a camera at me as the medics were putting the patient into the ambulance.

“None of your business and don’t try to take a picture of me.”

The nighttime supervisor collared me when I returned to the ward. “What happened?”

I described it in detail. When I finished, she said, “Take your next night off with full pay. You did the right thing in not talking to the reporter.”

I thanked her and resisted saying, “You are not as nasty as the nurses say you are.”

Sadly, the patient, who recently had been discharged from the U.S. Army after over twenty years of service, passed away three weeks later due to an inoperable brain tumor.

I left the job during my senior year as I had saved enough money to carry me through to graduation. Marie and I hugged as I left my shift for the final time.

The years passed. I was in my late 40s and running between forty to sixty miles per week. I ran a point-to-point 5-mile race on a Thanksgiving morning in the early 1990s. The last mile was a predominantly steep downhill and I ran it full throttle. That proved to be a mistake as the pounding took its toll.

My wife, my daughter (home from college for Thanksgiving) and I were watching an episode of Seinfeld that evening. I got up to grab a beer during a commercial. As I did so, there was an audible cracking sound and a brief sharp pain in my left knee. I iced the knee, downed a couple of aspirin and took the next day off from running.

I returned to my regular training schedule following the day off. While there was constant pain during the runs, it was minor and I tried to convince myself that it was a strain of some sort that would heal itself. Some three months later while near the end of an eight-mile run with a friend, the knee gave way. There was a loud cracking sound and a knife-stabbing pain in the left knee. Down I went.

An MRI revealed that I had a double tear in the meniscus, a cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the shinbone and the thighbone. It was off to surgery a week or two later. Fortunately, it was arthroscopic surgery that was done at an out-patient facility. I was given the option of having a local anesthetic or being put under.

I preferred to have the local so that I could watch the procedure on an overhead television monitor. However, a female anesthesiologist convinced me to do otherwise when she said that a local often caused males not to be able to urinate following the surgery, and that a Foley catheter might have to be inserted. I viewed several Foley catheter insertions during my time working at the hospital. With that, I told her, “Knock me out.” And so she did.

I have no remembrance of the following. My wife has told this tale innumerable times since the day of the surgery. According to her, she was standing on one side of the recovery bed and a nurse was on the other.

As I supposedly came out of anesthesia, I looked at her and slurred, “Hi, honey.”

I then looked at the nurse and stared at her name badge which read, “Marie.”

“Marie, Marie Victor?”

“Yes, Don, it’s me.”



From there (again, according to my wife), I babbled for a minute or two before Marie said, “You will be up and about starting tomorrow morning.” She then walked away.

In a voice loud enough to be heard by everyone in the room (again, according to my wife), I yelled, “My god, what happened to her? She used to be so thin and now she looks like an elephant.”

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