Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Cry For Help

"Why are you doing this ? You're treating him like an animal !", exclaimed the shaking, traumatized administrative assistant. "Why is he handcuffed on the floor ?"

"Ma'am", explained one of the many police officers on the scene, "This is standard procedure, for his safety, your safety, and for ours. We cannot risk him hurting himself or anyone else."

"He would never try to kill himself", she beseeched, as the deep knife wound from his wrist to his forearm bled slowly. "He has worked with our team for years. He's not like that !"

"We are taking good care of him", the officer assured her, as the Fire Department arrived on the scene.

I relayed the details of this conversation to my ERT coordinator in private in the stairwell. Although I was first on the scene from our team, I was not able to treat the patient because I didn't have my medical bag or gloves with me. The Security officer's bag was completely devoid of all the supplies I required. All I could do was stand by, somewhat helplessly, and watch as the surreal scene unfolded.

The coordinator and I proceeded to the data center, where the patient had received the long, deep slice to his forearm. It looked like a scene out of a CSI episode -- blood spattered all over the data center floor, a bloody Xacto knife sitting surreptitiously on the shelf, and a blood trail throughout the hallway, out the door, down the ramp, and along the carpeted cube-area floor to where the patient was being restrained by the police.

The call had come in as an attempted suicide; first reported on a concerned bystander's cell phone. Our ERT was alerted some time later by the administrative assistant, who had called us on an internal phone. I found out later from the Security supervisor why the patient had been handcuffed.

Apparently, as he was being led to the cubicle area by another concerned bystander, the patient had noticed a second Xacto knife on that person's desk. He had picked up that knife, and without a word, had continued slicing his wrist and arm, with purpose and conviction, just as he had done in the data center moments before.

The police had arrived, just as the Good Samaritan was attempting to remove the knife from the distraught patient's hands.

Some say that the patient may not have really wanted to kill himself. He had made the first cuts in a data center with several people in the immediate area. He had told the first bystander, the one who had called 911 on his cell phone, his intentions. Perhaps, with the economy in the toilet, and foreclosures and personal bankruptcies abound, our patient was crying out for help.

We will never know what was going through his mind at the time.

As is standard procedure, the patient was commited to a "5150 hold", with a mandatory 72-hour hospital stay, and counseling.

I hope that this man, this white-haired, kindly-looking gentleman, gets the help that he needs.


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