Straight Blade

We are called for the violent psych and told to stage for police. Years ago we would have just been called for the violent psych. Once we got there, if we needed the police we would call for them, or depending on how the call came in, they might already be there.

This morning the call is at a nursing home and when we get there the cops are not there yet. We wait a few minutes, and then just decide to go in. It is not like we are entering a house with a violent mental patient barricaded inside. At the desk, they tell us he is up on the 2nd floor. As we wait for the elevator, the policewoman walks in the door. She is a petite woman, unlikely to be able to wrestle a raging maniac, but she does have a gun and night stick.

On the 2nd floor, the nurse points out the patient, sitting in a wheel chair by the desk with his eyes closed. He is large and muscular—built like a bull – with a scar on his hard face. He looks likes the strong man in the movies who the hero punches, but the punch does not even make the man flinch. Still his body appears relaxed, and he looks up at us without menace.

I introduce myself and my partner to him, and he nods and says hello. As I help him onto the stretcher, my partner asks the nurse what happened. To get on the stretcher, the patient locks the wheels of his chair and then moves himself over with his muscular arms, as I hold the stretcher in place. I notice then his right leg is amputated above the knee.

“He threatened to kill one of the patients here,” the nurse says. “He said he was going to stab her with a knife.”

“No,” he says. “I said I would slit her throat from ear to ear with my straight razor if I had it, but I no longer carry a straight razor.”

“Say what?” the officer says, “You want to repeat that for me, honey?”

“I said I would slit her from ear to ear. The dirty bitch stole my shirt. Everyday she steals from me, and they do nothing about it.”

“Where’s your knife?” the officer says. “He has a knife?”

“No, I am without weapons. I said I no longer carry a straight razor, nor do I have a gun at my side. I gave up my violent trade. I was just saying if I had my straight razor, she would bleed for what she does to me. The dirty whore, stealing from me and they do nothing.”

“What hospital are we going to?” I ask the nurse, as the officer stands there still trying to understand if a true threat has been made.

“Hospital B,” the nurse says.

“B,” my partner says. “We almost always go to A from this facility.”

“Yes,” the nurse says, “But we have learned when we send patients to A, they send them right back. If we send them to B, we do not see them for awhile.”

“There you go,” my partner says, and the nurses all laugh.

“Did you really mean to do violence?” the officer asks the man.

“How can I slit her throat when I no longer carry my straight blade? But if I did carry it, it would always be near my hand, and she would feel its edge.” He says, “I do not like to be stolen from, to be made a fool.”

We get our paperwork and take him to hospital B. On the way out, he sees another nurse and says. “You call for them to take me to jail, you better come down and pay to get me out. I know you have money.”

The nurse just laughs and shakes her head at him.

At the hospital, the triage nurse also shakes her head at his story.

After we transfer him over to the hospital bed, we ask, as we always do if there is anything more we can do for him. “If I might have my mouth swabbed,” he says. “It has has been several days since I have had my teeth cleaned, and I do not wish my breath to be foul.”

4 Comments

  • hilinda says:

    There has to be a better way of dealing with things than over-reacting to “trigger” words.
    Do you think that guy was an actual threat to anyone? No. But the system has him carted off anyway.
    Notice no one is responding to his complaints of being stolen from?
    For all I know, he may be full of crap, but I’ve seen calls where the patient is the one being treated like crap by the system that is supposed to protect and help them. Including one guy who ended up hauled off in handcuffs because his mental health worker was concerned that he was depressed. He said that of course he was depressed, his mother just died. He wanted to go help a family member make funeral arrangements; they refused to let him go, he resisted, and now, off he goes, handcuffed to the stretcher, when really, he’s pretty damned normal from my perspective.
    Surely there is something better?

  • B says:

    Sounds like a great facility. If I chose destinations based on my convenience instead of hat’s most appropriate for the patient, I’d be…..

    Well, I’d be DC Fire/EMS, but I’d also be getting calls from the Department of Health eventually.

  • J says:

    I bet this would be one situation where alot of EMTs would be arguing for carrying a gun. If a threat about a knife was made towards one of them they would want the death penalty for this patient. It is easy to judge when the threat is not against you or you are not the caregiver for this patient everyday.

    Of course the ambulance wants to take the patient to the closest facility. The nurse might have a point by sending this patient to a place where he can spend a few days and get the help he needs.

  • David Y says:

    Others ways of reacting?

    Heck if you’ve never been threatened before, you don’t know how it is and how you’ll react.

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