There’s something about working the night shift in a trauma level 1 ER in downtown Chicago that’ll put things in their proper perspective.
There’s something else that working in that ER on Halloween, on a weekend, in downtown Chicago that takes it to another level, that takes you to a place, as a sober healthcare worker, trying to do a job and get the fuck home, that changes you.
Halloween 2015, I’m working the night shift wth a crew of seasoned night nurses, docs and techs. The night starts off alright enough.
Some of the ER staff are rocking ER appropriate costumes, a tech has mini mouse ears and a doc has a carved pumpkin badge on his stethoscope. The mood is light, and chill.
Then the clubs let out at around 2 a.m., and the shit hits the fan.
The Chicago Fire Department, and our ER, erupts with calls about, “A drunk female, found inside a dumpster.” Or, “A male, intoxicated, found in a gutter.” And, “Unknown, shirtless, with a mask, passed out in the back of a cab.” Or, “Found in a park, crying, hating the rain.”
The drunks and druggies start coming in faster than we can room them. I mean, the shit is getting crazy. Our 60 plus rooms are filled, and we got folks in the hallways, 40 more in the waiting room, and more and more coming in by ambulance.
Kids on drugs are trying to fight staff, residents are fighting crackheads, I’m just shy of a fist fight with one guy who took a bunch of God knows what, and is trying to punch me and the tech with the minnie mouse ears, unlucky for him she ain’t having it and puts him in his place.
It feels like we’re losing control of the place, the loonies are taking over, people are getting hurt. It doesn’t help that trauma after trauma is coming in.
I don’t remember when, but at some point, after many, many hours, we regained control.
To this day it still is a blur. After all this chaos, after all the fighting, the screaming, and drunken assholes, the only thing I can clearly remember is the 8 a.m. redline ride home, and getting to my apartment, and fucking crawling into my bed, and thinking, ‘on that devil’s holiday, even Jesus can’t save your ass.’ and that’s it….
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