September 18, 2011, 1:47 pm

Somebody’s Baby

Shades of Gordon Ramsay.

Master Nurse Chef!

Will Cherry win the Cream of Wheat challenge?

Can she hold off Sue Barton in the Clear Liquid Clinic Cook Off?

Will they crumble under pressure facing the 5th floor med/surg judging panel?

Who will earn the honor of wearing the cap of the Master Nurse Chef?


Don’t forget that I have discount passes to BlogWorld New Media Expo 2011 for Emergiblog readers!

My presentation is called “Shoot From the HIPAA”. Come and nod your head knowingly and clap for me so I look good. I’m not above bribery.

I have cookies.


The car drifted by the ambulance entrance. The glow of the brake lights lit the corner of my eye.


I closed my textbook. Sigh. I was hoping for downtime.

There was activity in the parking lot. A group emerged, formed a circle and scooted rapidly through the pneumatic doors, right up to the nurses station.

They all spoke at once.

Not breathing…won’t wake up…vomited…alcohol poisoning…can’t wake her up…drinking….not breathing…oh my god…poured water on her…throwing up…called parents…voicemail…

The frantic mass of hair and earrings, denim and tattoos parted to expose my patient, held, barely, by a guy struggling to keep her aloft. Head flopping, arms hanging, hair matted with vomit, tank top stretched out of shape, skirt hiked and everything soaked.

But she was breathing. Sounded like a sailor snoring, but she was breathing.

Less than ten seconds after her arrival, she was breathing on a gurney.


Underage. Under-dressed. Over-drunk.

Got what info I could from her friends, all seven. Name: Stephanie. Age 18. Party. Vodka. Tequila shots. Too much. Found “asleep”, wouldn’t wake up. Water on her face. One girl identified herself as the “Best Friend” and asked to stay, the rest I sent to the waiting room . Best Friend had been the one who called the parents. Said the others were f***ing pissed off at her for doing it.

At least they brought her in.

We settled Stephanie in, did all the usual procedures. I bet she felt very adult when she left home last night, and quite mature as she threw back those tequila shots. She sure didn’t look very adult now. She looked like what she was, a drunk teenager. She will probably be mortified to find out she vomited all over herself and urinated down her legs all over her friend’s car.

I got the number for the parents from Best Friend. I called; the call went to voice mail. I left a message. I hate that.


I passed the waiting room on my way to the lab. Stephanie’s friends were laughing and joking.

“Oh man, we shoulda got a picture when we were dumping water on her.” Much merriment.

“Yeah! Let’s get one in the hospital…upload it!”



Now I’m not stupid, and there are ways of talking to people that gets your message across without sounding like a total bitch. You know, making them think you are on their wavelength when you’d like nothing better than to put your fist in their face.

“Hey guys, I couldn’t help overhearing. I need to let you know that taking pictures in the hospital is not allowed. It’s the law, and besides that wouldn’t really be fair to Stephanie, right? It was nice of you to get help for her, she needs your support.”

That’s what I said. My unspoken thought was “…and not a single one of your is setting foot in that room for any reason.”


I was fuming. Stephanie may have been an adult by law, but right now she was as helpless as an infant and I had a duty to protect her. She might wake up and cuss me up one side and down the other, but this child-adult was somebody’s baby. I raised three kids. I would have wanted someone protecting them.

Hell, I was 18 once. Back then you did stupid things and cringed at the memory. But the years went by, you matured and moved on. Today mistakes are documented for posterity and a dumb mistake follows you for the rest of your life.

Well, not this one. Not tonight.


The group of “friends” left soon after, with no opportunity to be photojournalists. Best Friend left with them, leaving her number in case the parents did not call by the time Stephanie was ready for discharge.

They did call, around sunrise. They were frantic, they thought Stephanie had come home and was asleep in her room.

Uh. No.

Stephanie woke up, too. Didn’t feel so good. Mom and Dad were bringing clean clothes. I told her why hers weren’t usable. “Ewwwww!” she said, gingerly climbing back into the gurney. I acknowledged that she probably didn’t feel like having a lecture on alcohol, that the decision on whether or not to drink was totally hers.

But we talked about what happens after the drinking is over.

To put it in nursing diagnoses terms, we talked about “Control, loss of.”

We talked about loss of control of airway and aspiration of vomit.

We talked about loss of control of bladder and peeing all over a friend’s car.

We talked about loss of control of our environment, and photos winding up on the Internet. Forever.

We talked about loss of control of awareness, and of those who would take advantage of that.


Teenagers think they are invincible. Talking about death – it won’t happen to them.

Talking about not drinking – they can do what they want!

But what’s the one thing they do want?

Control over their lives.

Stephanie lost control of her life for a prolonged period tonight.

That should scare the hell out of her.

I hope she learned a lesson from it.

And if I did nothing else, at least I gave her a chance to cringe at the memory, mature and move on.


  • Marie

    September 20, 2011 at 1:08 am

    The one other thing I would have tried to add, & it sounds like you did a great job, would be alcohol poisoning…as in, never waking up. Even the parents probably knew nothing about that….”oh, all kids experiment with drugs & alcohol”….Its a hard one to explain, but in my point of view, crucial.

  • Kristine

    September 20, 2011 at 2:05 am

    That patient is lucky to have had you for a nurse. As both a former teenager and a future nurse: thank you!

  • Geno

    September 20, 2011 at 10:21 am

    The first time waking in the hospital after drinking too much is scary but it gets easier after that. The freedoms slowly slip away and drinking becomes a habit then a necessity. Those who pass out need help, it was not just a party. It may have just been the beginning of a life style.

  • […] she now practices in an emergency room in the San Francisco Bay area. Recent posts include “Somebody’s Baby”, “To My Daughter, Senior Nurse”, and “So You REALLY Want to be a […]

  • lifenurse

    October 12, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    oh, That patient is lucky to have had you for a nurse

  • Black Cloud ER Nurse
    Black Cloud ER Nurse

    October 19, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    This story is a daily occurrence in my ER… and having to leave the voice mail leaves a sick feeling in my gut.

  • Shirley

    October 29, 2011 at 5:17 am

    I?m from Brazil and nursing student. I?d like congratulate you for your wonderful profession.

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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