a registered nurse I spent the bulk of my career working in psychiatric
settings. It was rewarding work, overall, but it had its share of
more unusual moments, scary, bizarre, humorous and even dangerous.
One memory that stands out in my mind took place when I was working
in a private psychiatric hospital.There were strict rules and regulations
mandated by the State of Texas and by hospitals that were set in
place to try to ensure that patients rights were protected. Occasionally
one ignored a rule here and there in service of protecting someone
who might harm themselves or others.
Very early on one of my evening shifts one of my female patients
skipped onto the elevator and was gone in the blink of an eye. Given
her history for self harm I called the alarm for the security team
to converge and we quickly stormed down the stairs. At reaching
the front door I could see that she was already at the curb. The
hospital rule clearly stated that staff was not to pursue any patient
who made it off the property. I ignored this rule and erred on the
side of protecting her, but maybe following the rules would have
been more judicious, as the incident unfolded.
She made a beeline for the A&P grocery store directly across the
street, six staff members in hot pursuit. Down the side of the building,
a quick right down the front and she was inside, pursued by our
pack of hounds. Since I doubted she knew of any exits from the building,
I felt sure we could calm her and convince her to return with us.
Nope. It wasn't about to be so easy. She ran down the frozen foods
aisle in the middle of the store and took refuge at the far end
of a very long freezer. I signaled to two team members to go to
the next left and right aisles over to try to corner her, but she
quickly picked up on that and began grabbing frozen meat to hurl
at them. In this case it was tiny Rock Cornish game hens. Small
they may have been, but when frozen they carried no little threat
of injury. The two men dodged and took cover. As two others of us
advanced toward her she upped her defense and grabbed full size
frozen chickens. Now these were really fraught with danger, so we
commenced to bob and weave and hunker down while trying to advance
on her and avoid fractured skulls.
I might add here that the store manager was on site and somehow
had gotten the idea that we were trying to harm this woman. He was
yelling at us and threatening to call the police, but we really
couldn't respond very well. We seemed to be making a little bit
of headway when she ran completely out of chickens and grabbed the
next fowl in line, frozen Long Island Ducklings. I used to see these
in the freezer when I shopped there and never bought one because
of the relatively high price, but I'd always wanted to try some
Duck L'Orange. There were various birds flying through the air as
if alive and held aloft by invisible wings, poultry in motion. Alfred
Hitchcock had absolutely nothing on this situation.
By this time all six of our team had regrouped at the opposite end
of the freezer from our patient, and we decided to risk a direct
frontal advance once again. She pulled out all of the stops and
we were again bombarded with long, solidly frozen deadly missiles.
To warn my team members to be careful, I yelled the first thing
that came to mind: "Duck!!!"
Unfortunate choice of words, in retrospect. The police showed up,
assisted us in calming the young woman and we all trooped across
the street to resume the shift.
Some twenty years later, I was in this same store shopping one afternoon
and the bagger asked about my name tag. I acknowledged that I was
employed at the hospital across the street and he commenced to tell
a tale of long ago fowl deeds and soaring beasts of birden. I skulked
quietly from the store.
© Frances Giles
"True Confessions and Mild Obsessions"
September 15, 2015 Column
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