Sunday, April 28, 2013

Standing Room Only

My 1st position as a certified Medical Technologist was on night shift at the grand St. Francis Heart Center in Port Washington NY.  

This was a famous 225 bed hospital devoted to open heart cardiac care on Long Island, NY.  Run and organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of NY, no expense was spared when it came to the pediatric wing of the hospital.  Then First Lady Nancy Reagan visited the facility to bring and introduce to America, two small children from South Korea who were undergoing open heart surgery to correct heart defect.  The operation was a success, Ms. Nancy was elated, the children went home to South Korea, everything was grand.  As grand as the doctors parking lot which was like a Starbucks on Rodeo Drive.  Ferrari, Mercedes, Jaguar, Aston Martin were all representative of the fine work the cardio-thoracic surgeons were performing everyday at St. Francis.

It was a hot summer night and one of those nights I did not look forward to at the Laboratory.  It was a solo night.  That meant after the evening shift left at 11:30 PM I was all alone until the 1st day shift techs showed up at 6:00 AM.  Yeh it was rough.  Managing workload between Hematology/Urinalysis, Chemistry, Serology, and BloodBank there was barely enough time to grab a quick bite to eat.  Upon arriving at the lab that evening I was informed that it was not a good day. The morgue was 75% filled to capacity.   You see, at St. Francis Hospital, it was a typical laboratory.

Located in the basement, down the corridor around the back of the cafeteria (Which closed at 7 PM) was the lab location.  Inside the confines of the lab was the "morgue".  The "morgue" consisted of a walk-in refrigerator that had room for 4 stretchers; 2 on one side of the door and 1 on the left side of the door, and one stright in, that's it period.  Starting out the evening with three stiffs on ice was not the usual at St. Francis.  However, the situation quickly got out of control.  Before the evening shift left for the night, "Nurse Ratchet" wheeled down stiff #4.  I signed the body into the "Morgue Book" and I informed the nurse "that was it - no more room".  "No vacancy at the Inn we are at 100%"  She said "Oh well? - my shift is done and I am on my way out - good luck".  Now this was a real nail biter.  In all my shifts, I had never before been at 100% morgue capacity.

Well, little did I know Mr. Cardiac Infarction was just pounding on the door to get in to the Inn.  After, about an hour of mundane lab work running the usual stat Chem7 and CBC's, checking the OR Schedule in bloodbank to make sure all was prepared, the phone rings.  It is none other than my favorite charge nurse, [Mr. Wiseass].  This charge nurse and I have had run ins before.  So, far I was 2/2 winning in the I was right - you were wrong - you are an idiot game.  Mr. Wiseass calls to tell me he has a patient that is being brought down to the morgue "as we speak".  I said "hold on there; I already have 4 bodies in a refrigerator that holds 4 stretchers - there is no room, no vacancy".  Wiseass tells me something so repugnant, so disastrous, so dysfunctional I could not believe my ears...Wiseass tells me ;"There is nothing I can do, the body is on the way down, you are going to have to double-bunk two bodies on one stretcher - maybe you can stand them all up instead?"  Well here goes 3/3..."No way - I will not allow that."  "You are going to have to call a funeral director and get them to come in and pick up a body now instead of later this morning".  Within an hour, one body was going out the back door and now there was room for Mr. Infarction at the inn.

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