January 23, 2003 (Ira Pilgrim)

Mr. Grossman

A short true story

The nurse who greeted me at the Hilltop Nursing Home was a radiant blonde. She had the neat and efficient look that one usually associates with the nursing profession; but her cap was slightly askew. She had a misplaced lock of hair and she fluttered a bit in a manner that hinted that she might possibly not know what she was doing; although she did what she didn't know with optimum efficiency. She had neglected to write out the laboratory request slip. I matched her lack of efficiency by having neglected to inquire in advance whether the urine specimen that I was to analyze had been collected. It had not been collected.

We performed the necessary paperwork and proceeded to the patient's bedside. Even lying down, Mr. Grossman was a large man, although his somewhat emaciated condition made him appear a mere shadow of his former self. He had that vacant expression that I have often observed in nursing home inmates. His skin felt clammy. I explained to him that I was there to draw some blood and inquired whether that met with his approval. He nodded in what I mistakenly took to be assent. I asked the nurse to hold his hand and, in demonstrating how I wanted it held, discovered that his grip was strong enough to crush her delicate hand. I suggested that she hold his hand without placing her own in his. The needle just barely pricked his skin when he jerked his arm away, sat up in bed and with his eyes blazing and arms flailing as if to strike me.

"You sonofabitch, you hurt me !"

I placated him as best I could, explaining that I had told him that I was going to take some blood.

"You bastard; you didn't say that it would hurt!"

With the help of two nurses aides, we managed to convince him to tolerate the pain and hold his arm still. Getting the blood sample proved to be uneventful once he had decided to cooperate.

We still needed to collect a urine specimen. One of the aides, who appeared to know our patient very well, obtained a urinal. She uncovered him, stuffed his penis into the orifice of the urinal and started cajoling him into urinating.

"Mr. Grossman, please urinate, because we need the urine to analyze. Your doctor wants this test."

I went out to the nursing station, where I chatted with the pretty nurse.

Ten minutes later there was still no urine specimen. I had more work to do and was getting impatient. I walked to the door of Mr. Grossman's room and asked the aide if she had had any luck. She indicated that she had not. I surveyed the scene of Mr. G. in bed, half lying down, half sitting up, with the aide holding the urinal between his legs. I looked him square in the eye and shouted as loudly as I could: "Pee !!!"

A beatific smile wreathed his face accompanying the beautiful tinkle of urine hitting the metal of the urinal.

Everyone was astonished at the effectiveness of my command, including me.

I left the nursing home feeling like the Wizard of Oz; and a very successful wizard at that.

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