It’s only happened twice.
It was nothing I said or did. Sometimes hospice patients hallucinate. Might be the meds or the illness or terminal agitation. Sometimes it seems to me it has to do with memories. For instance, a number of my patients have relived their experiences in WWII. Those who saw the worst combat occasionally have a very bad time of it as death approaches.
Or… The occasional patient is prone to violent outbursts and when his usual filters break down because of a terminal illness, well, shit happens.
So I had this patient, an elderly man. He was German. As in he’d been born, raised and lived much of his life in Germany. I no longer recall when he’d emigrated to the States. His English wasn’t the greatest, but his wife was quite fluent in English, German and French. She was the sweetest thing and she baked the best sponge cakes.
I knew one thing about this guy, he communicated this one thing very clearly. His eyes said I was the devil incarnate. Seriously. Every time I visited I thanked my lucky stars he was weak and bed-bound. Little did I know…
He planned ahead. I’m not kidding. He hid a knife under his pillow and waited for me to arrive to do my twice weekly assessment.
So there I am at his bedside, my stethoscope in my ears, and I lean over to listen to his lungs–
That man grabbed me around the neck with one hand and tried to stab me in the chest with his other hand. I was stunned by the ferocity of his attack. I managed to grab his wrist and whack the back of his hand against the hospital bed railing until he dropped the knife, but he still had me by the throat. It took all my strength and the help of his elderly wife to pry his hand away. Man oh man, he was determined to kill me one way or another. I called his doctor and shot him up with a boatload of anti-psychotics ASAP.
We had a long staff discussion about him and our safety (and of course I had to file an incident report) and it was decided that for everyone’s sake he’d remain on anti-psychotics, but we put a big red warning sticker on his chart. Everyone involved in his care tip-toed around him like he was a vicious attack dog. I did manage to keep his behavior under control, for the most part. Things were never perfect. He had a propensity to pinch people really hard. He got along well with his wife though, so that was something. It was the rest of us he hated and feared.
Once upon a time I made a visit to another patient, a bed-bound stroke patient, a man who had always been quiet and cooperative, always sweet. I found him trying to strangle his wife. They were rolling around on the floor, these two frail elderly people. Oh, it was just awful. I managed to get him off of her and then he tackled me. The two of us rolled all over the living room, knocking over tables and lamps. It was an insane experience.
I was trying to keep him from biting me and bashing my head against furniture and at the same time keep him from hurting himself. Meanwhile his wife crawled to the phone and dialed 9-1-1. The longest ten minutes of my life. It took two police officers to pull him off of me and seven of us– the police officer, four paramedics and myself to strap him to a gurney and transport him to the ER so the doctors could start IV sedation.
Crazy stuff and fortunately, very rare.
You know, I always wonder why me. Maybe it’s because I saw so many hospice patients – I was super efficient, in demand, and I carried a huge load of patients – or maybe I just attract the abbynormal (Young Frankenstein). Or maybe it’s just that I can cope with the abbynormal. It’s all part of the job, babies.
I really didn’t want to get bitten.
Hey, I have many more stories. Shall I write more books? love, Julia