A twenty-six-year-old man with mental problems was taken by his family to emergency psychiatry. Before they could get him inside, he broke away and ran off. The sheriff was called. They chased him down and, in order to subdue him, shot him with a TASER. By the time they got him under control, he was not breathing and they rushed him in to us. We did our very best to revive him but were not able to do so.
The worst part of my job is telling people their loved one is dead. When I got to the family room to do my duty, I met a middle-aged mother and several other people who turned out to be siblings, cousins, uncles and aunts. I briefly reviewed what had happened then told them he was dead. When this happened, the mother, who was sitting right in front of me, screamed, threw herself on the floor and started to flail around. Everyone else (and I mean EVERYONE) immediately pulled out their cell phones and started dialing. One aunt, as she dialed, pointed to the mom and said something like, “Can’t you get someone to do something for her?” A younger brother, also while trying to dial, started hollering at the sheriff deputy who was standing in the hall outside the room, blaming him for the death. It was the most surreal situation, standing there, watching everyone dialing and talking on his or her cell phone while the grieving mother moaned on the floor.
I finally pointed out to every one in the room that all they were doing was calling on their phones while the mom was crying on the floor. I recommended they put away their phones long enough to give her some comfort. There was some half-hearted effort to respond to my recommendation.
I told them I was very sorry then excused myself to go back to seeing my other patients. A while later, as I was writing up a note on the computer across from the dead man’s room, I heard the mother, from behind the curtains, hollering in Spanish, commanding her son to get up and walk.
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