He was a most pitiful man. He was about sixty-years-old and had suffered a stroke in the past. He was in the emergency department after being found down drunk and unable to walk. Because of his previous stoke, he had a big challenge walking – even with his cane. It didn’t take too much booze to make him quite unstable. He needed no medical treatment and didn’t even need to be in the emergency department at all.
We frequently let people like this sleep the night in the hall, partly from empathy and partly from worry they might injure themselves in a fall or being hit by a car after they leave. The problem with this man staying was that he was so stinky. He was wet with several doses of his own urine, which made him smell most awful. He filled the department with a burning, foul stench. It was not fair to other patients, their families or the ED staff to have him around.
With such patients, we usually offer to let them shower and then find them some clean clothes to wear. In this case, he refused to take a shower or get new clothes. When told he had to leave if he didn’t clean up, he said he would just wait in the waiting room. I told him that was not an option because he was too smelly. So, he grabbed his cane and walked out into the cold, dark night. He chose to stay wet and foul rather than accept the offer of a hot shower, clean clothes and a warm place to sleep the night. It really makes you wonder what makes some people tick, doesn’t it?