Thursday, April 15, 2010

True Lies Told To The Chaplain

Somewhere in the great karma of the universe, I might suggest that lying to a priest ranks up there with kicking puppies.  As a chaplain, part of my job in the ED is to help people.  I want you to feel like you are being heard, like you are communicating well with our medical team.  I want to get you in to see your loved one.  If the patient is awake, the patient gets to call the shots over who he wants to see.  If the patient is not awake, then it comes down to my judgement.  Usually I default to significant others/ family first.  Often, though, people lie to me to try and gain access.  Here's a few of the whoppers I've heard.

For a white college age patient:  Security had let a bunch of guys go to the Family Rooms because they said they were his brothers.  These guys were white, black, three countries of Asian, Latino, and Australian.  While I applaud his international diversity and clear love of all cultures, you are definitely not family.  I kicked them all out.  Partly because his parents were on the way, partly because these guys were a little sloppy drunk.  And yes, partly because you told me such an obvious whopper.  Duh!

A patient asked me to call her mother.  I called the number she gave: the caller responded that no one by that name lived there, and that she didn't have a daughter.  She then called her daughter's cell phone.  She is really lucky we hadn't locked it up yet, and that we actually answered.  We usually don't.  Call me paranoid, but if I were a mom, and if I got a call from a person saying she worked for a hospital and was calling on behalf of my daughter, I'd at least not lie about my name and having a daughter.  Duh!

"Oh, really, I'm fine.  You can go home, Mom."  My cousin tried that one on his parents and me.  Transparent, dude.  I'm really glad you're better and will let you off the hook, but only because the Portuguese are a very cute and adorable people.

The lady swore she was the guy's wife.  The guy told me he was expecting his girlfriend, and that his ex-wife was nuts and shouldn't be let in to see him under any circumstances.  Before I kicked her out, I made the guy confirm her name.  Lucky her.  What I don't tell her (because I'm a professional!) is that she made my life difficult and I had to make three extra trips up and down the hall.  Just tell the truth.  Do you guys know how many shoes I wear out each year?

The gay couple who said they were brothers.  They didn't resemble each other.  They didn't have the same names.  They were obviously much more affectionate than the average brother.  Turns out they were terrified that if they told the truth, the medical team would make the significant other leave.  OK- I will let these guys off the hook because far too many gay couples *have* suffered this exact injustice.  But I did slap them with some Advance Directives and make them fill them out right there in the ED.  And then I recited poetry for them.  Moral of this story: 1) get an English Major for a chaplain.  2) if you are not able to be legally married to your beloved, do Advanced Directives!

All the ladies swore they were the guy's wife.  Well, he had an ex-wife, a wife, a fiancee, and a girlfriend.  The first three knew about each other.  The girlfriend was totally in the dark, and a surprise.  Whoops.  Telling the truth would have certainly made life easier for Security.  That is why we have separate family rooms.

The friends told me they were all brothers on the way home from work.  The driver of the crashed car was actually the only sober one.  Unfortunately for his "brothers", the "wife" was not the chick at the hospital.  She was at home with the baby... let's just say that got a little awkward when she arrived demanding to see her husband, and we unraveled that the chick at the bedside was not her.  Unfortunately for the other guys, she also had all their wive's numbers as well.  Tell me the truth, folks- you are friends, your buddy was helping you out by trying to be your DD, and that's your girlfriend, NOT your wife.  I'm not in the business of policing your life outside.  I just want peace in my ED.  You'd be amazed at how discreet I can be.  If nothing else, I can shut down visitation so your angry wives don't start slapping your girlfriend in the hall.

Moral of the story:  Tell your chaplain the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth- especially about those extra wives- if you want to see peace and quiet in your local friendly ED.


Anonymous said...


I love it when someone (usually the kid or teenager who is being treated) says:

"My parents hate each other. Please keep them separate. And I do not want to see _______."

That is SO easy to manage, relatively speaking, if you know it in advance. Adults make things so complicated.

The Vagabond Priest said...

ain't it the truth!