My friend not my patient

Rocked up to work in ED on a Sunday morning for a shift during my internship. As I walked into the main department hub one of the overnight Registrars greeted me with “Hey your mate’s here.” I laughed and asked which of my recent social/psych presentations was back and asking for me. “No your buddy is here in resus he’s been asking for you all night.”


I walked into a dimly lit Resus 1 to see my friend Dan lying on top of the bed, covered in blood and dirt. The moment I walked into the room he burst our crying and repeating “I was asking them to call you” as I climbed up onto the bed and held him. After about 10 minutes he calmed down and told me how he’d been assaulted in the early hours of the morning after a warehouse party. Someone had tried to take his phone and he had said no. He proceeded to be belted by four blokes who took his phone, wallet and his brand new sneakers.


I stepped back into the staff station with Dan’s blood smeared all over my arms and asked the night Reg very simply “Is he okay?” I was told he was being kept for observation and a CT after being kicked in the head but that he had been refusing to give the staff his parents phone number because he was embarrassed. I walked straight back into resus and told him I was calling his mum.


Another 10 minutes later I was reviewing a patient with a headache and a blood pressure of 220 systolic and somehow expected to act like nothing happened. I had to step into the department quiet room a few times to calm myself down in between reviewing patients. I briefly saw my mate on his way out the department as his parents came and hugged me. I drove straight over to his house when my shift finished at 4pm.


I broke down in front of my rotation supervisor Chris a few weeks later when reflecting on the episode during a feedback meeting. He told me that if I was ever in a situation like again that my first priority was to be a friend and to ask the Consultant in Charge for 30 minutes off. He also added that if anyone was to give me grief for asking to spend some time with an injured friend, “they’re an asshole.”



Dr. Mason Habel


*Names in this story have been changed