Rx: A good slap

imagesIn the years I lived in Italy outside Naples, I witnessed two instances of a non-AMA-approved but low cost/high efficiency bedside tactic.
First instance: I was coming home late from a meeting. As I mounted the stairs to our apartment, another door flew open and out flew our neighbor Angela, looking wild. She was having a panic attack and wanted her husband to take her to ER. He was refusing: their young son was in bed and he feared she’d be locked up “forever.” Angela’s solution was that I take her. Some intense back and forth on this issue. Angela won. So back in the car, me in rising panic myself at how this ride would turn out since Angela was in no way calming down.
Once at ER, she had the fortune/misfortune to score a medic who knew her. He administered a Dixie cup of Valium and proceeded to berate her. “Your husband has a job. He doesn’t drink, gamble, or chase women. You have a healthy son. WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT?” She wanted another child, couldn’t get pregnant, and  . . . . out poured a litany of concerns and fears. “Calm down!” was his response. “Why can’t you be happy? What’s wrong with you?”
Just as I’m thinking that appeals to logic, shouting and insults weren’t ideal bedside manners, the medic advanced to Plan B: a stinging slap upside the face. “Lie down and be quiet!” he ordered. She did. About that time, the Valium started working. A half hour later I took her home, where her husband put her to bed.
Fast forward a year: We are in the hospital again, this time for Angela to deliver a healthy baby girl. No slaps.
Second instance: I was getting an IV on the one available gurney for low blood pressure. Into the room comes my medic, hauling a wild teenager. I gathered that she was having an asthma attack and refusing whatever injection she needed. The medic wedged a chair between my gurney and a crash cart and plopped the girl in it. She jumped up. He pushed her down. “Signora, you have to help,” he ordered me.
“How?” Had it slipped his mind that he had just given me an IV with orders not to sit up?
“Hold her arm.” Now this was a tad difficult because I’m on my back, the chair below, no leverage and a pretty good-sized girl was bucking and twisting. “Signora! Hold her!” I tried harder. He prepared a syringe. She didn’t want it. “I don’t care! You’re getting it!” He slapped her face, and jabbed the needle. She calmed down. We were released together soon after, the girl smiling and joking with the medic.
Rough and ready medicine. But cheap and effective.
Next blog: Anesthesia is for sissies.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

Posted in Just life

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