Halloween is a fun time to dress up and pretend to be some weird or strange creature, and collecting good candy…most of the time way more than any kid will eat. I have dressed up as a nurse on many Halloween nights but went to the mental hospital instead of a party.
The night before Halloween this year was a little more active than we would have liked it to be. Within the first 60 minutes of being on the unit, the shift report had not even finished yet, and a fight broke out. The male staff screamed for more help and the staff was able to get in between the two males and break the fight up. One had his nose pouring with blood, dripping all over the floor and all over his clothes. Not only was his nose bleeding, the other patient had deep teeth bites where he had been bitten. A grown man bit him hard enough to break the skin in three places! After two hours of paper work and lots of washing clothes and getting things cleaned up, we were ready for the rest of the night, or so we thought.
Another staff and I were talking about the many Halloweens we had spent on the unit and some of the things that had occurred. Without even giving it a second thought we both agreed the most memorable event was the hanging that happened 7-8 years ago. Of all the nights to have someone commit suicide, not that any night is good for that, Halloween seems to have lasting results on the staff. Very few of the ones working that night are still employed; one quit the next day.
She had been a long term patient on the unit and had become very close to many of the staff. She was a very sweet lady who came in extremely depressed. For weeks on end she stayed to herself and did very little for her own personal hygiene. She was our patient for one solid year, giving her and the staff time to become friends. Just a few weeks before Halloween she began to get better and the treatment team decided it was time for her to be discharged; she would go home the day after Halloween.
She was so excited and arrangements we made. She started wearing makeup along with her favorite blue denim bib overalls. She was only 5'2. She always sat close to the desk and talked to the staff after a lot of the other patients had gone to bed. This night she went to bed early. When sleep checks were being done she was cleaning her room and nothing was out of her routine. She told everyone good night and shut her door. She had been in the hospital long enough she knew the staff and what time the sleep checks were to take place. Her plans had to be very well timed; every 30 minutes someone would be looking in the door.
Close to 9 PM, when the staff did a routine check, the door opened and the staff screamed as she stood in shock as she looked into the room of this petite woman hanging from her bureau’s door. She had strangled to death by just lifting her feet off the floor until she passed out and the sheet she had used continued to smother her wind pipe.
A code M was called – (this is a medical code called for an injury). The staff came running. Crash carts with CPR supplies came bumping through the doors. The doctors arrived, an ambulance was called, the ward quickly filled with activity. Everyone was hoping it was a trick … for Halloween.
The staff worked hard to get her to respond; she never did.
No one knows why she chose that route and the question came up, how did no one see that coming? She had reached her goal to go home and was really looking forward to leaving…or so we thought.
The atmosphere on Halloween is different on the units; we seem to be more alert for unusual behaviors. Like this night when the staff and I were talking about the past, we were quickly brought back to the present as a patient walked out on the hall dripping blood from his mouth and nose. It was not a normal nose bleed. It was pouring like a faucet. Once again for this one shift we spring into action to care for someone on the unit. Mounds of paper work, call the Dr, lots of cleaning cloths. After getting the patient clean clothes and washing away all the blood from a 30 minute pouring nose bleed, it was time to go home.
Angela Brooks has worked in a state-funded psychiatric hospital in Kentucky for 21 years as a nurse, assisting sometimes-dangerous patients who come in shackled and cuffed. At AngelaBrook.com, she offers stories of life on the inside of a psychiatric ward, and the site, as well as her company, offers support for nurses in the mental health field and helps them bring passion into their role at work.
On her BlogTalkRadio show, Mental Happiness with Angela Brooks, she shares some of her experiences “learning to love those others have forsaken” and gives tips on how to bring peace to your own life.
* Please note: I am not here to CURE, DIAGNOSE, Treat or suggest replacements for what a doctor prescribes – I am sharing my nursing adventures with you.
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