A hospital carpark Hansel and Gretel List

I’ve noticed an odd groundward trend, somewhere between the hospital car park and the emergency department. I’ll call it my daily Hansel and Gretel. Always a little different, sometimes it’s just a relic, or a clue, or an odd discarded piece of peculiarity, or, at its best, a good going trail. But there’s always something. Like a treasure map leading into the department, with a tale chasing behind it, these are the things I’ve seen walking into the hospital (and I apologise if you’ve seen these before on my twitter feed. In fact, I feel I ought to apologise to any of you poor things if you’ve read my twitter feed (aside again. Twitter feed. Bird feed. We’ve come full circle here. Back to Hansel and Gretel. Although in the Grimm story the trail led from, or to, a house of cake and confectionary. No amount of imagination will transform our ED such.). ):

  1. Dollops of blood. This was very CSI. Leading from an unassuming bay on the third floor of the car park and punctuated by a hand print and smear down one wall of the stairwell, this didn’t let up until it reached the triage area. Requires the least inventiveness of all to work this one out.
  2. Coffee stains. Much sadder, this one. Somebody spilling precious fluid in an obvious hurry to get into work.
  3. A polystyrene esky, its lid half off, with a peelingĀ Biohazard label on the side. It was, presumably, full of discarded organs, trafficking gone wrong, a bad internet deal. I couldn’t bear to look inside.
  4. Those little cartridges of nitrous oxide, usurped from their respectable role inside canned cream dispensers, they’d been crushed by the hand of somebody seeking cheap oblivion. Laid out like shame.
  5. Decreasingly sized blobs that looked like basil pesto. No. I don’t know either.
  6. The most recent, a mass of bloody feathers, arranged with the suggestion of a sacrifice. I pondered on this one the entire day, and by the time I left a rather draining shift, my heart emptied out, I figured it was the remains of Icarus, the last of his singed feathers dropped on our doorstep, to remind us of man’s complacency and hubris.

But it does always make me smile, encountering these trails, the scent of what’s to come for the day. As I dodge the raucous man selling The Big Issue (I find I cannot buy more than two or three copies before I start averting my eyes), the splintering piano in the corridor (frequented at night by lonely patients playing with their gowns gaping open at the back), and the LOLs (the little old ladies – the purple haired volunteers – oh but they are another whole post), I am alway ludicrously cheered and steeled by the time I walk through the sliding doors of the department into the chaos, a place made not of candy and chocolate, but a Grimm tale, all of its own.

About the author

Dr Michelle Johnston is a consultant Emergency Physician who works at an inner city hospital. Mostly her days consist of trauma and mess. Also, she writes.

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