The Lion Man


(or the patient from hell)


In hospital you never know who will come through emergency and filter up to your own ward so you hope newcomers will be nice or at least interesting. While I was there I had been lucky until the tenth day when I was moved to another less critical ward and the Lion Man was moved in next to me.
I suppose, in retrospect, he was one of the most interesting patients or else I wouldn't be writing about him but I could have done without his company.
He arrived at around 7pm and the first thing I noticed was his raised voice long before they managed to roll his bed into the room. I presumed that he was drunk because of his slow deliberate speech with a slight slur but afterwards I realised that this was his normal condition. He had long curly dirty blonde hair. Dirty was the condition rather than the colour and he had so much hair on his head and face he reminded me of the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz. Later when I described him that way to my son he said he had seen him out in the lobby so I guess it was a good description.
He complained constantly to anyone who would listen and when no one would listen he rang for a nurse so that he could complain to her.
When he arrived he was complaining that he couldn't stay in bed because he had to move around. The nurses were very nice to him but firm until he was all settled with his IV working and his monitor registering correctly. (We all had portable radio monitors attached to us so that we could be monitored from the nurses desk).
As the nurses left the room he got up and started to push his IV pole towards the hallway. He was stopped in the doorway but he told the nurse he just had to get some air and was going to the lounge. Fifteen minutes later he was back and his monitor was beeping which meant there was something wrong or one of the wires had been pulled off. He hadn't noticed the beeping but a nurse followed him in and re-attached his wires telling him that he must be careful not to dislodge them. Before the nurse got out of the room his monitor started to beep again and he was following her out. As he passed me it struck me that he looked just like a homeless person pushing a shopping cart. The nurse brought him back and very kindly explained that he must be more careful. Those nurses were so patient and kind I was reminded again that I could never do their job. By this time I would have had him tied to the bed with duct tape across his mouth.
Soon he was off again announcing that he was going to the cafeteria because they weren't feeding him here.
The lights were out when a nurse brought him back and told him he needed his rest but five minutes later he was off to get some air again and this time he came back himself fifteen minutes later. Right away his call light went on and when the nurse came in he told her that he couldn't turn his monitor on. After pointing out that he was never to turn it off again she left and he seemed to be trying to settle for the night. I was just dropping off when he began to snore, and this was no ordinary snoring. It was a loud gurgling sound that filled the room.
A couple of hours later I finally managed to sleep and when I awoke at 5am the Lion Man was gone again.
It was after 7 before he showed up complaining that he had been locked out. He had stepped out to the outside patio in the lounge and when he tried to get back the door was locked. I wondered which nurse had done it meaning to congratulate her on her thoughtfulness but it turned out that all doors automatically locked at night and only opened at 7am so he could get out at 5 in the morning but was locked out until 7.
Another nurse had to tell him not to turn off his monitor and he said that it was always beeping so he turned it off. She tried to explain but was obviously not getting through and then she brought him his medications and had another complaint about where she put his nicotine patch. There was nothing this man wouldn't complain about. At least I now understood why he had to keep going out “to get some air”
When breakfast arrived he said he wouldn't eat that crap and took off for the cafeteria dragging his IV pole with him. Although I would actually agree with him on the quality of the hospital food breakfast was, by far, the best meal because it was mostly packaged stuff that I could recognize. At least the rest of us could eat our cornflakes in piece while he went out for his bacon and eggs. From the short time I had known him I was guessing that would be his breakfast of choice because he obviously went against all advice given to him.
Later on there was a loud altercation around the nurses' desk. I couldn't make out what was being said but Lion Man was brought back into his bed by a nurse with a large security guard helping out. The curtains were pulled around the bed and almost immediately another doctor arrived. He had a very low soothing voice and began a conversation with Lion Man. I couldn't hear much of what the doctor was saying and Lion Man was just doing his usual complaining so I lost interest until I heard him say, “You are just trying to make me say the key words.”
The doctor quietly asked, “And what would the key words be?”
“Gun, kill, knife, stab, but I am not going to say them.”
I listened more carefully to the rest of the conversation and figured out that he beat his wife and mother and was on restraining orders although even I knew a restraining order would mean nothing to this man.
Somehow the psychiatrist managed to calm him down and arranged for the nurse to bring in the video machine to show him what they would be doing when he had his angiogram.
He watched the whole video right through and then called the nurse.
“I won't be doing that.” He stated.
“Doing what?” asked the nurse.
“Having that operation.” He said.
“You'll have to discuss that with your doctor” said the nurse and left with the video machine.
By the time she reached the door he was mobile again on his way to “get some air”
When he came back he called for the nurse and asked her when the doctor was going to be here because he had found a better way to cure his heart. He said that he had phoned a friend who owned a health food store and he had recommended a book – written by a doctor – which explained how to fix everything with just the right diet so that was what he was going to do. The nurse apparently knew of the book and explained that it was merely a diet to help prevent coronary artery disease and not something that would fix things once your arteries were blocked but he insisted his friend said it was all he needed. At that point the nurse gave up and left but he continued to talk as though she was still there so we all had to listen to his nonsense over and over again.
When his cardiologist arrived we had to go through the same spiel again and the cardiologist had to explain again that he was talking nonsense and must go in for the angiogram or he was putting his life in danger. It was set up for the next afternoon and that was that.
Lion Man wasn't phased at all and told the doctor that there was no way he could stay in the hospital another night because the community needed him. I had to laugh to myself at that one because this man had had no visitors and looked like a homeless person. I just couldn't imagine the community wanting him never mind needing him.
On my key ring which was in my drawer I have a small container of pepper spray. It is left over from the days when I used to walk my small dog in the park and we worried about coyotes or loose pit bulls. I slept with the key ring in my hand that night and luckily was discharged the next morning.
I have no idea what happened to the Lion Man and I admit I don't care.

Back     Home     Next