My friend Claire called last night. Claire's a nurse; we work together.
She was calling to see if I was watching the show “Hoarders”. I wasn’t, so I switched over to see the chaos. We both enjoy watching this show, but this particular episode topped all the episodes we had seen before. The man on the show had such a dirty house, that it was infested with rats. The rats lived in the walls of his house. The man knew the rats were there, he said, “they were his friends”. As they cleaned they found ~2000 rats living in his house. 2000 rats!!
Needless to say, we were shocked, horrified, and disgusted. But as with any car wreck, we couldn’t look away; after all, we are nurses.
Our disgust of the rats led us to discuss other topics associated with rodents. We talked about turtles. We talked about snakes. We talked about patients.
Every patient has a story. Every patient found themselves involved with a set of circumstances that resulted in their admission to the hospital. These stories are often intriguing, humorous, and shocking. Claire told me the story of a patient she’d taken care of when she worked at John Hopkins who had an exotic snake in her home and was bitten. It was a poisonous snake which led to a critical care admission to the ICU until the anti-venom could be administered. (http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-01-27/news/bal-snake0127_1_snake-antivenom-cobra)
This made me think of another story I’d heard when I was at Vanderbilt. A nurse who worked in the SICU there told me the story. It was about a snake.
A couple she knew had a pet snake. They loved the snake. It was out in the house, not in a pen, not in a cage, not in an aquarium. In fact, the pet snake slept in their room with them at night. They loved the snake.
One day, they started worrying about the snake. The snake had stopped eating. They tried everything to get the snake to eat and nothing worked. Days turned to weeks, a few weeks turned into a couple months and finally the couple took their beloved snake to the vet. The vet evaluated the snake, assessed the snake, inspected the snake. To the relief of the couple the vet proclaimed that nothing was wrong with their snake.
“Then why”, asked the couple, “is our snake not eating?”
“Well”, said the vet, “your snake is fasting.”
“Fasting!” said the couple. “But why?”
And to the horror of the couple the vet replied, “your snake is fasting so that he can eat you.”