Student nurses have very limited duties the first few weeks on the wards and chopping ice in the hopper room and weighing patients were the top of the list. One of my fellow students and myself got assigned to weights on a women’s medical ward. Our patient was an older lady who probably topped the scales at near 400 pounds but we would not be certain until we could weigh her. The balance beam maxed out at 300 and with her bulk it was impossible to even read it let alone balance it.
So our instructor, who knew the ropes at Charity, instructed us to get a wheelchair and take our patient to the basement receiving dock where there was fright scale. She said that there would be no difficulty finding it once we got off the elevator. She advised that we should first find a wheelchair in the storage area that had a weight already stamped on it as it would be impossible to get the patient out of the chair once she was seated.
Wheelchairs at Charity in those days were wood and rather rickety; hard to believe that they could actually hold 400 pounds but apparently there were some that did and many others that didn’t. We choose a chair and delivered it to the patient’s bedside; after a considerable struggle discovered there was no way that this woman was going to squeeze her ample girth into that rather limited space. I can’t remember if I had learned four letter words then but am sure that if I had used a common expression used today that I would have been expelled before my career even began.
With some deliberation my friend went for a bigger chair and within an hour after we started this quest we were headed for the elevators. It was somewhat unfortunate that she had chosen one that had a bent wheel but with two of us pushing we managed. Am sure the ride was not great but our patient did not complain but she did look a bit anxious!
Once in the basement there was an uncertainty if we went right or left. Right seemed to be the kitchen area and left behind closed doors. Surely the scale we were seeking was behind closed doors. So my friend held open the door and I pushed (with great effort) the patient forward. I am unsure who screeched first but once the door closed behind us I knew we were in the morgue. Much to my amazement the patient looked up and said in a rather serious voice, “Sweetheart I am not dead yet!”
Then we got the hell out of there and she never got weighed. When we returned to the ward and told our instructor what happened she said, “O well, take a guess and be done with it!”. And that was how I first learned that information is important but not necessarily accurate.