The Apocryphal Intern


Ancient Possibly True Legends of Cook County Hospital


By Richard R. Grayson, M.D.


Doctor’s Orders


Intern is in his whites, puttering around the 45-bed wing of the medical ward up on the 3rd floor of the medical building. He is standing at the foot of an iron bedstead writing progress notes on a chart.


A stainless steel urinal sails past his ear from the other side of the ward, narrowly missing him and his patients, bouncing on the floor.  Intern turns to see a young man his own age standing next to a bed in which the patient obviously belongs, having recently been admitted by police after a mysterious rescue from the Chicago River. Patient has crazed look, wears a white hospital gown laced in the back, is bare-footed, who is throwing things at three attendants, male and female, and who are backing away from him.


Intern goes on automatic, not knowing any better.  He perceives a patient who is not obeying doctor’s orders.  He yells across the room, stop that, get back in bed.  Patient does not comply, appears dazed, confused, and is looking for more missiles.  Intern walks across the room, passing the attendants, decides that all patients must obey him. He gets really close to the thrower and says get back in bed. Patient does not. Intern thinks that bluffing should work, that now is probably not the time to do a history and physical as he was taught.  Intern says, you will please get back in the bed and stop throwing stuff. Intern weighs at least 140 pounds, same as the patient who apparently has a personality disorder of some kind.


Patient does not understand his hopeless situation. Intern does, knowing that all patients obey loud orders. He gets much closer now, giving a last command, get back in bed.  Patient jumps intern. Grapples with intern. Intern falls forward on patient, thus forcing both to lie down on the bed.  Intern stays on top of patient and calls for restraints, which the brave attendants now supply.


Patient is finally restrained, hands and feet, although loudly, by brown leather straps secured to bed rails.  Intern, lucky not to have had his ear or nose bitten off in the fracas, decides to quiet down the noise the only way he knows how.  He gets off the patient, thanks the three attendants for their help, walks to the nurse’s station at the middle of the two 45 bed units, and goes for the paraldehyde.  Paraldehyde in the years 1948-50 had been around for half a century and always quieted people down safely.


The last memorable scene from this melodrama is the 22 year old white-clad happy intern strutting down the isle carrying a huge syringe with a suitably huge needle, filled with 20 cc of paraldehyde, which has an appearance similar to that of gasoline. He carefully applies the panacea to the buttock of the vanquished warrior amidst the admiring approvals of the witnessing staff and other patients.


The ward was quiet that night, the patient was safely removed to the psych unit next morning in a straight jacket, and the intern had a patient who had followed his orders.



Perchance to Sleep


Intern is called at 2 am to get up to go a medical ward to admit a sick patient.  He examines the patient, writes a history and physical, writes orders for a blood count and urinalysis and medicines, and staggers back to his room above E.R., and falls asleep.  He descends into deep slumber, having been up for 3 nights in a row.  The phone rings. He picks up the phone to hear a panicky nurse say, doctor, doctor, what shall I do?  The patient can't give the urine specimen that you ordered.  This is where he tells her to listen carefully and breaks the phone in half and goes back to sleep.



Don’t Fight This Intern


Another story about the apocryphal intern at Cook County Hospital emergency room:  Let's call him Dr. Weinstein.  Drunk comes into the ER at 3 am. Has a bump on his head. Demands to be admitted to the hospital because he needs a place to sleep.  Dr. Weinstein says you are not sick enough to be admitted and wake some poor intern to do the admission.  Dr. Weinstein happens to be a former Golden Gloves boxer. Drunk says I'm a taxpayer so you have to admit me. Dr Weinstein says sorry, come back in the morning. Drunk says "You're a rotten filthy “*!*!*!"  Dr Weinstein hauls off and slugs the drunk, knocking him clean over three exam tables. Dr Weinstein turns to the nurse and says, "Now you can admit him to neurology as a possible skull fracture."



A Good Cigar


Intern is smoking a forbidden cigar at Cook County Hospital in the elevator.  The boss manager of the hospital, who is called the Warden for some unknown bureaucratic reason, gets on the elevator. Intern surreptitiously drops the cigar.  Warden sees the cigar on the floor. He looks at the intern and says, "Yours?"  Intern says, no, but you can have it since you saw it first.



Romeo and Juliet


Handsome young Intern, always the ladies' man, sees shapely nurse bending over the desk on the medical ward.  All he sees is her curved glutei maximi which he thought he recognized. So he creeps up behind her and gives her a good whomp on her rear and says, Hi Mabel!  Only it was Jezebel, the Chief Nurse.  The story lacks a middle at this point but has an ending.  The ending is the apocryphal intern, now having been fired, is standing outside at the curb on a cold winter's night in front of Cook County Hospital, shaking his fist at the entire 3,700 bed structure.