Paramedic: Hello Mr. Hendricks. What seems to be bothering you tonight?
Mr. H: I don’t feel well.
Do you feel sick?
Mr. H: Yup.
Mr. H: Just like I was before.
When was that?
Mr. H: Quite some time ago.
How long ago was that?
Mr. H: Way before this time.
So … are we talking hours, days, months or years?
Mr. H: It was well before I paid off the loan on my car; or was it before my wife left me?
OK, let’s start over. What are you sick with?
Mr. H: I already told you. The same thing I was sick with before.
And what was that, Mr. Hendricks?
Mr. H: My doctor knows.
What did your doctor tell you?
Mr. H: He told me I was sick.
Sick with what?!
Mr. H: Whoa! You don’t have to be so hostile. I am ailing after all.
You’re right Mr. Hendricks, and I apologize for my impatience. I just want to help you.
Mr. H: Well, you should because I’m sick, and I’ve run out of my “prescripted” pills.
What kind of pills do you take?
Mr. H: The ones my doc gave me.
Why did he give you the pills?
Mr. H: Because I was sick.
What are the medications?
Mr. H: The funny shaped blue ones and the red ones; or are they orange?
Do you know the names of the medications?
Mr. H: Nope.
Can you show me the pill bottles they came in?
Mr. H: Nope.
And why is that?
Mr. H: I threw them away a while back.
Why did you do that?
Mr. H: Because they were empty.
What is your doctor’s name?
Mr. H: Don’t remember. It was written on the empty “prescripted” bottles I threw away.
So … do you feel weak, nauseous or feverish? Are you having any trouble breathing?
Mr. H: Right now?
Yes, right now.
Mr. H: Not as much as before.
Mr. H: Before the last time I got sick.
Mr. Hendricks, please. Please tell us what made you feel sick enough to call us at three o’clock this morning?
Mr. H: Wow. Is it really that late?
Yes, but that isn’t important right now. I really need you to …
Mr. H: I guess that explains why I’m so tired.
Is that why you called us, because you’re so tired?
Mr. H: Well, it is three in the morning.
Are you in any pain right now?
Mr. H: Yup.
Where do you hurt?
Mr. H: Same place as before.
I need you to be specific as possible as to where you hurt.
Mr. H: That’s a tough one.
Why is that?
Mr. H: Because I’m generally hurtin’ all over.
What kind of pain is it?
Mr. H: The bad pain kind.
No. I mean, is your pain sharp, cramping, burning, stabbing or aching in nature?
Mr. H: Not so much, but sort of … maybe.
On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most pain you ever felt, what number would you give it?
Mr. H: Have you ever been shot?
Shot? Well, no. Is that what it feels like?
Mr. H: Don’t know, I’ve never been shot.
So why did you ask me about being shot?
Mr. H: I don’t know. I was just thinking about what a level 10 of pain would feel like.
OK, let’s try this. Have you done anything to help you alleviate your pain?
Mr. H: Well duh, I called you.
So, you would like us to take you to the hospital?
Mr. H: Do you really think I’m sick?
Isn’t that why you called us?
Mr. H: What? Why?
To take you to the hospital.
Mr. H: That depends on if I’m really sick or not.
You already told us you were sick.
Mr. H: Yeah, but I don’t know if I’m sick sick, or just sick. Besides, I can’t afford an ambulance. Why does your partner keep hitting her head against my wall?
Because she’s sick and tired of …
Mr. H: Me too! It must be contagious.
Until next time, take a deep breath and count to 10 … on a scale of 1 to10, 10 being the most frustrated you’ve ever … oh, never mind. JEMS
This article originally appeared in October 2010 JEMS as “Scene but Not Heard: ‘Patient’ interaction strategies.”