Do you believe in ghosts? I never did until I started working in a Level 1 trauma center, caring for the worst of the worst trauma injuries. We had the legend, told to all new employees, about the man and his six-year-old son who came in together from a car accident. The man was sent immediately to the O.R., where he died on the table. His son never made it out of the admitting area, dying there. His body was moved to the morgue to make room for new patients coming in.
Later that night, the time between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. when trauma is usually quiet, the trauma-admitting R.N. was sitting at the desk catching up on paperwork when a strong breeze came through the unit, blowing the curtain of the pediatric slot. Then, the cardiac monitor fell off the pediatric code cart. The monitor weighs about fifteen pounds and couldn’t just fall off the cart. The nurse freaked out and called up to the trauma intensive care unit to get someone down there. A couple of RNs who weren’t busy came down to hear her story. They listened in rapt attention and offered up a number of explanations, none of which fit what happened.
They decided it had to be a ghost. Perhaps the father’s ghost came looking for his son. Or the son was desperately looking for his father. Either way, it kept us all on our toes when we were alone in the unit.
I didn’t really believe in ghosts back then. I had never seen a ghost or heard one. I had what my mother called the “black eye,” which ran through my mother’s side of the family, dating back to times in the Ukraine. Supposedly, we women were supposed to be able to see the future. I still believe in that. When I was nineteen, I was living at home and it was a Saturday night, 10 p.m., and both my older brother and I were already in bed. Our mom was still not home, having gone to the shore with my uncle and aunt. I had a bad feeling and almost immediately the phone rang. It was the hospital and my mother had been in a near fatal car accident. Since then, I seem to know who is calling before I look at caller I.D. Especially when my best friend Marie is calling. She doesn’t call at a regular time or day, so it can’t be that. But ghosts? Never saw one, so I never believed in them.
Until one day when I was working in the trauma ICU. I had a patient and an empty bed, being assigned the first trauma “alert” that night. After checking out my patient, I went to the empty bed to check that it was stocked and ready for a patient. Suddenly, the cardiac monitor at the bedside started alarming and showed ventricular tachycardia, then ventricular fibrillation, two lethal heart rhythms. I tried the monitor, but it was off. What was going on? The leads, or wires that you attach to a patient, were lying, undisturbed on the bed. I went to the central bank of monitors and it was printing out a strip from the bedside monitor. Same rhythm. It was time and date stamped the present time. I tried to turn off the monitor at the central bank, but it was already off.
Now I was spooked. I went to the registry book that documented every patient who came through the unit and where they went. The patient in that bed had died that afternoon, around 3 p.m. I pulled his chart, which was still there and looked at the cardiac rhythm slips. Same rhythm as what was printing out. I called over my co-workers. All of them got chills. We had absolutely no explanation except that the spirit of the patient was still in the unit. We didn’t have a clue how to get rid of him, either. We all avoided the bed until a patient came in and filled it. He wasn’t badly injured and we never told him about the earlier incident. But from then on, I believed in ghosts. It only takes one time to make a believer out of me.