Another great column from my EMT friend. This one concerns a trip to the psych ward at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital with a 400-pound schizophrenic. The ward sits on the 13th floor — no kidding. Here’s a good bit:

As I start my paperwork I ask Albert why now. Why at twenty past eleven in a driving rain has he decided he has to go up to Thirteen?

‘It’s twenty-six past eleven,’ he says.

Fine. Twenty-six, forty-six, a hundred and six. Why now?

‘I can’t listen to them anymore.’

‘You’re hearing voices?’

He nods and bobs his shoulders and the ambulance rocks like a small boat.

‘What are they saying?’

‘Bad things. Mean things. Telling me I ain’t worth nothing.’

‘They telling you to hurt yourself?’

He nods his head and the ambulance crests another wave.

‘They telling you to hurt other people?’

Albert looks away; a nervous child caught lying to his parents.

‘Albert. Are they telling you to hurt other people?’

‘They want me to purge myself. I’m rotting inside and I have to be ripped open so the foul can come out. I have to be relieved of this burden.’

There’s just not a whole lot you can say to that.


‘But they want me to wait. To do it at ten seconds ‘til midnight.’

I check my watch. 11:28.

‘You’ll probably still be here then,’ he says. ‘You’ll probably try to stop me. I’ll probably have to kill you.’

The next fifteen seconds pass in silence. Albert, of course, does not sense my unease. That I have picked him up dozens of times in the last several years, that we have talked and joked and extended to one another a certain degree of mutual respect does not, in his mind, preclude sudden senseless violence.

At least he’s given me a warning.

Read the rest.