UT-VMC emergency room tails: stuck

UTVMC COLUMN HEADER  2By Dr. Amanda Rainey

Sometimes interesting things happen that do not involve animals. One night last April we were unusually slow. The students on the emergency rotation asked to round on material applicable to the service. I keep a good deal of presentation, handouts and notes in my office, which happens to be on the second floor at other end of the hospital. I normally take the stairs, but this particular evening my feet seemed especially tired. I jumped on the elevator instead. As soon as the doors shut, I knew something was wrong. I heard a very loud click and then a groan. I pushed the button for the second floor, but the elevator was experiencing difficulty. “Uh oh,” I said to no one in particular, as anxiety washed over me. I tried again, still clinging to the idea that it was a fluke.

Unfortunately, there was no response. I was stuck in the elevator. All the movies I’d seen with this scenario slowly weaved through my mind. I reached for my cellphone, which I normally keep in the pocket of my white coat. My heart sank as my fingers found only my calculator. I suddenly remembered I had left it behind to charge, thinking I would only be gone a few minutes.

I made a desperate attempt to pry open the doors, which, of course, did not budge. I then began to call out, hoping I would be lucky and encounter a veterinary assistant walking dogs or one of the janitors. I have never been a very loud person and tend to speak softly, which has helped me bond with patients over the years. Now, however, I was shouting with all my might.

“Hello! Hello! Is anyone out there,” I voiced, speaking as close to the door as possible. Suddenly, I heard people walking. I frantically repeated my bellowing, but much to my disbelief the footsteps seemed to keep going.  

“Is that someone hollering,” one voice said.

“I think you’re hearing things. Come on, it’s late,” the other one stated.

I was left with no choice. I glanced at the panel on the side of the elevator and knew what I must do. I pushed the call button.

Someone began talking to me through what appeared to be a speaker. He was located at the University Police Station and dispatched an officer to assist me. Fifteen long minutes later, an officer and maintenance worker were outside the elevator doors. Within a few moments, the doors opened and I sheepishly walked out.

“Thank you for coming out tonight,” I said to the officer, who nodded in return. He asked if I needed an ambulance, which made me think I must have looked a bit more frazzled than I realized. Needless to say, I don’t take the elevator anymore, no matter how tired my feet are.

(Dr. Amanda Rainey, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor in the small animal clinical sciences department at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville.)

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