An Encounter With A Racist Patient

After too many drinks, the motorcycle enthusiast in his 30s had driven off the side of the road. As one of the doctors-in-training covering trauma that night, I was responsible for his initial physical exam; but it wasn’t going to be easy. He was enormous, his feet hung over the flimsy emergency room gurney and his neck bulged out of the stiff cervical collar. Moreover, he was what the older nurses called a “mean drunk,” so it was with more than a little apprehension that I began palpating and poking.

He glared at me, his eyes filled with loathing, and his thick muscles twitched under my every touch. I moved from his head down to his shoulders and chest, relieved not to have to look in those eyes. But when I pushed against his ribs, feeling for any instability that might signify broken ribs, he shouted and raised one of his massive arms as if to hit me. On his biceps, under the splattered blood, I could make out a brilliant indigo swastika.

I shuddered.

The patient had suffered only broken bones, so after my evaluation I was happy to leave him to the orthopedic surgeons. When I expressed my relief to a colleague, he smiled. “I’m sure it freaked him out to have an Asian woman taking charge of his care,” he said after I had described the patient’s menacing tattoo and threatening reaction to me.


Source: NY Times