The Adventures of Medical Internship: Special Halloween Edition
THE HAUNTED ICU
For two weeks, I was the lone night float intern in the ICU. We had some crazy cases, as you can imagine, but what I want to write about are the stories the staff told me about how our ICU is haunted. Yes, you read that right—haunted!
Us interns and residents hang out in the quietest corner of the unit, studying/sleeping/goofing off/etc. I noticed the nurses and staff would stay away from our end of the unit and remain gathered on the opposite side (our ICU is split into two, separated by the entrance and all the break rooms, stock rooms, and bathrooms). So I came over to them one night and asked what the deal was. That’s when they spewed a barrage of ghost stories at me that they swear are true. I have yet to experience anything paranormal in this hospital (my house was haunted growing up, but that’s a whole other blog post), but here are some of the stories they told me…just in time for Halloween!
Room 910 is like any other bed on the unit, roomy with huge glass doors and windows revealing a gorgeous view of the city. A cardiac monitor and various medical paraphernalia are hooked to the wall opposite a flat screen TV. A white board identifying who your caretakers are sits on the wall in front of you. Obviously, lots of people die in the ICU, and sometimes their deaths can be quite traumatic. Motor vehicle accidents (MVAs), exsanguination, codes, attempted murder; you name it, we’ve seen it. The young man in this post was in room 910. So you can imagine my reaction when the nurses told me this room was one of the creepiest in the joint.
From eyewitness accounts, an attractive middle-aged man in a suit haunts this room. As to what happened to him, no one knows, but people have caught glimpses of him standing there, beside the bed, staring out the window. His apparition isn’t “ghostly” in the sense the media portrays it; he looks like a real life person, just standing there, before he vanishes into thin air. He’s never actually looked anyone in the eye, always keeping his gaze locked on the landscape. I wonder how he died and if he had been so critical that he wasn’t able to look out the window before his death. Now, it seems, in the afterlife he can take in the view all he wants.
Room 902 also has its own creepy history, and a respiratory therapist told me about her experience while she was treating a patient there. The patient was an elderly man who had been brain dead for quite some time, but his family refused to give up on him. The RT (let’s call her Tammy) had been in the room with the patient, going over her notes as she signed out to the next RT coming on shift. Tammy had been sitting down, wearing her glasses, and she had them attached to a cord around her neck. As she was chatting away with the next RT (let’s call her Jane), a cold wind swept over them (“it froze me to the bone”) and they both looked up, trying to figure out the source. The brain dead man was still laying there on his bed, his heart beating away as the ventilator breathed for him. Then Tammy felt an icy hand touch her shoulder as her glasses were suddenly lifted off her face, hovering in the air before her. Tammy saw Jane’s jaw drop, terrified as the glasses then fell around Tammy’s neck, held by their cord. Jane bolted as Tammy sat there, frozen, the hand still on her shoulder. Finally, the spirit let her go, and she got the hell out of there.
The elderly man ended up dying the next day. Whether the spirit was him or not, we’ll never know, but Tammy was convinced he was trying to say goodbye.
THE FOURTH FLOOR
The hospital is kind of strange in a sense that the main elevators never stop at the second or fourth floor; they’re not even options on the panel. The building is old and has been expanded into multiple parts, so I’m sure there are a few areas that are boarded off, private, or for offices only. The ICU is on the ninth floor, the very tippity-top, and there’s a morbid running joke that patients go to the ninth floor to die. Although that may be true, I’m starting to wonder what the fourth floor is all about.
Another respiratory therapist (let’s call him Tom) told me about his experience during the “witching hour” or around 3 in the morning. Tom had been grabbing some equipment with a colleague in an old part of the building on the third floor. The stockroom there had been filled with ventilators and cardiac monitors, and he and his colleague were loading a rack to bring the equipment up to the ICU. While they were chatting away, one of the cardiac monitors turned on—and it wasn’t plugged in. The monitor showed a regular pulse, beep-beep-beep, and Tom even remembered the reading—76 beats per minute at normal sinus rhythm. Both he and his colleague exchanged terrified glances, dropped their shit, and ran right out of there. They quickly got onto the elevator and he hit the button for the ninth floor with trembling hands. However, the elevator slowed down between the third and fifth floors. The doors opened to what he assumed was the fourth floor, boarded up and musty, the air stale and dead. Once again, both he and his friend exchanged horrified glances and a young girl’s laughter suddenly rang out as if she were standing right between them. They jumped, pressing their backs against the stainless steel walls (“I nearly pissed myself!”). The clack of shoes then cut through the air as the invisible little girl ran out of the elevator, stopping in front of it. Right before the doors closed, she flashed into view; a white child wearing a white dress, her hair long and blonde, smiling at them mischievously.
Let’s just say Tom has never used the elevators again and now makes good use of the stairs!
And last, but not least, there’s Sophia, a dead nurse who stirs up trouble throughout the ICU.
In the past, the hospital had its own in-house nursing school, back when nurses wore the traditional white uniforms. Sophia had been one of these nurses and she’d ended up in the ICU with a severe infection, eventually dying at a young age (nowadays, we’re almost too good at keeping people alive). Her spirit decided to take up residence in the unit, disrupting the peace whenever she can. She pulls charts off shelves, dropping them on the floor, tosses needles, blood collection tubes, and even pens wherever she pleases. If you walk into her, she makes your blood run cold, like an icy draft blowing through your body. Her whispers can be heard at odd hours of the night, and sometimes you can hear her walking if you listen hard enough. She’s been there for years, wreaking havoc and making her presence known. Makes me wonder if she’s still waiting to graduate and is trying to help the other nurses in her own disturbing way!
These are just a few of the many stories the staff told me about our creepy little corner of the world. Funny thing is, not a single physician on the unit has experienced these paranormal encounters…isn’t that strange? I like to keep an open mind, and I’ve actively been trying to find these spirits. I hang out in room 902 and 910 when they’re empty, staring out their windows. I ride the elevator at every opportunity in the middle of the night. I wander around the unit, waiting for Sophia to throw something at me or whisper in my ear.
Nothing. Not one single thing.