At night I empty my pockets on the dresser. Once a week I clean the dresser top off. Crumpled gloves. ECG strips. Narcotics slips. Med lists scribbled on a notepad. An empty drug or saline vial. Four ECG electrodes stuck together.
The call is for the man who can’t be woken up, cold to the touch.
He’s on the living room floor, lying on his left side, his head resting on his hand in a sort of horizontal Rodin “The Thinker” statue pose, his head being supported by an invisible pillow, his neck rigored. It turns out he was found on the couch, and then was put down on the floor.
The officer tells me no one had seen him since last night when he had complained of chest pains. He was just visiting the house. Actually the truth was his wife had just booted him out of his.
While my partner gets the patient’s name and date of birth from the officer, I lay the monitor by the dead man’s side and unwind the leads. I open up a fresh pack of electrodes and attach them to the leads. I put one on each exposed ankle, one on each wrist. I turn on the machine and stare at three long flat lines. I print out a six second strip. Then on another piece of paper, I write my name, license number and date of birth, along with the time of presumption. The officer will need the information for his report. I shut the monitor off, and then carefully peel the electrodes off. First the right ankle, and then the left. I attach each electrode to the next so at the end I have four electrodes stuck together. I put them in my pocket, and then I roll up the lead wires and put them back in the monitor pouch. On my way out the door, I hand the officer the piece of paper with the presumption information.
The electrodes stay in my pocket all day until I discover them at night when I empty my pockets. A couple days later, I clean the dresser top off and the electrodes go out in the trash.