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Down and Out
by Don Drewniak

I was running low on money late into my sophomore year in college. Thanks to one of my professors, Dr. “Jumping Joe” Riley, I secured a job working three nights a week (11pm-7am) at a local Catholic hospital. I chose the night shift because it paid an extra twenty-five cents an hour, bringing my earnings to $1.45/hour. That is the equivalent of $14.15/hour as of this writing. Big money back then.

The nearly two years in which I worked at the hospital as an orderly proved to be quite an education, especially since I worked in a medical ward. Upwards of a dozen people died while I was on duty ranging from a fourteen-year-old boy to a woman in her mid-90s. However, more often than not, I saw people recover and smiling as they prepared to go back to their homes.

Working with a head nurse, a support nurse (sometimes two), two or three student nurses and a nurse’s aide, I was the only male on duty. This led to my being involved in several unique happenings that I have never forgotten. Presented herewith is the first one.

The medical wing was located on the sixth floor of the hospital and consisted of two corridors positioned in an L-shape. An alcoholic recovery room with six beds was located at the far end of one of the wings. During weeknights, there were rarely more than one or two “patients” in the recovery room. Saturday nights were quite different. More often than not, all six beds were filled. Some of the super-inebriated had to be restrained. The room was for males only.

It was on one such Saturday night/Sunday morning that all hell broke loose. I was sitting in the nurses’ station talking to a couple of student nurses when screams could be heard from one of the corridors. I dashed out of the station. Running toward me from the “alky room” as we called it was a man in his twenties who was about six feet tall and well over 200 pounds swinging a metal urinal over his head.

As he approached me, I tried a cross-body block. Down we went. In the process, he clipped me along the left side of my head with the urinal. I blacked out for a few seconds. When I came to, the nurses and student nurses were cheering me. The runaway freight train was out cold. The ladies thought I had knocked him out. However, I knew that he must have passed out from a combination of the alcohol and exhaustion. I said nothing as one of the students put a cold compress where I had been hit.

Who was I to disabuse them of what they believed happened?