Picture of Kevin DueckKevin Dueck
Class of 2016
Western University

(Behind a curtain in the Emergency Department)

He grabbed me…
how could I be so stupid.
Grabbed my ponytail…
and… and slammed me into the doorframe.
No one was around… I curled into a ball… tried to protect my head.
wipes tears
I was almost to the door… Oh God!
With my training… why didn’t I see it coming?I had my swipe card ready, I was almost out…
Up on the psych floor.
He looked calm… I’d never have thought…
One of the cleaning staff chased him off. Once I turtled his punches…
the punches didn’t get through…
They had to tell everyone… did my supervisor need to come to the ER?
No, he didn’t hit me anywhere else.
No, no headache, no nausea or vomiting. My eyes are fine. Didn’t kick.
Just some pain in my nose and right cheek where… he…
blinks away tears
No, I’m a healthy person, no medications.
Ouch! Yes, that’s where I hit the doorframe. Not too painful there…  never any blood from my nose.


I see it… yup, I see it. I see it. I see it.
Never double.
That is bright
Feels the same… the same… the same…
raises eyebrows… closes eyes tightly… scrunches up face… smiles… puffs out cheeks
Like this?
shrug… push… push…
Ahhhh… Ahhhhh…
slap… slap… slapslapslapslapslap
Like that?
slap… slap… slapslapslapslapslap
My nose then your finger, right?
squeeze… pull… push… resist…
involuntary twitches times ten
Sure, I can walk.
heels… toes… twirl…

It’s back?
No fracture, thank God
Some time off would help. Can I get a note?
A week.
What will I tell the other nurses?
Is Advil ok?
Thanks doctor, I’m alright.
He looked so calm…
How can I go back?

I return home after my shift, her feelings of shame and responsibility in the face of violence on my mind. I wonder if she will return to the floor, and how this event will change her. In caring for patients we feel responsible, we open ourselves to their lives, their illness and struggles. How do you put yourself in that vulnerable position again after being attacked?


Kevin is currently a PGY-1 Family Medicine Resident at McMaster University. His previous works published with the CMAJ Student Humanities Blog are “Learning From Experience” and “Lost Words.” You can also read more about his work at his personal blog, Aboot Medicine, and follow him on Twitter @AbootMedicine.