44. The Cop


It was a Sunday and I was on call again. I woke up early and had breakfast with Jax, who was also going to work that day. We took the empty subway and I remember wondering when I would stop working on Sundays.

Walking into Brooklyn Hospital made these thoughts go away. Weekends had an interesting vibe in the Hospital. You have fewer people working and overall is calmer, more silent. That is, until someone pages you. That day my pager beeped as soon as I stepped into the elevator. Jax smirked at me.

‘Time to work, Dr. Diaz.’

I smiled nodding my head. ‘When is it not, right? Have a good day Jax.’ I said leaving at my floor.

‘You too, Liz.’

As soon as I got there, I went looking for the admission I was assigned to. By then I had already learned that when you’re on call, you don’t leave something for later if you can do it now, cause trust me, you might not make it later.

Dante Rodriguez, attempted suicide, it said on his notes. He was 30 years old and tried to shoot himself with a firearm. Thankfully the bullet made a not-so-deep cut in his forehead, and he was brought in by one of his colleagues. The only other note from the ER night team was that Mr. Rodriguez was agitated and combative, so they gave him a dose of Lorazepam to calm him down. Psychiatry had already been notified.

I counted the hours since his medication was given and realized he was probably going to be sleepy. Still, I went to see him in his room. I knocked on the door and opened it. On the side of Dante’s bed there was a policeman sitting in a chair. 

‘Good morning.’ I said coming in. ‘I am Dr. Lisa Diaz. I’ll be seeing Mr. Rodriguez today.’

The cop stood up as soon as he saw me. ‘Very nice to meet you, Dr. Diaz.’ He said politely. ‘I am Jake Foster, I work with Dante.’

My patient was also a cop then, I thought to myself. ‘Nice to meet you too. Do you mind waiting outside for a moment?’

‘Not at all. I’ll be back when you are done.’

Foster left and I went to the bedside. Dante was sleeping and had a bandage on his forehead. 

‘Mr. Rodriguez.’ I said in a loud voice but got no response.

‘Mr. Rodriguez.’ I tried again shaking his shoulder a little bit.

‘Hi.’ He opened his eyes slowly. ‘Who are you?’

‘I am Dr. Lisa Diaz.’ I said but I lost him again in his sleep. I tried a couple of more times but Dante was still too drowsy from the meds. So I told Foster I would be back in an hour and set up an alarm on my phone just in case.

For the next hour, I was then completely absorbed by on call duties, changing the prescription the pharmacy requested, checking the labs of a patient who was just waiting for the results to get discharged, doing paperwork for things that shouldn’t need paperwork. Anyway, thank God the alarm went off and reminded me of Dante. So I told Annie, a senior on call with me that day, that I was going to check on him.

I got to his room and found him awake and seated. Besides Foster, there was an old woman in the room who presented herself as Dante’s mom. I asked them for a moment with Mr. Rodriguez alone, they nodded and left. 

‘Hi, Mr. Rodriguez. I am Dr. Lisa Diaz, I’ll be helping you today.’

‘Yes, I heard.’ He said looking down at his hands. 

His hands. I then noticed they were moving in a weird way. Apparently unintentionally since Dante was trying to hold them together but failing. 

‘They are always like that.’ He must have noticed me staring.

‘Always?’ I tried.

‘Well, for the past year, yes. I can’t control them anymore, it’s getting worse.’ He laughed and I remember feeling uncomfortable in the room. As if something was off. ‘It’s pathetic. I can’t even kill myself.’ He tried touching his bandage with his right hand.

‘Have you ever sought out help for this, Mr. Rodriguez?’

‘No. I just didn’t want it to become true. I fought it. I am fighting it.’ He looked into my eyes for the first time. ‘But it’s beating me.’

I asked him some more questions about his health and his life in general. He wasn’t much of a talker, he kept his answers short for the most part and he seemed depressed. I asked him to take a few steps and it was enough to see that his gait was also funny.

I left the room shaken. Dante was only 30 and his life was falling apart. I turned left to find a computer when I heard a voice behind.

‘He’s a good guy, you know.’

I turned to find Mrs. Rodriguez looking at me. Foster held her hand.

‘He wasn’t always like that. He’s starting to sound like his father now.’ She made a cross sign with her hands.

‘What happened to his father?’

‘Suicide.’ She said bluntly. 

‘I am sorry to hear that, Mrs. Rodriguez.’

I left to find Annie and found her eating a snack in the restroom. That is rule number 2: eat when you can. I told her Dante’s story and she looked intrigued.

‘So he had tremors?’ She asked when I finished.

‘No, not really tremors. It was more like… broader I don’t know.’

'Let's go see it.’

We got into his room again and I introduced Annie to Mr. Rodriguez. She asked him a few interesting questions about his work. If he felt like his movements were disrupting his job, which of course he said they were. He had been restricted to desk duties in the police department. She also asked how his mind was, was it working like always or not. He couldn’t tell, but his mother told us he wasn’t as sharp as he used to be. As soon as we walked out the door Annie turned to me with a sad smile.

‘That’s chorea, Lisa.’

‘Oh, God. Huntington's.’ I said.

‘Yep. Is there a family history?’

‘His father committed suicide, now I am pretty sure why.’

The rest of the day was a mess. Among all the other patients we had to see, we paged Neuro and they agreed with our impression and ordered an MRI. Later on, I heard the MRI came with caudate atrophy. I wasn’t the one who broke the news to them, the one who told Dante he had a progressive brain disease that had no effective treatment, and that all we could do was try to alleviate his symptoms. I am not sure how Dante coped with everything, I don’t know if he had some response to the treatment or nothing at all. I don’t know. But I can still hope.

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Chrom: chromosome; AD: Autosomal dominant; Invol: Involuntary; Tt: treatment

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