Kind of a weird night at the hospital. You know how I tend to pace when I am on nights? We had just sent a new GI bleed to the med floor for obs and I was kind of wandering around waiting for morning.
So, my favorite vending machine and my second-favorite bathroom are both in the basement. I was down there, and suddenly from between the soda machine and the one that sells chips, this zombie lunges out and grabs my coat.
Now, to my knowledge the Center for the Palliation and Treatment of the Living Dead (CPTLD, which is the fancy name for our Revenant Unit) has never before had an elopement. I know she was one of ours, because she had the headgear on (if they stray out of the unit, the prongs of the zombulke basically decapitate them). As she was pulling me toward her, I could see that the two of the prongs hadn’t deployed, and the zombulke had gotten detached such that another one was in the air. Smoke was rising near the other prong at the back of her neck, but it wasn’t really helping.
This zombie looked like a pretty new one. She still had her hair (blond and wispy), nose and fingers all intact – she must have converted within the last couple months. Undeath-related acrolysis is usually pretty marked within a couple of years. That was how she had grabbed me – once they lose their fingers, they usually don’t do a lot of grabbing.
I have heard that in these life-or-undeath moments you are supposed to have a moment of clarity and everything is supposed to be in slow motion – it wasn’t like that with me. It was like, this is it – I’m going to be zombified. She’s going to bite me, and if I’m lucky she’ll eat me, and if I’m not lucky then I’m totally undead. She had one hand twisted up in my coat, and the other hand went for my face – and I bit it.
Not something that hasn’t happened before, I’m sure – who goes down without a fight? – but she stopped and let go of me. I had a clear look at her eyes – suddenly sharp and questioning – and then she started screaming and pulling at the zombulke. The back prong had burned a huge hole in her upper back – fortunately because the headgear had been dislodged, it was mostly just destroying fat and trapezius and was well off midline. Her other injuries were actually worse. All of the little scrapes and cuts that she had acquired over the past month, plus the original injuries that she had sustained at zombification (there was a big bite on the anterior aspect of the left thigh, clearly the unmortal injury, plus some deep lacerations on her forearms) all started oozing blood. I didn’t even know zombies had liquid blood. The ones we dissected in medical school were basically like rotten potatoes inside, even after just a few weeks of undeath. Not that they really putrefy, or they wouldn’t be that big a problem, but even a few days of biological inaction are bad for tissue integrity.
She was crying and screaming and saying actual words, asking for help, where she was – she was clearly not a zombie anymore. I called the operator and had them call a code. It was pretty much the worst medical emergency I’ve responded to outside of an ICU. She was going to need a transfusion, that was clear, and god only knows what sort of electrolyte abnormalities you get when you’re suddenly brought back from the living dead – The team was pretty freaked out when they got there. The RT didn’t want to get even close. I think that we were lucky because she looked pretty good and was obviously bleeding (which even fresh zombies don’t do much) and after the initial confusion they pretty quickly set to work stabilizing her. I have to respect that – if I’d been on the rapid response team, I would have been pretty scared to do an IV start in a possible zombie, no matter how good she looked. Anyway, they took her to the SICU after placing a gas mask. You know about the gas masks, that they use in rural emergency departments and the smaller Zombie Conversion Observation units in the hinterland – Basically, if the patient converts to a zombie (the ED people call them “zomverts” but that’s always seemed a little flippant to me) and becomes unmanageable in the ZCO, as a last resort they can activate the gas mask and incinerate the zombie’s head with a sort of jellied gasoline.
Anyway, this patient was clearly registered in the CPTLD as a 6 week old zombie, with an intake exam confirming obvious absence of life – she was definitely the real thing. They had to take her to the OR but now she’s back in the SICU, intubated but otherwise doing very well.
Of course, the administration is very shy about any press that they don’t control, so I’m supposed to keep it all on the DL for now. Word is starting to get around, though. No one really knows what to make of it – maybe she wasn’t really a normal zombie to begin with, or maybe there’s some kind of window period when zombies can somehow be reconverted. Hard to believe that that would have been missed by the NIH’s Center for Cryptothanatology, but maybe. Anyway, I’m going to be meeting with the zombie specialists tomorrow, to sort of go over the story again. Meanwhile, I’m off ED call for now, with the chief resident covering me (he was on an elective so he’s being super-pissy about it).