The Story of the Dueling Wheelchairs

duel(1)This evening I was having dinner with my daughter and our conversation lead to a nursing story.  We often share stories about our work and today I shared one about a couple of my patients (names withheld of course so I don’t breach confidentiality).  This week I had 2 of my regular patients who are in wheelchairs and who were both scheduled to see me at the approximate same time.  One is near 70 years of age and the other in his 40’s.

They usually arrive within minutes of each other and over the course of several weeks, it has evolved into a competition regarding who can get off the elevator, open the door, roll down the hall and into my room for their treatment first.

Perhaps it was the unrelenting heat this week that triggered the fierce competitor in each of them.   Suddenly I heard a hallway door slam outside my room, followed by shouting and even cursing as the 70 year old pushed past the patient in his 40’s and rolled across the “finish line” of my office door.Had it not been for the obvious flaring of the temper of the younger, I would have laughed aloud that he had been outmaneuvered by the older.

Motherly chastening quieted their verbal exchange as I stepped between their wheelchairs and talked to them about what it means to ‘play well with others.’    Today the younger rolled in later, saying he really didn’t care if the elder went first every day.  Who can figure out what goes on in the minds of children masquerading as grown men?

My daughter reminded me of one of the favorite stories I’ve shared with her.  As you might guess, it is another wheelchair story, but I can’t beat this story no matter how hard I try.   I’m going to retell it to you as the very emergency room physician who had the experience told it to me.  It never fails to make me laugh, so I hope it will do the same for you.  After all, laughter is good medicine!

One night Dr. Aaron was working in the ER when two brothers were brought in by ambulance.  The police arrived with the ambulance to investigate as both had gunshot wounds.  These were two wheelchair-bound brothers, Sid and Jake Smith for the purpose of this story—with three gunshot wounds between them.  Sid had one gunshot wound, while his brother Jake had two.

While doing the assessment, Dr. Aaron inquired of the history of the shooting and the details of what had happened.Naturally the police officer was present for the questioning.  Sid said his gunshot wound was an accident that happened while he was cleaning his gun.  Apparently the two brothers had collaborated their stories prior to the arrival of the ambulance and the police.

When Jake was questioned about his two gunshot wounds, he too stated that it was an accident and happened while he was cleaning his gun.  At this point Dr. Aaron said,  “Mr. Smith, I can believe a person might have an accident and shoot themselves once, but nobody shoots themselves twice in a row.”

It was at this point that Dr. Aaron resorted to patient history to gain some insight into the behaviors of these two brothers.  Apparently there was a much older history about their notorious shenanigans; the truth was revealed in the details.   Medical history explained why they were both in wheelchairs.

Apparently they loved to challenge each other and see who was the bravest and most daring.  So they began to play the deadly game of “chicken” with each other in their automobiles.  They would drive toward each other at a high rate of speed and the “chicken” would be the one who first veered off to avoid the head on collision.  Hence the reason for the wheelchairs.

Knowing that vital piece of information, Dr. Aaron and the police officer called them both into the room together and the police officer confronted them regarding the true story behind those 3 gunshot wounds. They sung like canaries.

You see, they could no longer play “chicken” with their automobiles after they ended up in wheelchairs, so they had to figure out a new game to amuse themselves.    They both loved to watch Westerns on TV and thought it was really cool how in the days of the wild, wild west two men would challenge each other to a duel.  Duelers would stand back to back, then walk out a designated number of paces, turn, draw and shoot.

And so it was with that same glimmer of creativity that these two brothers decided on the new challenge of backing up their wheelchairs to each other, then rolling out to a count of 20.  They would then spin around in their wheelchairs, aim and fire their weapons.  You can guess how they decided the winner.

I can just imagine the types of entertainment they dreamed up for family reunions (if there are any surviving members).  If you were their mother, you’d have to be just bursting with pride.  Thanks to the marvels of modern medicine, they both lived to duel another day.

Pam Baker, RN


If you enjoy humorous stories, you might also like to read:


The Great Dungeness Crab Caper

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