Friday, May 29, 2009

To Seize or not to Seize. . .

Do you ever wonder what some people are thinking when they come to the hospital? I know most people come because they are sick and need "special" attention, but there are those few who come for routine tests that require inpatient stays.

Those are the ones who have the best stories. The ones I will never forget but at times wish I could. (Some of those will have to be for another post)
One of the hospitals I have worked in had a special video EEG unit. This is where people who had seizures would come spend up to 5 days hooked up to an EEG monitor. They were allowed to move about their rooms (only in the presence of the nurse, they are considered a "fall risk" because they have seizures), but they cannot leave their rooms. They have electrodes attached to their head 24/7 for the entire hospital stay. They have to wear button up shirts because they can't have anything that goes over their head, it would mess up the electrodes. Actually because of all the wires they wouldn't be able to get the shirt off. The wires from their head attach to a portable box that has a cable that is attached to the wall. So they are literally attached to that room.

These patients actually sign a waiver stating they are aware that EVERYTHING in the room is audio and video recorded. The only time they are not on video is when they are in the bathroom and at that time there is a nurse standing right outside the bathroom door.
So you can only imagine how wonderful it is to be the nurse of these patients. Sitting in a control room watching computer screens and being able to see your patients and their visitors at all times. Now, these are normally "healthy" patients. They don't really need alot of typical "nursing" care, like other hospital patients. So the nurse is not in and out of the room as much.

The funny part comes when there are patients who for whatever reason feel they need to fake a seizure. I remember Joe, who was a post-op patient. He frequently came to this unit after any surgery. On the particular shift that I was working Joe was comfy in his bed and asleep. I was sitting watching the monitors. The next thing I saw made me and the EEG techs just simply laugh. . .

He reached for his "seizure button" (the button the patient pushes when they "feel" a seizure coming on). This button sets off alarms, marks the event on in the monitoring equipment, turns on lights in the room and turns of the TV in the room.
Joe then used one arm to cover his head and then started to shake in a seizure like fashion. We could tell by the monitoring equipment this was NOT a seizure. So no one really ran to the room. About 20 seconds later, we see Joe peaking out from under the covers to see if anyone is coming, then he covers his head back up and continues the seizure like shaking. We go into the room and Joe won't stop shaking, won't respond to us, proceeds to urinate in his bed, then slowly stops shaking, rolls his eyes around and then lays there still and virtually unresponsive. Joe has just "faked" a seizure. He didn't "wake up" for about 30 minutes afterwards and stated that he didn't remember any of the event.

He did this same seizure like activity 4 times in 2 days that he was hooked up to the equipment. None of the seizures were real. Joe eventually ended up with a psychiatric consult and was moved to a regular post-op room.

I will never found out why Joe faked the seizures. I do find it interesting that they are aware they are on video and do such a poor job of acting.

I have many stories about these patients and would love to tell you more, however it would make for a long long post. So I will save them for another time.

Moral of the story. . . if you are going to fake an illness, make sure you read up on it first and maybe even practice so it doesn't look so fake. If you are willing to pay or have insurance pay for a hospital stay for a fake illness, make it a good show!



  1. Wow. I've never heard of someone faking....unreal. I can't imagine people WANTING to do that...but maybe that's because Mark is so ill and I'm on the other side...but still.

  2. Tammy,
    You would be so suprised at how many people fake seizures. I would say easily 30-40% of the patients we had on video were not having seizures. Alot of the time the doctors would use the video monitoring to determine if they were real or not. The EEG equipment doesn't lie.. . the patients would be suprised when the docs would tell them they weren't real. But some of them put on a great show. ALL of those patients ended up seeing psych. There were bigger issues there. Kinda sad. . .

  3. Very Interesting...what a varied background you have, awesome!