Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Mrs. Hufnagel Chronicles, Part 16

Dr. Westphall reviews the Hufnagel case and finds her medical care inadequate, but he soon discovers the rest of the story.

Per the patient's wishes, Paramedic Faith Yee (Christina
Kokubo) skips the E.R. and brings Mrs. Hufnagel
(Florence Halop) straight to the ward.
If I had to pick my favorite Mrs. Hufnagel appearance, this one, from the episode, "Red, White, Black and Blue", would be the one of the top contenders. Paramedic Faith Yee (Christina Kokubo) wheels a gurney towards the nurses' station. Dr. Jacqueline Wade (Sagan Lewis) directs her to the E.R., where new admissions are supposed to go, but Faith says that the patient insisted. It's Mrs. Hufnagel (Florence Halop), admitted with symptoms of myocardial infarction, and she wants to skip ahead and go straight to her room. Jackie agrees to admit her. Mrs Hufnagel has clearly learned how to work the system, ensuring she gets the side of the building with optimal radio reception.

Later, Dr. Wade presents the case to the Director of Medical Education, Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders). After a round of groans and comments from the other residents, Wade describes how the patient has been re-admitted several times, each time with a more serious condition. Westphall reviews Hufnagel's chart and discovers that different doctors had prescribed medications that combined to create a blood clot and cause an aneurysm to form in her heart, and because of the residents' medical mismanagement, the patient is now seriously ill. He chastises them for not caring and ends up taking the case himself.

Drs. Chandler, Ehrlich, Axelrod and Wade (L-R Denzel
Washington, Ed Begley, Jr., Stephen Furst, Sagan Lewis)
realize the seriousness of Mrs. Hufnagel's medical
mistreatment.
When he arrives at Mrs Hufnagel's room, she is in the middle of fielding an obscene phone call, which she plays along with willingly until the caller gets into the "rough stuff." Hufnagel recognizes Westphall as the "high muckety-muck," and when he informs her of his official title, she balks, "you call what goes on here 'medicine'?" He tries to sympathize, but she soon demonstrates her uncanny ability to seize upon someone's insecurities and turn them into the focal point of the conversation. This exchange is worth typing out.

"The one thing that worries me about dying," she explains, "is being alone. See, I've got nobody. I live alone...just like you. I mean, your wife's dead, you got a daughter in college somewhere, and that retarded kid, boy, that's...that's a kick in the shorts. You poor fellow. The thing I can't figure out is how they can let you run a hospital."

"What do you mean?" Westphall asks.

"You're a jinx!"

"Mrs. Hufnagel..." Donald tries to cut in, but is interrupted.

"Come to think of it, this whole place is jinxed. Auschlander's about ready to kick the bucket; Morrison got his degree from a cracker jack box; Rosenthal isn't exactly symmetrical; Ehrlich, he's got bad luck in his genes...and behind those sensible wrinkles in your forehead, your life's a mess."

And that's all Donald can take. He drops her chart off at the nurses' station, and instructs the nurse to notify Dr. Craig that he will be taking over Hufnagel's case.



Other stuff:
Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders) learns firsthand why
the doctors won't treat Mrs. Hufnagel.
  • I love the reactions on the doctors' faces as they hear about the illnesses that have befallen Mrs. Hufnagel, and each physician remembers that they were the one who treated her for that particular ailment. Their guilt makes it so much funnier when Westphall gets the Hufnagel treatment himself.
  • In an episode prior to this one, Donald's daughter Lizzie came back home, wanting to drop out of Vassar, but he sent her back in her own best interest, despite missing her and his autistic son Tommy, whom Donald sent to live in a group home after he became unmanageable. Notice how his face drops when she mentions Lizzie.
  • "Rosenthal isn't exactly symmetrical" -- Nurse Helen Rosenthal (Christina Pickles) found a lump in her breast in season one, and had a mastectomy.
  • In case you didn't remember what this exchange was about... Before Jackie presents her case, we hear Wayne talk to Phil about his former girlfriend, Nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry). "It was weird...Shirley acted like everything was great...she was too up." Shirley is out on bail, facing trial for murdering Dr. Peter White (Terence Knox), the St. Eligius rapist from season two. She wants to plead guilty, proud of what she did. Not long after this scene, she returns to work in the E.R. and pulls a gun on a patient and Dr. Jack Morrison (David Morse). It's not a real gun , but we don't know that until after she pulls the trigger. ("Can't anyone around here take a joke?" she responds before walking out.) She makes one more appearance after that, as a prisoner returning to St. Eligius for medical treatment in season five.
  • I enjoy how well Faith Yee takes the "Suzie Wong" nickname that Hufnagel has bestowed upon her.

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