When I was a Paramedic Intern I had a few calls that were a little grosser than most. On in particular stands out a little more than usual. We were dispatched for abdominal pain and vomiting blood in a very poor part of town. It turned out to be one of those really seedy residential hotels where people live in super cramped rooms sometimes 2 or 3 to a room with only a bed to sleep on. Usually they don’t even have bathrooms except for shared common bathrooms at the end of the hall.
When we arrived we found the patient sitting in a darkened room, off of a darkened hallway, lit only by a little lamp on the floor. Both the room and the hallway had a very dark motif that made the dark room even darker, with brown carpets and red walls. It was too dark to do much of an assessment of the patient, a man in his 40s sitting on the edge of his bed. So I asked him if he could walk downstairs so we could take him to the hospital. He said yes, and told me that he had been vomiting blood all night. There was a trash can nearby and it looked as though he had been using it to vomit into. But it was also quite apparent that he had been missing the trash can quite a lot.
We started to head down to the bus when it occurred to me that I needed to ask the patient how his vomit had been looking in order to find out more about his condition. But since he was already out of the room and heading down the stairs I decided to just go back and look for myself.
When I got back to the room I saw a stain on the floor that I hadn’t noticed before near the trashcan. I figured that it was probably what I was looking for so I headed for it. It was pretty dark, so I had to get closer to the stain than I originally wanted. But it seemed that no matter how close I got to the stain I couldn’t quite see it clearly. It was like the stain was moving. Not traveling around the room like it was sliding, it was more like the stain was writhing, sort of wiggling within itself. I had to get within a foot or so of the stain and tilt the lamp towards it to figure out what I was looking at.
The patient had in fact vomited blood on the floor, but it wasn’t the blood that was making the stain appear to be moving. It was the hundreds of cockroaches that were having a party on the vomited blood.