‘Street brawl you would see in a movie’

MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee nurse shares her story after being attacked by a patient.

It comes at a time when nurses are already in short supply. This nurse came forward hoping to prevent this abuse from happening to someone else.

A new survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians found more than 8 in 10 emergency room physicians believe rates of violence in emergency rooms have increased.

Milwaukee nurse Joni Acala agrees. She says it took more than a month to tell her close friends about the attack she suffered on September 24.

“They had a hard time getting her to let go of my hair and you could see her hitting me,” Acala said, adding that it took five men to get an angry patient the emergency room wouldn’t care wanted to let her. “It was like a street brawl you’d see in a movie.”

She says she was grabbed from behind as she walked down the hall past the patient’s room.

“In the end, the patient grabbed my hair from behind. I was hit several times in the back of the head, my fingers were broken, which is still broken. I would have to have it surgically repaired.”

She says it all happened within 45 seconds. Acala says it ended up being kicked in the jaw.

“So now I have chronic pain in my left ear every time I chew something crunchy.”

She’s also missing quarter and nickel sized strands of hair after the attack.

“I just apply it with a headband now because of all the stains. You can see it and it makes me insecure.”

Even worse was the emotional toll it took on her. She says she first sought therapy after the incident.

“I don’t work, I don’t earn any income.”

The mother of two doesn’t want us to know which hospital she works for. She’s taking her time to recover and hopes anyone who finds out what happened to her will stop and listen.

“There should be more security,” Acala said, adding that in hospitals, especially emergency rooms, “there should be someone at the door.”

Our state legislature took note and passed legislation this year making it a criminal offense to threaten a healthcare worker.

Acala says she doesn’t plan on making decisions about her own future as a nurse right now. It’s a position she’s loved for the past nine years.

“I love taking care of people.”

She says the patient who assaulted her was ordered to go through a treatment program but was never charged.

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