Viewers may be worrying themselves sick about whether med student Harper Tracy's one-nighter with Dr. Ross will sever her budding romance with Dr. Carter, but the most urgent crises on ER belong to the bloody messes on stretchers who burst through the swinging doors each week. The extras who play County General's almost-dead must endure long hours, cold gurneys, and lots of fake gore, often for fewer than 15 seconds of fame. Now, four people who did their acting on their backs reveal what it's like to put the ''E'' in ER.
The victim: Victor Sanchez, 20.
The emergency: Plays a gang member shot in the neck by rival thugs.
Vital stats: ''They wanted a really skinny, young Latino guy,'' says Sanchez, ''so I called them up.''
Medical history: He once slashed his thumb to the bone on a shopping cart.
Previous career high: Played a mud-covered citizen of Waterworld.
ER treatment: ''First they just painted the blood on, but then they wanted to see more, so they poured it on me.''
Grounds for malpractice: ''It was tiring,'' says Sanchez, who lay on a board for up to six hours at a time. ''I was like, 'Can I get up for a second?'''
Benefits: ''It's almost like being in a real hospital. It's just that they don't get to use the tools.''
The victim: Julie Plum, 19.
The emergency: Shot in the face and stomach. Though she plays a girl, the doctors originally think she is a boy.
Vital stats: ''They wanted the youngest-looking girl. I just stood there, and they said, 'Okay, you look very young.'''
Medical history: Had a flu shot four months ago.
Previous career high: A spaceship-flying alien on Babylon 5.
ER treatment: ''They put a lot of latex things that look like gunshots and poured blood on my stomach. I was very sticky.''
Grounds for malpractice: ''They use [a chemical remover] to take the latex off, and it burns your eyes and stuff.''
Benefits: ''It's a lot more fun than sitting behind a desk.''
The victim: D.P. FitzGerald, 48.
The emergency: A zoned-out homeless man with an open head wound.
Vital stats: ''I give good wino,'' he says.
Medical history: Once had to have his finger rebroken after it was set incorrectly.
Previous career high: A subway-riding homeless man on Caroline in the City.
ER treatment: ''As far as head wounds go, it probably wasn't anywhere near enough blood.''
Grounds for malpractice: ''I went around for most of the day with my head about three fourths shorn. I looked like I had just stepped off the Road Warrior set.''
Benefits: This was FitzGerald's second appearance as a homeless man on ER. ''My hope is that all my friends will write in, asking if the haircut changed [the character's] life, so I can get back on the show.''
The victim: Anna Holmes, 22.
The emergency: None, really. She plays an anonymous patient wheeled through the hallways on a gurney.
Vital stats: ''I told the casting director I was 5'10'', and he said that was good because they want tall extras. I don't know why.''
Medical history: Hit her head on a corner of a wall when she was 6 years old running to catch the opening of Wonder Woman on TV.
Previous career high: Appeared as a gun-toting android with Revenge of the Nerds' Robert Carradine in Firestorm, a low-budget sci-fi film.
ER treatment: None, much to Holmes' chagrin. ''I wanted to have blood on me.''
Grounds for malpractice: ''They gave me a very thin little hospital gown and a robe over it, because the gown was open in the back. So I was basically walking around in my underwear worrying that the robe was going to blow open.''
Benefits: ''They fed us really well. And, also, Noah Wyle.''