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Comparing myself to overcooked pasta…

Every night leaving work, it’s like the energizer bunny coming to screeching halt after a nonstop day of go-go-go.. On autopilot, I resist collapsing like one big gelatinous noodle. In some recess of my brain I know that my bed is better than train tunnel for sleeping. Thus far, I have always won against my limbs, thank god. Not that I am actually complaining. This is exactly what I wished for: bedside nursing, interacting with people as much as possible, constant learning, and never sitting at a desk in a cubicle. I got all of those things. So far, no matter how tired, frustrated or emotionally drained I am at the end of a hard day in the ER, I am still excited to go back (after a solid night of rest). I can’t say how long this honeymoon phase of our relationship will last (me and the ER, that is) but I am really hoping it’s a not a fleeting feeling.

As a new nurse, I am always running, my brain whirring, trying to anticipate the next step. In the beginning, I had plenty of time to learn my patients and know them fairly well (at least well for a brief ER interaction) but now as I grow more adept with my few patients, I have been taking on more patients, and more. It’s hard to know them as well now, often, just staying on top of their medical case is the best I can manage. Sometimes I yearn to spend more time with just a few patients…respond to all their “real” needs as well as the self-professed “real” needs, instead of triaging their professed needs myself. (For example, bleeding wound=real need. Fix it: clean, gauze, tape, presto-donezo. While, “I’m starving, I haven’t eaten in 18 hours, get me some food now,” is not a real need…I am sorry but it’s not, when the guy in the next bed is bleeding.) I want to respond to all needs equally, which is simply impossible in the ER. I have to make snap decisions, which clearly doesn’t please everyone. The flip side of wishing that I only had a few patients, is that obviously there are some patients that you would much prefer never even crossed the threshold… Luckily, there haven’t been many of those.

Sometimes it’s impossible to miss a special moment though. Yesterday, I had an elderly patient with a laundry list of geriatric problems — Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, new onset seizures, the works. Oh yeah, and probable pneumonia on admission. The wife (who looked much better, I might add, and at least 10 well-preserved years younger) claimed that her husband, on a better day (pre-pneumonia, I imagine) walked around the house a little bit, and even spoke occasionally. Pretty incredible to believe from what I saw lying on the stretcher. Nonverbal, limbs contracted inwards, shivering and weakened by illness, he was a full workup waiting to happen. He was in my care all day, while being screened into the ICU and then waiting for a bed to become available. While we drew labs, waited for results, started broad-spectrum antibiotics and gentle fluids, and periodically changed his sweat-soaked sheets, I watched the wife interact with her feeble and febrile husband. He never spoke, but she spoke to him and seemed very certain of what he needed at any given moment. She, dressed in a smart red suit with perfectly arranged hair, sat at his bedside for hours upon hours. And this is no private room either. The ER is full of incessant beeps, whistles and alarms, combined with a cacophony of human-emitted noise – complaints, moans, the works. It can’t be pleasant for a patient or a family member (not that I particularly care for it, either). Yet, she calmly and gracefully sat by his side and thanked us for all the care we provided, not once blaming us for the slow pace of diagnosis and admission to the ICU. At regular intervals when I checked on him, she would be stroking his forehead whispering gently to him, or rearranging his pillows and blankets, or spoon-feeding him miniature bites of applesauce. It nearly brought tears to my eyes, such tender and private interactions that I witnessed as my patient’s nurse. These are the moments that I live for and that I strive to reproduce as a nurse for my patients that have no one at bedside. If this patient had been all alone, I might not have known a single thing about him other than the details of his illness. But with his wife at bedside, I learned that he had someone who loved him dearly, and he probably loved just as tremendously in return. Learning these little tidbits reminds me that my patient is also a person, with a story all his own beyond the hospital stretcher. On a busy day, there isn’t often time to find out the stories of every individual, but it’s important to remember that they all have one.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Emergency Room, Healing Spoonful

 

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Joining the Ranks

…Of the unemployed.

Of course, it’s a little different for me. Frankly, Quite. Different. I am unemployed entirely by choice: I’ll be starting nursing school in June and in the interim I am traveling to Argentina and then coming home to pack up my life (hopefully, downsizing dramatically) before moving cross-country in a little hybrid named Pedro. Not a bad next two months by any stretch of the imagination. But it is really hard for me to leave work behind! Each day so far, since my “last day” I have thought about my residents. I wonder how Addie’s* deep vein thrombosis is doing. Is she using her walker or wheelchair? What game did the ladies play at social? Mostly I feel a tremendous void in the absence of my resident interactions that nothing can suitably fill. Even as I feel surges of nervous butterflies when I imagine myself working as a nurse with patients, I crave that day too, knowing that it will satiate my hunger to help and heal.

In the meantime, I am trying my best to truly embrace and cherish each moment. As a human being, naturally my tendency is to gravitate towards all things happy and comfortable. To get past the pain, anguish and discomfort. But life is full of ups and downs and I don’t like feeling like I have been wishing away half of my life, or hurrying through it. While I don’t need to enjoy discomfort (unlikely, really) I can still let it wash over me without fighting it. The gist of this is something that a yoga teacher once taught me, and I am trying to instill as a value, as a new Chapter in my life is about to begin.

This is an excerpt from an email I just sent my sister:

It’s obvious, yet still so ironic, how much more you appreciate something once you are on the verge of losing/leaving it. The other day was our first real Seattle spring day…you know the kind– sunny but still a crisp bite in the air, puffy white clouds on a perfect blue sky. Perhaps there is a shower or two, but it is always followed by a rainbow…one of those days that would make your teeth hurt if it was sugar. Except that, thankfully, beautifully delicious days aren’t bad for you.  Anyways, I went for a short jog in the park which (quite honestly) i practically had to drag myself out of the house to go on. I get stuck inside and then feel to lazy to move, or like I simply don’t have “time” to squeeze in the exercise portion of my day. But as I crested the first hill in the park, facing the water, I saw at least 5 people flying kites on Kite Hill, a smattering of kiteboarders riding the breezy waves on the Lake and a few owners being walked by their dogs. It was too pretty. I felt surrounded by happiness and beauty and it just spilled over in me! I started smiling and wanted to beam joy onto every person I passed. So silly, maybe, but I felt like I was finally shrugging off that heavy woolen overcoat of winter that had been weighing me down (and depressing me) more than I knew. It felt so good.

I wish I could just wrap that moment up like a candy bar and take a bite whenever my own personal rain cloud comes back to haunt me. But in the interest of embracing the discomfort a little more gracefully, I’ll take the rain cloud and the rainbow, because the presence of one makes it so much easier to appreciate the other.

One side story of today that made me smile:

Today I was hurrying (always hurrying lately, it feels like) to drop off a package at a UPS store. I parked in a little strip mall parking lot and cut diagonally across it, making a beeline for the store, skirting in between two bushes that made a nice little shortcut out of the parking lot. Guess I wasn’t the first one to have that idea, though, because two people stepped through the hole in the bushes before me…and then…a crow hopped out in front of me, and made his way through the secret passageway too! Oh, but of course, Sir Crow, you first! It was silly and funny and it made me smile. And helped me to slow down and appreciate the moment, even though it only included me and a crow.

Another moment: Pouring down rain on our bike ride this weekend, but a faint rainbow to the left!

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2010 in Healing Spoonful, Miscellaneous

 

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