There are stars in the southern sky,
Southward as you go...
There is moonlight and moss in the trees
Down the Seven Bridges Road.....
("Seven Bridges Road", The Eagles)
I got lost today. Now, for a Road Nurse to get lost is not really that big of a deal, usually, because Road Nurses do get lost sometimes. Actually, we get lost all the time--it's the nature of the Road Nurse business in the Wild Wild West. We're used to following bad directions on unmarked roads in the wilderness. We're forever having to navigate through and around overgrown cow pastures, vast acres of farmland, and pissant towns which aren't on any maps. However, there's "lost".... and then there's "big time lost". Today I felt like I was "big time lost". Because every damn road started looking alike. All the roads were endless bumpy rock dirt roads-- and I couldn't find any route markers. I jostled and bounced my way over the rocks in the Jeep for about an hour looking for this one patient's ranch. And let me tell ya, I was in the durn BOONDOCKS. I was so far out in the boondocks that I thought I had accidentally crossed into Oklahoma. (Which has happened before, okay?) (And it's not just me---I have heard stories of Road Nurses who have made wrong turns and ended up in New Mexico or even Louisiana...)
The one comforting thing about getting lost in Texas, though, is that you're perfectly safe in getting out and asking directions. (Unlike when I used to be a Road Nurse in East Kansas City's gang territory...)
Well, let me correct myself--I mean that you're usually safe here in the Wild Wild West. One time I got lost near here and I decided to get out and ask directions. I looked over a couple of places and finally decided on a little farm house sitting next to a huge red barn. It looked harmless enough as there was a tractor parked out front and a bunch of Wrangler jeans flying on a clothesline. Normal, right? On the side of the house was a small pen holding a rude-looking donkey.
I got out of the Jeep and strolled up onto the front porch, only pausing to make my usual statement to the rude donkey. It's the same thing I say to all rude donkeys. "What are you staring at, stupid?" He didn't reply.
It wasn't until the very second I knocked on the front door that I noticed the other side of the nearby barn. To my amazement, I noticed that the entire south side of the barn was custom-painted completely-- in the likeness of the Confederate Flag.
Ho ho, I thought. We've got ourselves a die-hard Confederate here. A little radical in this day and age, but I still felt safe. After all, by birthright I am a card-carrying member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. My great-great-great-grandfathers on both sides of my family fought in the Civil War. So if any hostile old geezer Hatfield-McCoy type who might still be pissed off at losing the Civil War answered the door, I knew that my southern accent would instantly prove me NOT TO BE a Yankee and make me an instant friend. I had nothing to fear here.
But when I knocked on the door nobody answered at first---and I heard some furious whispering coming from inside...which struck me as strange. Country folk don't usually whisper. Country folk usually yell things like: "Come on IN!", "IT'S OPEN!", or else "Jinny-Lynn, GIT the DAMN door!"
Nobody answered so I knocked again. I heard more whispering. What in the hell is going on in there? I wondered.
And then the door opened suddenly. And I found myself staring at a bunch of adult, tattooed, skin-heads. The aroma of marijuana wafted out the door at me. Oh dang it all to hell! I thought. Of all the damn farmhouses to pick to ask directions, I have to pick the frigging skinheads' place! I sighed in frustration. Because of all the ways I figure that I could depart this earth, one of the LAST ways I want to go is by being kidnapped and killed by skinheads in the middle of Texas ranch country.
Because, you see, I want to go out in a GLAMOROUS way. If I absolutely have to be killed in the line of duty, I want to go out like a Texan version of Florence Nightingale--on a Field of Battle in a star-spangled Rodeo Hoop-Skirt Uniform of red, white & blue taffeta, nursing gorgeous soldiers back to health who look like Southern versions of Dog-The-Bounty-Hunter in handsome uniforms while clutching gold-hilt sabers... as I shield them from cannonballs while holding their hands tenderly....as I swoon in a southern-belle voice: "Oh Ashley, dahling, Ashley, my love! Puh-leeeeeze don't die on me, honey! Big-Daddy's gonna give us Tara to live in after our weddin'.....and I'm gonna name our sons good Texan names like Cash, Tyler, Cody, or Chance, and then we'll have barbecues forevah and evah while we live happily evah after...cuz after all, honey, TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY...."
Where was I? Oh yeah, I had just knocked on the door of the skinheads.
Quickly, I decided to just be straight-forward. Hell, I figured, anybody could get lost. Maybe they're good patriotic skinheads who wouldn't kidnap and kill a fellow Confederate sister....
And Texas proved me right--that it is safe around here after all. Because that's exactly what happened. I asked the skinheads for directions to the farm I was looking for. They thought a minute, talked it over amongst themselves, and then finally pointed the way down the road, telling me "It's down yunder a piece, round the bend after you pass the Pentecostal Church."
I thanked them and left. (But not before I stuck out my tongue at the donkey.)
(I don't like donkeys...)
Yep, I've gotten lost lots of times in my Road Nurse career. I took a wrong turn on a country highway in Kansas once when I was a Road Nurse there some years ago. I had just realized that I was "big time lost" when I came upon a road side vegetable stand. I jumped down out of my Jeep to ask directions only to find myself surrounded by Amish people. There were no vehicles there--everybody was driving horse-drawn buggies and wearing black clothing.
And I have no idea what those poor Amish people must have thought about modern nursing when they viewed my get-up....because the particular Road Nurse company I was working for at the time did not require its nurses to wear uniforms. Thus, I was in my regular Road Nurse "street garb" which consisted of Levi's and a short sleeved T-shirt emblazoned with "I put ketchup on my ketchup" on the front of it---along with two cell phones, a beeper, and a Harley-Davidson biker knife clipped to my belt. (Uh...and I'm afraid that my arm tattoos showed, too....)
(Oh well, what the hell-- I happen to like my arm tattoos. I have my "biker name" initials on one arm and a ring of barbed wire on the other arm.) (But in my defense, everybody has tattoos these days, even Road Nurses.) Where was I again? Oh yes---I got lost TODAY, here in Texas. (Lord, my mind does wander these days.....)
I was lost and I was exasperated. "Damn my boss and her crappy directions," I cussed under my breath. I should have KNOWN better than to leave the office with just Lu-Lu's paperwork to work from-- because if there's one thing I've learned in the month that I've worked for her, it's that she is the most absolute WORSTEST direction-writer in the entire world. Lost and frustrated, I asked myself WHY? WHY do I even BOTHER looking at her written directions?? I mean, you'd think I would have learned my stupid lesson by now.
Lu-Lu can't write directions. Lu-Lu couldn't write coherent directions to save her life. Lu-Lu couldn't even write the directions for how to get out of her own closet. Hell, Lu-Lu can't even describe where her own grocery store is MUCH LESS tell me how to get to a dang ranch house which is hidden out in ranch territory 47 miles away from our pissant town!! I cursed myself for not asking my LVN how to get there before I ever left the office. (My LVN knows where EVERYTHING is, bless her little homing pigeon-compass-heart.) But I also knew that part of the fault was mine--because I will admit here that I hadn't been paying attention to things while I was driving until I got lost. I had been busy blabbing on the cell phone with my buddy, Belinda, who still works for my old company.
Belinda and I are "best friends"--and we spend half the day on our cell phones to each other. I have racked up umpteen zillion cell phone hours gossiping with Belinda. But that's a common thing--Road Nurses always use long drives to catch up on cell phone calls. In fact, it's the sign of an experienced and seasoned Road Nurse when she can expertly drive down a rock dirt road, follow crappy written directions, chat on the cell phone with a gossip buddy, eat a hamburger without spilling mustard on herself, jot down patient information on Post-It notes, interrupt her gossip session to answer call-waiting to discuss patient business with doctors or hospital lab technicians.... all at the same time without driving into the ditch. (Knock on wood.....) Belinda had been telling me some goooood gossip. It seems that an old friend of mine from my old company, Bonnie, had blown her stack and verbally "told off" one of the Directors, a woman who soooo totally deserved it-- and the Director had gotten so mad that she'd suspended Bonnie for 3 days without pay to "think about her tone of voice".
When I had heard this little tale I had absolutely cackled my head off! Hoo-Hah! Because 3 days off from work, attached to a weekend, is EVERY ROAD NURSE'S DREAM COME TRUE!!!!!! HEE HEE! Usually a poor overworked Road Nurse can't BUY three days off from work--not for love or money! And the delightful fact that it was little mousy Bonnie who'd lost her temper just cracked me up no end! (Remember Bonnie? She was the girl in the Rav4 I had herded cows with at the Rickenbocker Ranch that time....) Anyway, Belinda had sassily told me the whole tale and had then finished with the statement: "Now just WHAT do you think about THAT?" I had laughed my head off and replied that I wanted to "buy Bonnie lunch". (Especially because I was jealous that I'd never had the courage to tell off that Director myself.....) Anyway, back to being lost because I had been gossiping on the cell phone instead of watching my directions....
I was lost and so I finally did what all lost Road Nurses do---I got on the cell phone. I called the office and whined to the secretary: "Where in the HELL is the McDaniels place? And hurry up and tell me because my stupid cell phone's going in and out of Roam Mode..." She started asking me what landmarks I was near. I replied: "I'm near a 'T' in the road where there's a big stump--but it's about 40 feet high." "Let me find one of the other nurses who's been there and I'll call you right back with some directions," she promised.
I didn't mention to her that I was starting to get a little spooked. Sometimes Road Nurses get spooked when they're lost. Road Nurses can only take being lost in the middle of nowhere for SO LONG before they start imagining things.... Because not only do we know that it's entirely possible to get so lost that you might not EVER find where you're going--but we're always afraid that....okay I'll admit it....we're always afraid....I've never really discussed this outside of Road Nurse circles before....but...
OKAY, WE'RE ALWAYS AFRAID THAT WE MIGHT BE IN ONE OF THOSE SCARY MOVIES.
You know, one of those scary movies like "The Hills Have Eyes" or "Children of the Corn" or something. The kind of movie where the poor, unsuspecting people get lost on the road but don't realize that they're not just lost in an innocent country wooded area--but that they're actually lost in some godforsaken monster territory without knowing it....and that it's only a matter of time before the monsters begin stalking them... and killing them.... one by one... in a horrible, bloody fashion...until the end of the movie!!
This was one of those situations. Because I got spooked. And gradually the trees started looking menacing.... and the shadows grew longer--and gnarly looking..... and I didn't see any other humans.... and the songbirds went away.... and I started seeing vultures and buzzards circling the Jeep.....
And soon enough the hair started standing up on the back of my neck.
Oh no! I thought to myself. It's happening! That fear! The old Road Nurse fear. I just knew I was lost in the Scary Movie Place!! And Lord have mercy on my soul, but I just KNEW that some monster was peering at me from behind one of the scary looking trees. I knew that it was a matter of time before I was hatcheted or something---or dragged into the woods---and that nobody would ever hear from me again!! Nobody would ever find hide nor hair of me---except maybe someday a farmer might come across my burned out Jeep in the back forty of a haunted cattle ranch....
STOP IT, I told myself. Get ahold of yourself, Nurse! (I thought about slapping myself but didn't.)
I grabbed my cell phone and stabbed in the numbers of my office to call that blasted secretary back. "Dammit!" I yelled when she answered. "Where the hell am I? I will flat run out of gas if I keep on driving around like this--and there ain't no gas stations. I tell you what, but I'm so damn lost here that I feel like Hansel and Gretel! Would somebody PUH-LEEZE tell me where in the hell I am!?"
"Oh, Lori's here now," she replied. "I asked her and she says she knows where you are if you're by that stump at the 'T' in the road. She says to just go to the left of it--and then keep going for about 2 more miles until you see a pond on the left. Take a right on a little hidden road behind another tree a little further down. When you start seeing black cows grazing all over the place you'll know you're getting close. And it's a little further down on the left. You'll see some white fencing and a gate. Go over the cow guard and keep going up the road--you'll see the ranch house after that. There's a bunch of red-bud trees in their yard--but it ain't red-bud bloomin' season right now so they won't really look like red-bud trees..."
Onward I plunged. I thought briefly about leaving a trail of bread crumbs behind in order to find my way back out of this damn mess--but then I remembered that this trick hadn't worked for Hansel and Gretel.
And then I thought to myself that if I came across a damn Gingerbread House with a friendly witch beckoning me from the front door that I would go absolutely stark raving mad.....
But then finally, after I bumped and jounced my way over a few zillion more miles of rock dirt roads, I found where I was going at last. (Which was a good thing, because I was about to get on the cell phone and call that county's Sheriff to come find me--and I didn't care HOW pissed off he would get.)
(Which I would have really been reluctant to do.... because that Sheriff's been mad at me ever since the time he caught me flirting with two of his deputies at the Dairy Queen... whereby I'd asked one of them in all earnestness how to make a "Citizen's Arrest".... and then he'd obliged by showing me how to handcuff him with his own handcuffs while we were ordering our ice cream cones...which I guess was against the rules or something...because the Sheriff had suddenly walked in just in time to witness the whole thing and overhear me say sweetly: "Why Deputy, sir, if you ever hurt your little ole darlin' self in the line of duty and need a nurse, then all you have to do is knock on my door and say "OPEN UP IN THE NAME OF THE LAW!!" .... which pissed off that Sheriff no end....)
(Okay, big deal, so he got mad. Okay, and so the Deputies got in trouble, too. But I'll tell you what--it was fun as hell to go back to the office and tell everybody all about how I'd handcuffed one of the best-damn-looking Deputies in the entire county while the other Deputy laughed his fool head off, which means that I'll SURELY NEVER EVER get a traffic ticket around here for SURE...)
Where was I? Oh yes, I finally found the ranch house.
And actually, it turned out to be a great patient visit. The lady I went to see is a big-time crocheter. She makes the coolest granny-square afghans. She also makes tons of what she calls "her big doilies".
"Don't leave here without me giving you some big doilies for yer house," she told me. "Everybody needs big doilies." She took me to a closet where she had a big garbage bag full of big doilies she'd crocheted out of worsted weight yarn.
"Cool!" I cried, delightedly. If there's one thing I love, it's getting things from patients. So I picked out some doilies. And then I hugged her neck.
"But you can't have the Christmas ones," she apologized. "Because I put them all out at Christmas time. But you can have any of the other ones--why don't you pick yourself out one? Or two? Or three? Some of them even have buttons sewn into the middle."
I picked myself out three big doilies (including one with a button sewn into the middle of it) (which she really told me to give to my mother but I'm keeping it anyway) and I left her home feeling like the luckiest Road Nurse in the world. I will tell you the truth--something like that gives me a warm glow for the rest of my day.
Because I love getting presents from patients. So far this month I've gotten these doilies, a cross-stitched coaster, some vegetables, and an ice-tea glass. These presents are more precious to me than all the diamonds in Africa. And I will USE these items--I will put them all around my home to remind me of my beloved patients.
My patients are my life.
Speaking of which, I just remembered that I'm on call tonight---ACK.
But actually, my boss Lu-Lu was as good as her word when she offered me this job and promised me a "lower stress level". Because being on call in this company is nothing like how it was at my old company. Most of our patients are "like family" and simply refuse to call us after hours. They wouldn't dream of interrupting our sleep or having us make an extra trip to see them, even though we nag them all the time to call us for problems. So far this week I've only had one call after hours. It was last night, from Mrs. Reed. She was worried because she thought she'd "mis-taken one of her pills".
"Mis-taking a pill" around here means exactly what it says....the patient took the wrong pill. Or at least Mrs. Reed thought she had. But she wasn't really sure. She's "getting on in years", after all, and couldn't remember what she'd done because her daily routine had been interrupted by a visit from family.
"Which pill was it, Mrs. Reed?" I questioned.
"I'm not sure--it might have been the little white one with the numbers on one side, I think," she answered. "But then again, it might have been that funny pink one that looks like half of the vitamin pill I used to take before I switched pharmacies when Medicare made me change everything."
"Sweety, I have no idea which pill that would be," I replied patiently. "Do you remember which side of the kitchen you got it on? You know you keep your blood pressure pills by the sink, but you keep your nerve pill on top of the refrigerator."
"No, I sure don't remember," she replied worriedly. "I was just beginning to take my usual evening pills when I thought I took a wrong one.... Do you think I'm going to be alright? What if I took a wrong one? I'm so sorry that I did this--but I was nervous, you see. My great-grandkids had come over and their new baby was a'squawlin'. And ever since I got old I get nervous when babies go to squawlin'. I love my great-great-grandbaby but I surely do get nervous when he squawls like that. I don't think my great-grand-daughter-in-law feeds him enough biscuits. And you know she makes hers out of Bis-Quik...."
I knew she was frightened that she'd done something dangerous. So I took a quick look at her records and medicine list in my "Master Patient Book", a gigantic volume in which I keep all the records for every single patient our company has. (This book goes EVERYWHERE with me.) I quickly calculated her body weight and all the various pills in her medicine regimen. I weighed the risk of her accidentally taking an extra pill for any of her various medicines. And after analyzing the whole picture I calculated that most of her medicines are twice-daily pills anyway--in which case taking an extra pill of one of them was the exact pill she needed for her evening dosage anyway. And the couple of pills which are once-a-day pills taken in the morning only were not of such dosages that an extra pill in the evening would be life-threatening.
But I knew she was frightened, being a lonely widow-woman without anybody to look after her or reassure her. I wanted her to feel better and not worry. And I wanted her to know that I would take care of her should a problem arise. And I knew that she felt foolish--a lot of elderly patients feel ashamed when they make mistakes. I wanted her to know that it was a mistake that anybody could make--not just an "elderly" person.
"Don't you worry your pretty little head, Sugar Pie," I told her. "That's what the On-Call Nurse is here for--we're here for you, honey. And you're going to be alright. If you have any problems I'll fix everything right up. I've got your next door neighbor's numbers if need be, or I can come by there if need by. Just don't you worry. And I completely understand about the baby squawlin'. Babies can squawl awfully loud, can't they? Tell you what--I'll call you every half hour tonight just to make sure you're okay, how about that?"
"Oh, Nurse, that would be wonderful!" she cried, hugely relieved.
And so I did.
I called my patient every 30 minutes or so until her bedtime. We had the most wonderful talks about her great-grandkids and great-great-grandbabies. We talked about the movie she was watching. We talked about the movie I was watching. We talked about how her errant great-grand-daughter-in-law cheats by using Bis-Quik to make her biscuits because she'd been "raised in a barn" and doesn't even know how to roll out decent "scratch bis-kits". We talked about how her great-grand-son is the light of her life and drives the biggest pick-up truck in the entire town. We talked about how her son fought in World War II and met the President of the United States of America. We talked about how her sister is a 1st cousin-second-removed of Bonnie, of "Bonnie & Clyde". It was a most enjoyable evening.
Finally, at her bedtime, I called her again and she told me that she was getting ready to go to bed. "I'm just now fixin' the bed-covers," she told me. "I feel much better now and I think I'll get a good night's sleep--because having company today sure wore me out."
I told my patient to be sure and have "sweet dreams"-- and I assured her that if she had any further problems that all she had to do was pick up the phone and I'd be right there....
After telling her goodnight, I put the cell phone by the head of my bed so that I'd hear it if it rang.
And I slept pretty good, too...
(But I dreamed about that gorgeous Deputy. I can't help myself because I DO love a Man in Uniform, okay? I just simply can't help it. And I like men in all kinds of uniforms---Cop Deputies, Paramedics, Sheriff's, the Guys at the Recruiting Station, and Firemen. In fact, if I see a man in uniform I will flirt AT THE DROP OF A HAT ... I appreciate Eye-Candy, yes I do--and some of these guys are simply SCRUM-DIDDLE-EE-UMPTIOUS, um um!! Yessiree-Bob.....)
(In fact, next week there's a Pancake Breakfast at the Fire House and I fully intend to go.....)
There are stars in the southern sky
And if ever you decide you should go...
There is a taste of time sweetened honey
Down the Seven Bridges Road.........
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