Sunday, September 24, 2006
Sunday, September 17, 2006
I used to work at a trauma center about 4 hours away from here. I finally quit, nearly two years ago, swearing for the umpteenth time that I will NEVER, and I repeat NEVER, work an ER again. I had sworn this same oath on numerous occasions before in years gone by, leaving the ER in disgust--yet always returning to the ER after a brief absence into some other area of nursing-- working a few more years then leaving the ER again in disgust....etc, etc.
But this time, two years ago, I MEANT IT. My philosophy these days is : "Let the younger-- and stupider-- girls go for it. My glory days are officially OVER. I'm too tired and worn out to fight that soul-sapping, losing battle anymore....."
So far it's been a good philosphy, exept for the problem of nightmares. They haunt me...like last night.
The last night I worked in the trauma center, it was a horrible--yet typical--shift. I worked what we called the "hell shift"-- which was Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.
The paramedics galloped into my section and practically flung a 6-year old boy onto the nearest stretcher. The boy was in full tonic-clonic seizures, violently twisting and flopping his tiny body, slobbering at the mouth with his eyes rolled up into the back of his head. He had peed and pooped on himself. His young, barely-out-of-her-teens, mother came trailing behind the medics, white as a ghost with fear, looking bewildered and panicked. There was no father.
"What's going on?" I asked the medics.
"Status epilepticus," they replied, hurriedly unhooking the child from their portable monitors in order to transfer him to the ones in the room. I scanned the monitor screen to see the child's vital signs--and noticed thankfully that the boy was still breathing. I hollered for a doctor. Then the medics gave me the bad news. "Couldn't get an IV line to stay in," they told me ruefully. "He jerked out the only one we managed to get into him. Sorry, but you'll have to re-start your own line cuz we gotta go."
Just then the ER doctor rushed in as I frantically finished hooking the kid up to our ER monitors and oxygen. But the child kept knocking his oxygen mask off due to the violent spasms of his seizures. The doctor quicly scanned the medics' paperwork to check for allergies. He scribbled some orders for anti-seizure medicines to be given, intravenously, and then dashed out to see his next patient.
"Hey!" I hollered after him. "I don't have a line yet!"
"So get one," he snapped. "I'm going to transfer him via helicopter to the children's hospital in Arkansas..." He disappeared down the crowded hall. I turned and begged the departing paramedics to help me.
"Sorry, but we've gotta go," they told me. "Five car smash-up on the Interstate---good luck!" and they were gone.
I hollered for help several more times but nobody came. So I knew I was on my own. Cussing loudly, I grabbed an IV kit from the cabinet. I knew that getting an IV line into a 6-year old's small veins while he was thrashing around in the throes of a full blown seizure was a next to impossible task for one person, so I flipped on the emergency intercom on the wall by the stretcher.
"What?" the Ward Clerk answered, sounding annoyed.
"I need someone in here to help me hold this kid down so I can get an IV into him!" I screamed at the wall speaker, frantically lobbing the IV supplies I would need onto a bedside tray. "Get somebody in here to help me STAT!!!!"
"No can do," she replied nonchalantly. "There ain't nobody available--you know damn well it's a zoo out here. But I did call the helicopter and they're on their way. But you better hope they can land when they get here--because there's four other birds on the way and there's only one copter platform...."
I looked at the child and truly felt panic. Because I knew that as long as there was no IV in this kid, I wouldn't be able to inject the anti-seizure medicine into him. And I knew that the longer he stayed in this prolonged seizure, the more likely he would be to suffer brain damage from lack of oxygen--or simply die...
A tech rushed in and threw a bag of anti-seizure medicine onto the stretcher. "There's your meds....gotta go!"
Dismally, I did the only thing I could do. I LAYED DOWN ON TOP OF THE KID in order to stop his legs and one arm from thrashing. Then, while lying on top of the child, I looked right into his mother's frightened eyeballs and said as serious and FIRMLY as I possibly could: "Ma'am--you need to HOLD HIS OTHER ARM AS STILL AS POSSIBLE SO THAT I CAN GET THIS IV INTO HIM--and I mean, DON'T LET HIS ARM MOVE EVEN ONE INCH, do you hear me????"
She nodded in understanding and held his arm down as I strapped two tourniquets on--I wanted to make DAMN sure that a viable vein popped up. But I only found one vein that looked even vaguely possible for a stick....and it was between his 2nd and 3rd finger. So I aimed...and I PRAYED the nurse's prayer...and then I STUCK.
And I got lucky. It was a good line....
I got the IV started and shoved in the medicine. I watched carefully, hoping the medicine would work. And in a few seconds the child's spasms started slowing....slower and slower....and then they stopped. I checked the monitor and saw that the child's heart was still beating--and his oxygen level was good. And he was breathing....thank God.
I kept working on the kid for the next couple of hours trying to stabilize him and get him ready for the flight to the children's hospital, getting in another IV, putting in a catheter, drawing blood for labwork, reassuring his mother, getting his paperwork prepared for the transfer--and giving him more anti-seizure medicine every time the seizures began again, which they did about every half hour. The doctor checked on him frequently, cursing at the delay in the helicopter.
Finally, I called the Ward Clerk again to check on the helicopter's arrival.
"They just got here but they're having to circle," she replied. "They can't land because the helicopter before them is still on the pad. I don't know what's taking them so long to get out of here because they already dropped off the patient they brought us--a guy from a truck accident."
I ran down the hall and found the Charge Nurse. "Listen here," I yelled. "My bird is circling but can't land---what's the hold up on the pad?"
The Charge Nurse looked out over the sea of faces in the crowded halls and noticed the errant helicopter's flight crew standing in a hall chatting with some medics. "YO! FLIGHT CREW! GET OFF THE DAMN ROOF!" she shrieked at them. They looked up in shock, realized what she was asking, and ran to do as she asked.
I ran back to my patient, and waited. Sure enough, the children's hospital copter was finally able to land--and its flight crew came running in. They were all in flight suits, a flight doctor, a medic, and a flight nurse. They helped me load up the child, transferring him from my monitors to their portable monitors, as I gave a fast verbal report. The Ward Clerk came running in to thrust a packet containing the child's X-Rays, blood work reports, and other paperwork at the flight crew -- and we were ready to go.
We madly rolled the child's stretcher down the busy halls as fast as we could, practically knocking over everybody in our path, and took the special elevator up to the flight pad, which was one hundred and fifty dizzying feet up into the air. We then raced out to the waiting copter and performed a "hot load", which means the copter's blades are whirling in full gear, ready for take-off.
I helped the flight crew load the child onto the bird. I thanked them heartily, glad that the child was still in stable shape. Suddenly I noticed the flight doctor's flight pin--which was kind of automatic to me... because it is a little-known fact that ER nurses "collect" medical helicopter flight pins for some crazy reason. We never ask for them--but if given one by an appreciative flight crew, we will wear it proudly on our ER badges. Although I was already wearing two other helicopter services' flight pins, I couldn't help wistfully gazing at the children's copter pin, for it was beautiful...and I didn't have one. Their flight pin was blue and had gold wings. It was labled "Angel One".
The doctor noticed my look--and so I quickly looked away, embarassed. Then to my astonishment, he quickly took off his pin and handed it to me.
And they closed the helicopter's doors...and flew off into the night.
* * * * *
I woke up Saturday morning, mumbling to myself groggily: "There's no place like home.... there's no place like home....."
and realized---it was going to be a great day. I shook off my nightmare because I realized that I had hit the lucky jackpot. Because it was the day that my family was going to take me to the PodunkVille Livestock Show & Carnival after a birthday lunch. We were celebrating several birthdays: mine, my 18-year old niece's, and that of a friend of my father's.
Here's my birthday badge, the one that my sister assigned to me when I walked into the door:
You have to understand, my sister is like Clark Griswold in the "Vacation" movies. She's the type that will set up everything "just so", decorations and all, for Christmas, Easter, New Years, birthdays or whatever the occasion is--and she'll tell you: "We are going to have a nice family birthday (Christmas/ Easter/ New Years, etc.) celebration and you're going to have fun or I'LL KILL YA!" So you do as she directs, by golly. Which means wearing "Birthday Girl" Badges, Birthday Girl Mardi-Gras Necklaces, Birthday Girl Flashing-Light Birthday Girl Tiara's, etc., no matter how old you are.
So we birthday-people donned our badges, our necklaces and our tiaras..... (Sometimes she deviates from the above sentence and says something like: "You're going to have fun IF I HAVE TO BREAK EVERY BONE IN YOUR BODY!"---you get the picture.) Fortunately, my sister is always as good as her word -- about the having fun part ( not the killin' part or the breakin' bones part, that is) because we always have a rootin'-tootin' good time. And this time was no exception.
First we had what my sister calls: "The Birthday Lunch, with the Birthday Cake, and The Present-Opening Ceremony".
We had my favorite dish, my mother's Chicken Enchiladas with Mexican Spoonbread, for lunch. Then we had my cake favorite, my mother's Coconut Cake With Bananas Under the 7-Minute Frosting. (LOVE THAT STUFF....) Then we opened presents. I cleaned up like a bandit. I got subscriptions to two of my favorite knitting magazines from my niece-- is that COOL or what? And I got a purse, some computer speakers with a sub-woofer, a rechargeable wireless computer Mouse, a new mouse pad, a vaccuum cleaner (with a one-year service contract...yeah!), a set of bed sheets, and a gift certificate to Walmart---Yay!!!! (Everybody knows Walmart is my most favorite store in the world. It also happens to be the ONLY store in the town I live, ergo, a gift certificate from there is a Double-Yay!) My niece cleaned up, too. She got a video I-Pod to go with her regular I-Pod, a Coach purse, gift certificates to her favorite stores (Victoria's Secret, Aeropostale and Forever Twenty-One), jewelry and... GET THIS..... a snazzy little hand-held device which will enable her to download her classroom notes to her laptop without having to take her laptop to class---she just has to take the little hand-held device to class... Uh....would somebody puh-leeze CLUE ME IN, here???? I mean, I knew that college kids nowadays have it easier than we did in the dark ages....but I thought it ended at the laptop computer, ya know? But it goes further than that now...because they DON'T EVEN HAVE TO TAKE THE LAPTOP TO CLASS!!!!????? Did I miss something????? (Like a decade or two?)
(Sigh....I'm getting old....) After they explained the whole thing to me, I still HAD TO ASK the inevitable "Old Aunt Who Doesn't Know Squat" question: "So what do the kids who can't afford laptop computers do for their notes?" The answer was: "They use the classroom computers." Okay. Now I know. (Dumb Aunt, Dumb Aunt....) (But I will admit here that I'm left wondering what in the hell has happened since I went to college? I mean, I just can't understand how they suddenly got so "computerized"--and WIRELESS even--in college! And absolutely EVERYBODY seems to be in the swing of it. I am visualizing classrooms that look like sets from "The Jetsons" or something. Oh well, what do I know? It's been eons since I went to college. I guess I need to accept that things are just flat out different now. But still, it's scary, you know?)
(Do people even still watch "The Jetsons" anymore????) Anyhoo, then we went to the PondunkVille Livestock Show and Carnival. And let me tell you, as my mother said, you better enjoy these old fashioned, small town livestock shows and carnivals now-- because the way they are disappearing, they probably won't exist much longer....which will be a total shame.
Because to me, it's the last place anymore that you can find that old-fashioned, hometown, safe, Good-Clean, Uncomplicated, as American as Applie Pie, rip-roarin', rootin'-tootin', laughing-till-your-sides-hurt, fun---anymore.... And it was fun as hell. (And in honor of the occasion, I wore my "Bronco-Bustin'" hat to protect myself from the blazing Texas sun....) First we headed to the cattle barn where my co-worker, a nurse named Geena-Lou, was helping her kids "show" their hefers. The hefer showings were running all day, with hundreds of kids from various school district chapters of the Future Farmers of America showing the results of their hard work all summer long.
First, we tromped through 85 cattle stalls filled with various sized & breed of cattle, looking for Geena-Lou and her kids. We elbowed our way through throngs of humans and cows, stepping in umpteen cow pies, asking everybody where Geena-Lou's brood was, to no avail. Finally, the lightbulb went on over my head. "The cell phone!" I exclaimed. "I'll call her to find out where they are!"
I stabbed the numbers out on my cell phone, stopping up my free ear with a finger so that I could hear any reply. It rang and rang...but she finally answered. "Hello?" "Geena-Lou? This is Road Nurse 007. Where in the hell are you? I'm here in the cattle barn and I cain't find ya." (Translation in hickese: "Cain't" equals "can't".) "Where are you?" she asked. "We're by a bunch of Brahmin cows---but there's a bunch of Herefords to the left and a few Angus'es over to the right." "No, silly....not what KIND of cows, but WHOSE cows are you by?" she continued. "How the hell do I know?" I railed. "I don't recognize anybody." "Look at the brands," she continued, patiently. "The brands on the cattle. Look on the COWS' BUTTS and you'll know who you're by! And hurry UP--one of my kids is in the Show Ring NOW!" Okay. So I looked on the cows' butts to check which brands were on them. I saw all kinds of brands. And I figured something out---which is that ranchers don't put their brands onto their cows' butts very neatly. They stick them on there all which-a-way. Some of the brands are sideways, some are perpendicular, some are catywompus, and some of them are just flat out higgledy-piggledy. But I told Geena-Lou where I was.... "I'm by the cattle with brands that look like a bunch of upside-down J's next to a West Coast Chopper symbol", I told her triumphantly. "You idjit!" she laughed. "There's no West Coast Chopper cattle brands! That's probably the J-Cross Ranch. I know where you are, now-- I'll come get ya." She came and got us, and then hurriedly herded us back through the barn to the Show Ring, where one of her boys was showing his prize hefer. I stepped on some more cow pies in the process and my mother was startled by a black hefer who bawled loudly right in her face.
"Mom, that cow is talking to you," I said.
"Oh very funy," she replied sarcastically. The Show Ring was exciting as heck, where all the young people who belong to Future Farmers of America showed the various cattle they've been raising. These kids work very hard all year long to raise these cattle. (And if you want my opinion, kids raising cattle during summer vacation is a good healthy activity-- and a dang site better than some of the other stuff kids can be tempted to get into in these modern times, if you know what I mean....)
The atmosphere was charged with excitement, with the young people showing their cattle in various events, their familes cheering them on, and the usual devil-may-care attitude of "Western Folks" out having a good ole time.
We arrived at the Show Ring just in time to see the judge start down the line to decide on some hefers of a particular breed and age group. Here's a pic of him ( the big ole guy in the suit & tie cum cowboy hat) starting down the line for the first "Look-See". The kids are usually really excited at this time, hoping like heck to win a ribbon, and they just stand there nervous as cats, hoping to high heavens that their cow doesn't chose this moment to er....drop a cow pie. The families stand by, keeping their fingers crossed, waiting for the judging.
And then....after all the judging results came in....guess what? Geena-Lou's kid had won SECOND PRIZE! YAY! He got a ribbon! Which thrilled him because his brother had won a 4th Prize Ribbon earlier in the day. So each of the boys each won ribbons, which is a testament to the hard work they've done. Here's the famous hefers and their ribbons:
Then we all went to the carnival side of the show. And THAT was truly cool. I haven't been to a carnival in a long time. And there it was....just like I remembered it: the rides, the cotton candy, the food booths, the "games" on the midway---and we had the most FANTABULOUS time.
But I was handicapped this time. I had made the GIANT mistake of watching the movie "Final Destination 3" just last week. (WHY oh WHY did I do that before going to a carnival where there were rides? I ask you--WHY?)
But I had. And so I made my big announcement to my crestfallen niece: "I ain't riding no rides that look like that humongous, dangerous roller coast ride in Final Destination 3," I told her firmly. "No way, Jose. The kids in the movie rode that ride--OR ALMOST DID-- and just look what happened to them! Nope...not me! No way, Jose, that's for sure!"
And then my niece showed me the rides....
"Um....look, Auntie Road Nurse," she said gently. "These rides are different...."
And sure enough....as Stupid Old Auntie Road Nurse took a second look at the rides--she noticed that INDEED they WERE DIFFERENT than the roller coaster ride in "Final Destination 3".....
They were harmless rides. Family rides. Rides which couldn't POSSIBLY cause the sort of thing that had happened in "Final Destination 3".
Um....there was the tea-cup ride, only instead of tea-cups there were big Strawberry-shaped cages--it was called "The Berry Go-Round". There was the Ferris Wheel, which didn't go any higher than the local Walmart roof. There was the "Flying Helicopters" ride, which looked like the Dumbo Ride in Disneyland only with helicopters instead of elephants with big ears. And there was the... er....roller coaster....which was really just a little choo-choo train painted like a big green caterpillar--and it never left its tracks which were firmly on the ground.....
"Okay, okay," I told my niece, embarassed about my "Final Destination 3" tirade. "I get the picture--these rides aren't very dangerous. Ok, so I'll ride....."
And so me and my niece rode the rides.
(And I had a really great time except for the mistake I made by riding "The Himalaya". Lord, that damnable ride..... I almost squashed my niece from being flung into her by the centrifugal force, and it just about twirled me right into the stratosphere over the dang carnival grounds. So let me tell you--I don't care HOW un-dangerous it looks, don't ever make the mistake of riding the damn "Himalaya". )
Then we played the games on the midway. Now THAT was fun. If you ever want to win prizes in those games, which are notoriously "rigged" so that you can't win even the smallest prize until you've spent about $78, just go with a gaggle of screaming, laughing Road Nurse Family females--because we laugh so loudly and horse around so crazily that the "carnies" who run the games usually end up giving up trying to "con" us and simply GIVE us all kinds of free, extra "chances"---until we end up winning the big prizes!!!
First, we played the "Throw The Ping-Pong Balls Into The Vases Filled With Gold-Fish" game, where you throw ping-pong balls into vases whose mouths are too small for the ping-pong balls to fit into. If you get one in you win the goldfish swimming around in there. The guy running the game ended up giving us all kinds of free, extra ping-pong balls--probably to get us to shut up. But it backfired on him because we simply drove him to distraction by laughing and playing hysterically--while he surely believed that we didn't have a CHANCE IN HELL of getting any of those stupid ping-pong ball into those too-small vases--and his poor ears were probably bursting from listening to my sister and me each shouting "I WANNA GOLDFISH! I WANNA GOLDFISH! I WANNA GOLDFISH!"--and so the poor guy kept giving us "extra" ping-pong balls for no charge as we cackled like crazed chickens and laughed like hyenas--until I suddenly won three silly goldfish in a row, bam bam bam! Yahoo!
Lord, you would have thought I'd just reeled in a 250-pound off the Caribbean coast.....
"I CAUGHT A GOLDFISH! I CAUGHT A GOLDFISH!" I screamed. Even the carnie guy looked happy for me. He gave me three Fishie-Tokens, which you keep till you go home. Then you stop by an redeem them for the real goldfish just before you leave the carnival. Here's my Fishie Tokens (which I have instead of goldfish because I forgot to go redeem them when we left the carnival....) (Cute little suckers, aren't they?) (Easier to keep, too...) :
Then we headed for the next game. We argued back and forth--should it be a "tossing" game or should it be a "dart" game? Hmmm....... And I was on a roll.....and wanted to keep winning prizes.
And then I won again-- at the "Throw the Steak Into The Tiger's Mouth" game. It was easy. The object of the game was to take your "chance" of throwing 6 steaks into the Tiger's Mouth. You'd get a little plastic toy for a "prize" if you got all 6 steaks into the Tiger's Mouth. Then to win a small stuffed animal you had to get 6 MORE steaks into the Tiger's Mouth--and then 6 MORE steaks--at $5 per "chance" of 6 steaks....
My mother finally dragged me away when I had won a "big" stuffed Tiger for about $127.00 worth of "chances". (I was trying for the gigantic, life-sized, Tiger--but I'm happy with the one I got.)
By then, we were thirsty, so we went looking for some lemonade.
"Where do we get the lemonade?" I asked, looking at the menus on various food vendor signs.
"Gee, I don't know," my sister said sarcastically, staring pointedly at a nearby kiosk which was shapped like a giant yellow lemon.
"Oh hush, you Smart-Aleck!" I laughed---gladly realizing that we were standing outside The Lemonade-of-All-Lemonade Stands.
I ordered lemonades for everybody and we watched, fasinated, as the carnies made the lemonade. Using their grubby, unwashed hands, they grabbed real lemons, halfed them with a communal knife, squeezed the juice out of them with a juice-grinder, poured the juice into huge cups, dumped a dollop of pure cane sugar into the cups, poured ice into the cups-- and them shook the cups hard for a few minutes like they were making martinis--winding up the whole shebang by placing lids and straws onto the tops, and then handing them to us with a flourish....
and when we sipped the lemonade we thought we'd DIED AND GONE TO HEAVEN....because it was the BEST DANG LEMONADE we'd ever tasted in our lives!
Aaaaaahh....... nothing like good ole lemonade on a burning hot Texan day at the carnival, eh?
Here's a pic of my Tiger prize, along with the rest of my Birthday Girl loot--the Birthday Girl Badge, my Birthday Girl Mardi-Gras Necklaces, my Birthday Girl Flashing-Lights Tiara, my Bronco-Bustin' hat-- ALL of which I wore to the Lifestock Show and the carnival---and my Lemonade Made With Real Lemons By Dirty Carnie Hands But Was The Best Tasting Lemonade I've Ever Had In My Entire Life Cup, and my Unclaimed Fishie-Tokens:
And a Good Time Was Had By All.......
I was kind of tired that night and so I didn't sleep very good. I tossed and turned. And I had nightmares again.....
This time, the nightmare started out as an old nightmare I used to have when I worked in Miami. The hospital I worked at was on the bay and had a boat dock to receive patients from cruise ships. We used to see dolphins swimming out there sometimes. I used to tease the other nurses that I "saw dolphins in my IV bags". Sometimes I still dream that there's dolphins in my IV bags.
This was one of those nights where I dreamed about dolphins in my IV bags. But on this particular night there was a twist on the usual scenario....
* * * * * * * *
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Yep, I'm singing again....except I'm not going to Amarillo or anything.
(Although I surely would love to go to Galveston...) (Sometimes I think I'll NEVER get to go to Galveston....)
I'm not going to Amarillo or Galveston but my sister is coming from Dallas next week, hopefully with my niece in tow. My niece just started her Freshman Year at a good ole Texan university a couple of weeks ago and we're all anxious to hear how college is going. I think my niece is the greatest thing since sliced bread because she's one of the few people in the state who like my strangely-colored handknitted psychedelic socks. I'm currently working on a pair for her in Opal Tiger Rainforest (using Lorna's Laces for the cuff, and later the heels/toes.) I did "baby cables" for the ribbing.
Sigh....I need this knitting as relaxation. Because it's been another long week in the Road Nurse business here in the Wild Wild West--or, deep in the Heart of Texas. Man, that brings to mind another great George Straight song, doesn't it? It's the song that every Texan gets a tear in their eye when they hear--here it is:
The stars at night
are big and bright
Deep in the heart of Texas!!!
But don't forget, you have to sing this song just right. You have to do it the Texan Way---which is that you start each verse's line in a low voice but then YELL OUT the last word read loud-- and you also have to clap your hands at just the right beat before saying the line "Deep in the Heart of Texas!" like so:
The stars at NIGHT!
are big and BRIGHT! (clap clap clap CLAP!)
Deep in the heart of Texas!
And if you're really fired up, you'll STOMP your feet to the same beat that you're clapping. Get a whole bunch of Texans in a bar doing this and it'll bring the house down. And if it's done just right, every Texan in the place, young or old, will be bawling in 10 minutes, ready go out and fight the Alamo all over again.
(And if you really want to impress everybody, do a Rebel Yell real loud at the end: "YEEEEE-HAH!!!!!") (Stick with me when you come to visit Texas---I'll learn ya right!)
Anyhoo, it's been another long week. And I spent it doing my usual-- "riding the roads", seeing difficult patients, and gossiping on the cell phone with Belinda. When we gossip our favorite topic is usually about our "Gripe of the Moment", which means we will spend about an hour at a time, three or four times a day, moaning and groaning about whatever it is that we're pissed off about at the moment, which is usually the fact that we have too many patients to see, over too many miles, in too little time.
Belinda's calls to me usually start right after she's left her office, after getting her day's assignments, and usually go something like this, as was her call to me this morning: "You won't frigging belieeeeve what I've got to do today...."
I don't need to ask because I know she'll tell me as soon as she catches her breath.
"I've got to go draw blood on Ms. Tippercradle--and you know she hasn't GOT A DECENT VEIN IN HER ARMS---and THEN I've got to go ALL THE WAY OUT to that smelly McSwaney chicken farm to get some urine from Mr. McSwaney--and then I've got to go do wound care on Ms. Betterlock's legs....."
But I had her beat. Because I could top her misery.
"So what," I told her blandly. "I have to go admit a new patient to our services and GUESS WHO IT IS?"
"Who?" she asked.
"Somebody we used to have at your company when I still worked there," I teased.
"Somebody who gets pissed off at the drop of a hat over something stupid and then fires the home health nurses, remember? Somebody who once fired us three times in one month---but then would always call back every time and talk the Director into having us re-admit her just when I thought we'd gotten rid of her...."
I was drawing it out to make her curious.
"I give up. Who? Several people fired us over and over whenever they'd get pissed off! So who?? WHO???
"You'll remember this person. She's somebody who had us so convinced that she was blind that we got Legal Services to help her get declared Legally Blind--and then we caught her hand-sewing beads onto her robe without glasses. Somebody who SWORE on the BIBLE that she couldn't see and yet I caught her peeling potatoes using a blunt apple-pearing knife with her left hand while she was watching 'Wheel of Fortune' on the TV--and SHE GUESSED THE PUZZLE correctly. Somebody who SWORE on HER GRANDCHILDREN'S HEADS that she was legally blind and couldn't drive a car--forcing us to have to go get her groceries all the time--and yet she stole a parking place from me one day while driving a CADILLAC in the dang Walmart parking lot!"
And then she remembered. "Oh MY GOD!" she cried. "Not HER!!!!! Not..... Lilly-Jean Blankenship??!!!!"
"Yep," I replied evenly. "T'is true. None other than the Queen of Mean, herself. The Patron Saint of Rudeness. The Princess of Sarcasm. The woman I voted 'Most Likely To Send Me Back To Drinking'...."
"GET OUT OF TOWN!" Belinda laughed. "Oh, Lord have mercy. Better you than me! We got rid of her when she fired us for the umpteenth time. But we thought she was picked up by Company X across town. We wondered whatever happened to her."
"Well, it seems that she fell down and broke her hip. Now she's out of the hospital and can't live on her own anymore. So she's checked into the retirement community on Jaseps Street. The Director over there gives all their home health patients to us, which is just as well because her former home health nurse company won't re-admit anyway. So we've inherited her."
Belinda had to agree that my day was thus worse than hers. And I did have to go over and admit that patient to our company's services. But I didn't feel that bad about having to do it, even though she was, true to form, rude as hell to me. I just did my duty and did the best I could. Because although I dread how she is going to treat us poor Road Nurses in the coming months, I had already vowed that I would be extremely kind to the patient and do my best in the future to give her the best nursing care that I can.
Because.... I have this belief. Which is that I believe.... that surely.....surely.... as God is in Heaven... that if I try to do my best with the sick, then SURELY it might wipe out some of the black marks against my character, right? Do you think? I mean, I'm always on the lookout for a loophole in my account with The Lord.
Because I think I have a lot of "black marks" against me. I've always been known as sort of the "Ace Ventura of Road Nurses". (Okay, of nurses in general.) (Okay, in general....) I'll admit--I've always been rather rebellious, wild, undisciplined, and er...a little crazy. So the way I figure it, perhaps by doing good deeds I can counter-act some of the other stuff. (At least I hope.... )
So my plan is to get some "credit for good behavior" with The Man Upstairs by doing things which come under the category of "Above and Beyond The Call of Duty". That way, when I finally knock on the Pearly Gates, and St. Peter is summoned to do the inevitable "accounting" whereby he adds up the positives and negatives, my positives will outweigh the bad, right?
We can only hope so.....
Did you hear the one about the three nurses who died and went to Heaven? They were waiting in line to get admitted through the Pearly Gates. St. Peter asked the first one: "What did you do that was good enough to get admitted to Heaven?" She replied: "I worked for 20 years in a nursing home, and so I helped humanity." St. Peter looked over her record and finally agreed, letting her into Heaven. Then he asked the second nurse the same question: "Whad di dyou do that was good enough to get admitted to Heaven?" She replied: "I'll have you know I worked for 20 years in an Emergency Room--and so I helped humanity." St. Peter had to agree with that, and so he let her in. Then he asked the third one the same question: "So what was it, sister? What did you do that was good enough to get into Heaven?" She replied: "I worked for a medical insurance company for 20 years, helping people with their insurance claims. I've definitely helped humanity." St. Peter thought about this for a minute--and then he finally said: "Okay, you've proved your point. You can enter Heaven......but your insurance plan says you can only stay for five days."
Anyway, being a Road Nurse has meant that I've had to put up with a lot of crap from my patients sometimes. Patients are human, of course, and that means they are not all "nice people". Some of them are mean, cruel, rude, and manipulating. Some of them treat nurses like we're Room Service at the Holiday Inn. Some of them treat us like slaves. Some of them treat us like idiots.
I don't really mind the mean and rude behaviors--because I simply chalk it up to someone who doesn't feel very well taking it out on me. And that's okay. In those cases I just bite the bullet and be as pleasant as I can, knowing that I'm doing it for a greater cause. I know that I am doing it for The Lord, or My Road Nurse Company, or The United States of America, or so that I can stay longer than five days in Heaven, whatever.
But I do get irritated when patients treat me like I'm an idiot. I mean, do they REALLY think I believe every one of their fibs and lies? I mean, sometimes I'm just dying to say COME ON, people!....I wasn't born yesterday! Give me a little credit for God's sakes. I would rather have a patient tell me an ugly truth than insult me by telling me a beautiful lie. I can respect the truth. Hell, I myself don't always take my blood pressure pill the way I'm supposed to. And I cheat on my diet, eating what I'm not supposed to eat--just like the next person, you know what I mean, here?
And speaking of patients treating me like an idiot, I've gotten pretty good at spotting a liar. I've been a nurse a long time and let me tell you, I can spot a lying patient from 15 yards away in the dark. I can tell from the first four words coming out of their mouth whether they're lying or not. And not only that, but I'm am absolute CHAMPION at keeping a straight face when a patient lies to me. Poker players have NOTHING on me. Because I have honed myself a fine talent for keeping a "concerned, trusting, expression" on my face to a fine degree NO MATTER WHAT ridiculous, untruthful, whopper of a lie a patient attempts to tell me. I have never once fell over backwards in astonishment, laughing hysterically while hollering: "GET THE HELL OUT OF TOWN, I DON'T BELIEVE THAT FOR ONE RED MINUTE! NEXT YOU'LL PROBABLY TRY TO SELL ME DRY LAND IN THE BAYOU!" to a lying patient---never once, I tell you.
In case you wonder what a nurse might REALLY be thinking when a patient lies, here's a few examples:
Patient: "Yes, Nurse, I've been taking my medicine EXACTLY like the doctor told me. The reason my blood pressure is high today is because I had three hushpuppies from Catfish King last night for my birthday dinner."
What I'm Really Thinking: Do I have "Stupid" stamped on my forehead? Your blood pressure has been elevated for the last 4 weeks. Your blood pressure is so damn high that you might as well be eating 7-course meals from Catfish King, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Baskin-Robbins 342 Flavors for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while you're smoking 8 packs of cigarrettes a day to boot!
Patient: "No, Nurse, I haven't cheated on my diabetic diet. I have only eaten what I'm supposed to."
What I'm Really Thinking: Do you think I'm BLIND and can't spot those two coconut creme pies sitting right there, big as you please, on your stovetop? Saran Wrap is SEE-THRU, Dumb Dora! And don't think I can't see the 'Chips Ahoy' bags on top of the cabinet, either. And I'll bet you a zillion bucks that there's a gigantic banana pudding in your frig.
Patient: "Now, I hope you nurses aren't going to get all grouchy about me forgetting to take that diuretic pill--I don't like taking it because it makes me have to go to the bathroom every 5 minutes. I'm thinking of calling the doctor to complain about you nagging me so much."
What I'm Really Thinking: I've already beaten you to the punch, baby. I have your doctor's number and I'm not afraid to use it. And I've already called and told him that you haven't been taking that damn water pill and that it's just a matter of time before you end up in the Emergency Room in cardiac failure. And his exact reponse to me was: "For God's sakes, she drives me NUTS every time she comes to the hospital--PUH LEEZE get that woman to take her goddamn diuretic pill so I don't get a dadblame ulcer!"
Patient: "I have no earthly IDEA why I fell in the middle of the night and sprained my ankle. I think I'm having dizzy spells from this blood pressure pill--yes, that's it--and maybe I just need a better walker so I don't stumble."
What I'm Really Thinking: I saw those three empty whiskey bottles in your trash can and I know damn well that you're drunk as a skunk every night! THAT's why you've fallen 4 times in the last year. A walker isn't going to help if you're so drunk you can't hold onto the durn thing--in fact, I think that the "Old Fart Police" ought to pull you over and arrest you for DRUNK WALKERING!
Speaking of drinking. I was completely CRACKED UP this week when I read in the newspaper that one of the "crimes" committed over the weekend was an arrest made by the police of a "person, under the influence of alcohol, who was riding a horse and howling at the moon." HEE HEE!!!! Drunk on a horse! Cracks me up.
Okay, I'll admit it...my smart-ass thinking immediately went to wondering what that particular crime should be called-- "Riding Under the Influence"???? And if one was convicted of that crime, then what would the penalty be?--mandatory attendance at a seminar given by an organization called Cowgirls Against Drunk Horseback-Riders?
Okay, okay--don't slap the bejeezus out of me--because I'm NOT making light of drunk driving and all that, okay? But I am laughing because it only PROVES MY POINT that not much has changed around here since the turn of the century. People here still wear cowboy clothes and ride on horseback a lot of the time. And I guess it only follows that if you're riding horses a lot that you might end up going to a bar on horseback. But since a horse is a vehicle, then a rider should be responsible and not "operate that vehicle" in a state of drunkenness, right?
Therefore, we can only hope that next time that guy goes out drinking on horseback that he will make sure that he first secures a....DESIGNATED RIDER, hee hee!!!!! (Sorry--couldn't resist.... okay, okay, I'll straighten up and fly right here...) (Before someone slaps the bejeezus out of me.....) (I HATE getting the bejeezus slapped out of me....)
Here's a horse friend of mine, named Beulah, but she's grouchy today. I told her the least she could do is smile when she gets her picture taken. She's pissed off because there hasn't been any rain in this part of Texas for a LONG TIME and so there's a shortage of lush green grass--it's all sparse, dried up, and yellow, as you can see from the pic. There's even been stories of people losing livestock because of the drought. (Let's pray for rain....)
Anyhoo, speaking of horses, guess what? To my delight, I found some pictures of what Road Nurses used to look like in the olden days! And you just won't believe it! My God, those women were AMAZONS! They are my NEW IDOLS! Because.....THEY RODE HORSES!
Yes, it's true. Here's the scoop:
It seems that the history of Road Nurses started back in the 20's when there were no Interstate Highways, Jeeps, or Dairy Queens to make Road Nursing in rural areas easy. Not only that, but there was also a complete lack of doctors in the wilderness. Most states had little or no medical resources outside the big city. So finally, individual states began forming "public health" nursing organizations to provide visiting nurses for people out in the farmlands, wild areas, and mountainous regions.
Many of these nurses were also midwives. They would go out into the countryside to deliver babies, immunize people against smallpox, and provide medical care to farmers, miners, ranchers, and whoever else had the bad luck to be located a zillion miles from the nearest doctor. Gradually, these organizations evolved into the home health nursing organizations we have today.
But I was FASCINATED when I read about one neat lady, Mary Breckinridge. And what I read about her made me vow NEVER to curse my Jeep, the weather, or the Interstate highway again. Here's why: In 1928, Mary Breckinridge began the Frontier Nursing Service in Kentucky. (Hey, a fellow southerner!) She wanted to provide visiting nurses for midwifery reasons. Because before that pre-natal care and childbirth assistance was primitive to zero in remote, rural areas. Little was known about modern medicine and there were absolutely no physicians nearby. Women usually had their babies while sitting on their husband's lap or on a chair with the bottom cut out.
Using her own money, Breckinridge formed the Frontier Nursing Service, in which trained nurses would travel to their patients on horseback. Her motto was that no home was too remote. The Frontier Nursing credo was that "if the father could come for the nurse, the nurse would get to the mother-- even if the terrain became to difficult for horses and the nurse had to finish the journey on foot". (Good Lord...)
And nobody was ever refused service for lack of money. History documents for the Frontier Nursing Service's finances state: "Although no needy person was ever refused service, she charged a minimum of $2.00 a year for general medical care and $50.00 for births -- payable in money, eggs, guns, whatever..."
(Woops, you can tell it was Kentucky and not Texas because there's no Texan in his right mind who'd part with a working gun....)
And apparently, this lady never called in sick. It is recorded that even when she was "crippled and in constant pain from a riding accident", she fiercely continued her work. As the FNS grew, Breckinridge became a non-stoppable fund raiser as she traveled the country speaking about the Kentucky mountains and the remarkable people who lived there. Breckinridge raised $6 million dollars in donations which she used to support her work and build the Frontier Nursing School of Midwifery in Wendover, Kentucky. Today, this school is one of the most respected midwifery schools in our country. Though Mary Breckinridge died in 1964, her story still lives on through the people she touched and their children and their children.
GOOLLLLEEEE GEEEE!!!!! I can't even imagine what life would have been like for those poor nurses who had to ride horses in order to see their patients. Here's a pic from the Frontier Nurses archives so we can imagine it a little bit:
Are they awesome or what? When I saw this picture I immediately thought of the last "group picture" for my company--and I was humbled beyond words. What a difference! Because for my last company picture, me and my igdity cohorts stood out on the street in freshly starched uniforms next to our air-conditioned SUV's, griping about gas prices. Makes me ashamed! I look at the picture of the Frontier Nurses and I just want to say: Yeehah and Giddy-up, gals!
Can you just imagine their day-to-day problems? Not only did they have to saddle up dusty, grouchy horses every morning and ride them through miles of God-Knows-What ground conditions and weather, but they had to perform all the daily care for those horses, like feeding them, watering them, clothing them, etc. (Maybe not "clothing" them, but at least "shoe-ing" them, okay?)
I mean, they really had it rough. And I have it so easy compared to them. For example, here's my "horse" (and it ain't named "Beulah".....)
(Nor does it respond to "Giddy-Up"....but it does respond to Valero Super Unleaded....)
And don't you just know that those poor horse-mounted nurses didn't have all the the nice, packaged, disposable supplies that Road Nurses carry nowadays. Heck, you should see what I carry on the road--it's all sorted out into various bags and tackle-boxes for ease in carrying:
The amount of medical supplies I carry in the back my Jeep today would rival a hospital emergency room: I have everything I need for starting IV's, drawing blood for labwork, transporting that blood to the hospital, performing complicated wound care, inserting and changing urinary catheters, puring liquid down feeding tubes, syringes for injections, stethoscopes, glucometers to check blood sugar, machines to check blood coaguation times, you name it.
Here's my blood-transport bag for when I draw somebody's blood for labwork and then have to take it to the hospital. Medicare regulations require that blood be transported in specific "Haz Mat" type containers. (I like the thing because it looks so "official"--and I can walk into hospitals pretending that I'm carrying organ-transplant donations--which makes me feel important....) (Okay, I'll admit here that I can't help it but I'm always tempted to "accidentally" drop the thing on the Emergency Room floor and yell: "DURN IT! I SURE HOPE THEM KIDNEYS ARE ALRIGHT IN THERE!!!!" )
But actually, I also need to mention that I'm never without the most IMPORTANT piece of equipment that was invented in the 21st century for Road Nurses, which are these:
Yep---a jumper cable. That's one thing about modern Road Nursing in a Jeep that's waaaay better than being on horseback. If it breaks down, there's alternatives. In the old days, they used to shoot the poor horses who finally wore out. But these days there's jumper cables.
Because you can't shoot a Jeep that's down, but you SURE AS HELL can jump the dang thing with a jumper cable, know what I mean?
(Where was I? Oh yes.....the Frontier Nurses on horseback.....)
Anyway, I'll bet those horseback-riding nurses in the 20's and 30's probably didn't have very many decent medical supplies. I would imagine that they had very little except for soap, water, string, and towels Which makes me feel like a WIMP for all the complaining and bitching I do to Belinda every day!!!!
So....I have made a VOW to stop griping about the little stuff I have to deal with. I have decided to try and be more like the Frontier Nurses. They are now my new IDOLS. I figure that it's the least I can do. So I am going to stop griping about the discomforts of being a Road Nurse in the 21st century. And I figure that if I act like a Frontier Nurse then it might garner me a few more points in my bid to get a "good rap sheet" at the Pearly Gates.
In fact, I already started reminding my buddies how lucky their lives are. Today, when Belinda called me on the cell phone for the umpteenth time to gripe again about having to go see that patient on the smelly chicken farm outside of town-- because she hates walking through the inevitable chicken poop-- I replied this time: "Aren't you glad you don't have to go out to that smelly chicken farm on horseback? Because then you'd get chicken poop in your horse's shoes as well as your own."
Later, my LVN was griping to me about how irritated she was to have to make two trips to the grocery store to pick up the correct brand of enema for one of her patients. I had a sage comment ready. "Be glad you didn't have to make two trips to the grocery store on horseback," I told her.
And later in the afternoon, the on-call LVN got mad because she found out at 5-minutes-to-closing that she was going to have to make an unexpected after-hours visit to see a patient in a town 18 miles away. "Just think," I told her as she angrily flounced around the office slamming things into her nursing bag for the trip, "If you were a Frontier Nurse you'd be leaving after dark for an 18-mile trip on horseback-- instead of in your Ford Explorer with its leather interior...."
"Would you just shut the hell up about being a nurse on horseback?" she exclaimed, flinging a urine specimen cup into her bag.
"Well, I DECLARE but SOMEBODY's sure in a Pure-Dee snit!" I huffed.
I comforted myself with the thought that maybe SOME PEOPLE don't care about spending more than 5 days in Heaven, but I SURE DO.....
Source of information/pictures on the Frontier Nursing Service: Wilkie, Katherine Elliot. Frontier Nurse: Mary Breckinridge. Frankfort: Frankfort Historical Society, 1992. Potter, Eugenia K. Kentucky Women Two Centuries of Indomitable Spirit and Vision. Louisville, Four Colour Imports, 1997. Breckinridge, Mary. Wide Neighborhoods: A Story of the Frontier Nursing Service. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky 1981. Frontier Nursing Service, Inc132 FNS Drive, Wendover, Kentucky 41775606-672-2317.
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