Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"So Are Ya Chicken, McFly?"....

*

Whoooo-ho--We're halfway there,

Whoooo-ho--Livin' on a prayer,

Take my hand,

We'll make it, I swear,

Whoooo-ho--Livin' on a prayer....

*

("Living on a Prayer", Bon Jovi)

*

*

The above picture is a Podunk Weather Alert.

Because when most of the stupid cows start laying down, it means rain. (Versus if just one or two stupid cows are laying down due to laziness.)

) The below picture is not a Podunk Weather Alert. It is a picture of a sneaky, asshole bull who has held a grudge and had it in for me ever since I hollered: "SHUT THE HELL UP!" at him last year after he stomped the ground, flared his nostrils, and rudely bellowed at me.

Anyway, true to the Podunk Weather Alert, (sometimes called "Cows-Down Sign"...) it did rain---and rained----and rained. It rained for days. It rained so much that I thought it would never stop and we might have to start building an ark.

But finally one morning, the rain stopped. And I was very gratified to see the sun finally come out. And on that particular day, I had just finished up all but one of my day's load of patient visits and was about to head for the last one, where I was to meet Bonnie.

The reason for meeting Bonnie there was because I felt it necessary for two people to be present for safety reasons.

Our company had recently taken on a rather troubling patient, a man named Mr. Kessel. He had recently suffered a stroke and was, supposedly, unable to walk or function well enough to take care of himself. He had no relatives willing to help him and his only support was a next-door neighbor who would bring him food once a day. He was a very hostile man and frequently cursed quite nastily at us nurses and the home health aide who came three times a week to give him a bath.

What was even more troubling about his case was that we nurses and the bath aide had all seen that Mr. Kessel really COULD walk. But for whatever reasons, he simply chose not to walk and thus would mostly stay seated all day long in a recliner chair--- for days on end--- pooping and peeing in his pants or else in the numerous trash buckets surrounding his recliner chair.

Whenever a nurse or the bath girl arrived, he was always covered in his own feces--- from his thighs clear up to his chest. The recliner chair would be saturated in poop and pee, and the surrounding trash buckets would be literally overflowing with pee and leftover food containers. The rest of his house was equally squalid and filthy---because this man also had a dog--- which he never allowed out of the house.

Thus, Mr. Kessel's home's carpet and floors were totally covered in the dog's poop and saturated with dog pee.

Road nurses are used to encounters with homes that are dirty---but this putrid filth was worse than anything we'd seen in awhile.

The poor home health aide who had to bathe him three times a week would dutifully clean him up as best as she could, despite the surrounding human and animal waste. But one day Mr. Kessel became so hostile and threatening to her that she came back to office in tears to inform me that she would never again go see him.

She stated that he had accused her of "abusing his penis" during a bath, and that he'd said he was going to "notify the authorities" of her "abuse". When she left, he was screaming at the top of his lungs at her, hollering: "You'd better expect a phone call from the police, you bitch!"

Of course, it was a falsehood that she had "abused" him, but the girl was frightened out of her wits because there were no witnesses to back her up if, indeed, the guy actually carried out his threat. She also stated that it made her nervous that he had a shotgun and a lot of ammunition in his living room.

The shotgun and ammunition didn't really worry me. Hell, this is Texas. Everybody and their brother has shotguns and ammunition in their homes. But I did speak to the owners of the company about my concerns for the other serious issues about this case.

I told them that we really needed to call Adult Protective Services about this man's situation. Because it was quite obvious that he needed mental help as well as a caretaker. I told them that anybody who CHOOSES to sit in poop and pee all day is simply not "right" in the head. I felt that he was in such a severe depression that he was most likely becoming irrational----and immobile as well, since he absolutely wouldn't budge from that chair, even though he was perfectly able to get up and walk to the bathroom.

And also, the abhorent state of his home showed that he was obviously unable to care for himself or his dog. I didn't think that a lone neighbor bringing take-out food to him once a day was enough to meet his physical, medical, emotional, or safety needs. I knew that without some kind of intervention, Mr. Kessel would only deteriorate, both physically and mentally. Having worked for both mental hospitals and psychiatric road nurse companies before, I also knew that severe, untreated depression can cause some people to develop actual psychosis---and that he might eventually become a danger to himself or others, since depression and psychotic thoughts can sometimes cause a person to harbor suicidal or homicidal thoughts.

But when I told the owners of my concerns and desire to notify APS, they got testy--- and huffily declared that it was NOT necessary to "call in the APS". They stated strongly that our road nurse services were sufficient to help this man--- and that his "cussing" towards our staff was just the harmless bluster of an angry old man who was "mad at the world" for having suffered a stroke recently.

"Look," I told one of the owners. "There's something else. And I can't explain it---but I've got a bad feeling about this guy. I think his mental problems are probably deeper than what we can even see on the outside. His anger level worries me."

But the owner wouldn't budge. She refused to allow me to call APS.

Although it went against my better judgement, I reluctantly aquiesced and allowed the owners to have their way---even though I knew in my heart that the REAL reason they didn't want APS called was because if that agency took over Mr. Kessel's case, then there would be a good possibility that our company would lose him as a patient---which meant lost revenue, of course.

And as I've told you before, road nurse companies are notorious for keeping their patient census numbers as high as possible--- and their nursing staff numbers as low as possible---at ALL cost----the reasons being the Almighty Dollar....

But I did tell the company owners that I would heretofore require that TWO employees go see this man instead of just one. I wanted there to be a witnesss in case he accused somebody else of "penis abuse"----or any other kind of abuse--- again. This decision irked the owners but I didn't care.

So on this first sunny day after the rains, I was headed to do a nurse visit on Mr. Kessel---and I had arranged for Bonnie to meet me there to be the "second person".

But while I was driving out to the man's place, the office called me on the cell phone. It was the secretary.

"Hey Bo," she said. "I know you're probably tired, and that you've still got to meet Bonnie over at Mr. Kessel's--- but Mrs. Tomlinsom called about a problem with her wound vaccum. She said that the air seal on the dressing must have sprung a leak because the vac's been beeping the 'alarm' bell like crazy for the last 2 hours. She had to turn the vac off so she wouldn't go nuts with that constant alarm sound. I know it's late, but could you go over there after you see Mr. Kessel and either patch the leak or change the whole dressing out?"

"Yeah, I'll do it," I replied reluctantly. "That is...God willing and the creek don't rise."

I really didn't mind the extra trip because I knew that a wound vaccuum's suction is supposed to stay on continuously to prevent the wound's spongey-dressing from getting too saturated with serous drainage, pus, or blood---the pooling of which could breed infection. Even a few hours with the vac's suction turned off could cause infective bacteria to start multiplying like crazy---and I also knew that Mrs. Tomlinson's wound was already infected. I didn't want it to get worse, so I didn't mind going out and fiddling with the wound dressing or the vac in order to get the whole drainage system back into proper working order.

Anyhoo, so I headed out to Mr. Kessel's to meet Bonnie. She was parked by the pond in front of his house and then we both drove up his dirt driveway together. Mutually dreading the smell, we entered his home. Sure enough, he was filthy---mired in poop and pee. I turned to look at the surroundings just in time to witness his dog take a big poop on the carpet in the hall. The smell was horrendous.

I asked Mr. Kessel if Bonnie and I could help bathe him either before or after our nurse assessment, but he refused. So we performed our nursing assessment of him. His vital signs were stable and he seemed in no distress. But while Bonnie and I questioned him about his physical status, I was also silently performing a "mental status" assessment. I was hoping to get a more clear picture of his mood and thought processes. Yet he answered all the questions with clarity and logic---and thus, I saw nothing peculiar or even reportable to the doctor.

But my "intuition" kept nagging at me...

Finally, when Bonnie and I were finished assessing him, I reminded Mr. Kessel that we would both be back to do his next visit the coming Monday. He simply nodded. So Bonnie and I left. She was headed back to the office to do paperwork, and I headed towards Mrs. Tomlinson's place, a ranch about 14 miles away.

As I turned onto the country road which led to her ranch, I made my first critical mistake.

As I approached and then crossed a small bridge over a creek, I noticed that there was quite a bit of water in the road.

"Well what do you know..." I thought to myself. "The dang creek really DID rise! HEH! I ought to call up the secretary and say I can't do the visit!"

I snapped a few pictures, just because that's what I do----I snap pictures of wherever I go on the road. Plus, I thought I might show the secretary the pictures later while making a bad joke about how the "creek DID rise". And so, chuckling to myself, I drove through the water.

And then I made my second critical mistake....

I had neglected to pay close enough attention to the water in the road. If I had, I would have seen the ominous sign.... Because this was NOT just standing water from a slightly overflowing creek----this water had a definite moving current.

But onwards I plunged, blithely oblivious to anything but the silly pleasure of watching the water spray out from under the Jeep's wheels in high streams on each side of the Jeep as I jammed my way through. (Hey, it gets boring on the road sometimes--- and so splashing one's way through some stupid water on the road can become an exciting "interlude" sometimes....) Anyhoo, I also took some more pictures. (Yes, I know it seems ridiculous to take pictures of water on the road, but I have never claimed to be sane. )

And, as I'm wont to do when I'm recklessly driving fast over hill and dale, and even though nobody would hear it, I amused myself by revving the Jeep up, making water fly out even higher on my right and left---and I took a try at my Rebel Yell----YEEEEEEE---HAAAHH!!!

(And if I do say so myself, I think I perform quite the good rendition of the Rebel Yell. Must be the Texan blood in me. )

After coming through that first area of water, I drove on dry road for awhile---and then I suddenly came upon a gridlock of vehicles. What's this? I asked myself. Why in the hell are these people stopping on the road in the middle of nowhere?

And then I saw it. More water in the road. And it was deeper than the piddly few inches that I'd just passed through a few hundred yards behind me. And this time I DID take notice of something I'd missed before----I finally noticed that there was a current to the water. In fact, the current was rather ......uh....rapid.

Since I couldn't go forward because of the stopped vehicles, I got out and took some more pictures, still thinking that the water on the road was probably just the result of the many creeks in the area rising a bit from all the recent rains.

I still didn't "get it"!!!

I strolled over to a nearby pick-up truck and asked the male driver: "What's the trouble?"

His truck sat higher off the ground than my Jeep. And I noticed that he had been staring intently at the water before us. And I also noticed that he was not making moves to turn his vehicle around like the smaller cars were.

"Flash flood," he stated simply. "And the water's moving pretty fast. See over there in that pasture how those cows are moving back? That's because the flooding is widening. The low-to-the-ground cars are going to turn back because they know that they'll never make it through this up yunder."

(Hickese translation: "Up yunder" means directly in front of you---but the distance is variable...)

The man was dead right. The flooding did look like it was widening. And the sedan type vehicles in front of us were all turning around and going back the other direction.

After the man in the pick-up truck spoke, I grimly realized that I'd been careless and stupid. I had completely ignored the hallmark signs which herald a flash flood---one of which was occurring right before our very eyes as result of the recent heavy rains.

It's a rare occurrence in these parts but it is an extremely dangerous event when it happens. That is because most people don't realize that a flash flood can happen rather quickly, surprising all drivers in its path. They forget how the depth of the water and the strength of its current can make for dangerous---even deadly---driving conditions.

Shit, I thought. All these years I've ignored the National Weather Service's flash flood warnings, and now I'm caught on a dry spot right in the middle of one. I mentally asked myself what to do. I was torn between the desire to push on and take care of Mrs. Tomlinson--- or turning back and calling it a day, putting off Mrs. Tomlinson's visit until the next day.

The reason for the National Weather Service's warnings of flash floods during or after heavy rains is because the depth of a flash flood's water on roads can be deceptive to the naked eye. And this frequently gives vehicle drivers a false sense of security. They see what they think is just a few inches of water on the road and plow right into it, never realizing that it's deeper than it looks, and that it takes less than two feet of water to cause a vehicle to be floated right up off of its wheels----and then carried off within the water's strong current--- along with other debris in the flood's path, towards who knows what dangerous situation.

I tried not to think of the statistics for how many people drown in flash floods each year....

And I knew I should turn around. And as my brain pondered this dilemma, I vaguely remembered the NOAA National Weather Service's very solemn advice to drivers in such circumstances----which is to " Turn Around and Don't Drown".

However.....

Road nurses are habitually and fearlessly reckless on the road. The road is our lifeblood. It is our bread and butter. We drive for hours, week after week, day by day, year by year. And patients in rural areas depend on us and our sturdy, 4-wheel drive SUV's, which are able to navigate the rough terrain, rock dirt roads, and cattle pastures. The only real thing road nurses are afraid of is an ice storm. But we'll foolishly brave those as well. (Remember last year when me and another road nurse hit the same patch of ice on the Interstate and each did complete 360-degree whirl-arounds before coming to a halt in a nearby ditch?)

Flash flooding happens when rain has so completely saturated the ground that the water can't drain out through the already overflowing creeks fast enough, thus causing the water to spread out into the surrounding countryside. The flooding can widen..... and widen....and widen....all in a short period of time, sometimes within just a matter of an hour.....or even minutes.

But I HAD to get to my patient, dammit.

"Well damn," I said to the pick-up truck driver, as we watched the last of the other vehicles turn around and go back. "I know it looks a little bad, but I've got to get through this. I'm a road nurse and I've got to go see a patient out a little further. I know my Jeep can take this water---especially since my Jeep's specifically made for bad road conditions. It's got drains in the floorboard just in case water gets in."

"My truck's chassis is pretty high---so I think I can get through as well," he replied. "I'm game if you are...."

And so we went. Me first with him following behind. We drove slowly and carefully since this water was much deeper than the last patch. But we had no problems and soon reached dry ground again.

And yes, of course, I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures. I know he thought I was crazy. (But what else is new? Everybody in this area thinks I'm crazy for taking pictures of everything I see on the road...)

After we reached dry ground, I kept on going. I made it to my patients's ranch and the first thing Mrs. Tomlinson did was exclaim loudly: "My lands, child! Are you plum crazy? What in the tarnation are you doing coming out here at a time like this? Didn't you hear the report on the radio? There's a flash flood filling the low ground and the roads, too. Don't you know that the water will continue to rise? You'd better turn around right now and and get out of here while you still can. Heck fire, I wouldn't have called about the wound vaccum problem if I'd known about the flood. I only heard about it just a few minutes ago."

I admitted that she might be right about the water continuing to rise----while silently cursing my habit of driving while keeping my iPod headset blasting music into my ears, hence forgoing listening to the Jeep's radio. But one thing I knew for sure was that I couldn't leave her wound dressing in a stagnant condition with the suction turned off. I knew that even one night with no suction from the vac could severely worsen her wound's infection and screw up all the progress we'd made on its healing in the past few weeks.

"Don't worry about me," I told her. "Just let me do this quickly and then I'll high-tail it out of here."

And so I hurriedly assessed the wound and it's dressing. Thankfully, I soon found that the problem was a slight pin-prick hole that I was able to find with my stethoscope by listening carefully, inch by inch over the entire dressing, listening for the tell-tale "hiss" of an air leak. When I found it, I quickly patched the spot with some leftover wound vac "drape", a heavy occlusive dressing which maintains a tight air seal around the wound's dressing. Then, with great trepidation, I flipped the "ON" switch of the wound vac.... and.....VIOLA! The vac came on and indicated an "intact" seal and, thus, the machine was once again able to suction properly.

I then made my hasty goodbyes and ran out to the Jeep to head for home. I drove like a bat out of hell, back to the only road which would lead back to Podunk.

And then I came upon a log-jam of vehicles in the road again. And that was because there was more water....deeper water.....dangerous water.

Sure enough, in the last 30 minutes, the flood had widened in area. The cows were still moving back towards a nearby hill of higher ground---- and I knew in my heart that the water's depth was most likely deeper than it had been 30 minutes before---and most likely covered a longer piece of the road as well.

I also noticed worriedly that the water's current had become stronger. Now the current was so strong that it was actually dragging tree branches and other flotsam and debris with it. I craned my neck to see where the road flooding ended---but I could not see a dry point for as far as the eye could see.

Now I was starting to get worried...

This time, the sedan vehicles were not even hesitating---they were turning back in droves. I even saw some SUV's turn back. I moved the Jeep over to the side of the road to give them all plent of room to leave the area.

But I saw a nearby vehicle, a large Jeep Cherokee, idling at the water's edge, not moving----and I correctly figured that the driver was trying to calculate his chances of getting across this new hazard. I got out and went over to the driver to discuss the situation. He was calmly staring at the water.

But before I could speak, and without looking at me, he spoke first, as if he knew what I was thinking.

"Nope," he stated simply. "This isn't good. And I ain't gonna go through that. And you'd best turn around as well, little girl. Our Jeeps jest ain't high enough off the ground. If we try it, we'll float for sure."

Sassily, I replied: "But I don't WANT to turn around, dammit. I've GOT to get home." But I did turn and look more closely at the water, trying to guage it's depth, and trying also to appear fearless--- yet admitting in my brain's deepest fears that it did.... uh....look kind of ....dangerous....

We were both quiet for a minute. And then, with a what I hoped was my best poker-face smirk, I added: "I bet I can do it...."

"You're a fool if you try it," he declared, still staring at the water.

Now, allow me to let you in on a little shameful secret about my personality----I have a fatal flaw in that I love challenges. And that idgity guy calling me a fool about what I thought I COULD or COULD NOT do in my own Jeep was like when Biff accused Marty McFly of "being chicken" in the "Back to the Future" movies.

And furthermore, I thought indignantly, isn't it true that I descend from TWO ancestors who were Pony Express riders in the Old West? I'll bet dollars to donuts that THEY never let a little bit of water keep them from their travels----heck, even horses can swim....

And not only that---but my Jeep is a pretty sturdy vehicle. I've covered a lot of ground in it and it's never failed me yet. Hell, I thought, when I used to work in Dallas I routinely avoided waiting in traffic jams by jumping the curb and illegally 4-wheeling it up 60 degree inclines to reach the off ramp in order to try a faster route to my destianation. I've driven through snowstorms where my high-beams and fog-lights could barely light more than a five-feet area in front of me. I've hidden from Kansas tornadoes and hail storms in underneath overpasses. I've leaped over tall buildings in a single bound (oh no, that wasn't my Jeep, that was Superman---sorry, I got carried away....) But I have gone over tree-trunks and hay bales.

And once, I single-handedly towed my ex-biker husband's broken down pick-up truck through 10 acres of unmowed hay, over umpteen rocks and branches. (Long stupid story---let's not speak of it....)

Where was I?

Oh yes, I was talking to the idgity Jeep Cherokee driver. And I made a decision. I'd show him who was the fool.....

And so I announced my intentions. "Well, you can stay here, Cowboy," I said daringly. "But I'm going in. For one thing, I have got to get home. And for another thing, the Jeep's got water drains and can shift into two kinds of 4-wheel drive on the fly."

For the first time since we'd met, he turned and looked at me. He appeared to be sizing me up. And then he seemed to come to some sort of conclusion---and then suddenly snorted rudely, as if he were big mean Biff and I was wimpy little Marty McFly. But then, to his obvious astonishment, I turned and walked calmly back to the Jeep, climbed in, pulled the door shut with my booted foot, and prepared myself for the plunge.

First, I made sure that none of my nursing supplies or other objects were obstructing the Jeep's floor drains. Then.... I put the Jeep into gear and slowly drove up to the edge of the water line.

And then, after saying a silent prayer..... I started into the water while in first gear. After I reached the maximum depth, I shifted gently into 2nd gear.

As I entered the water, I quickly and uncomfortably realized that the water was a lot deeper than it looked. But I stubbornly kept going forward, knowing the Jeep Cherokee guy was watching me from behind. I vaguely caught myself thanking God that I'd installed tow-hooks and a back tow-bar on the Jeep long ago.

I plowed through the water, staying in second gear, and keeping close to the center of the road. I still couldn't see the end of the flooded area, but I was confident that it simply COULDN'T be that far away.....

And then, suddenly, it happened----the Jeep left the ground. I panicked----and a cold wave of fear flashed throughout my entire body. But then.....just as quickly, I was relieved when my wheels suddenly grabbed the ground again. "Come on baby, come on baby," I muttered to myself.

Quickly, I shifted into 4-wheel drive and continued on. We'll see who's a fool, I was thinking.

But then a few more yards down the flooded road, the Jeep's wheels left the ground again, this time causing the Jeep to float into a slanted position, threatening to turn all the way around in a 360 degree turnabout---but then the water's current caused a large tree branch to butt up against the passenger side of the front fender---causing the Jeep to twirl back towards the center of the road.

I cursed, expecting the worst.....but then the wheels caught the ground again. This time, thinking more clearly, I quickly unstrapped my seat belt and rolled down the driver side window. I knew that if worse came to the worse and the vehicle became submerged, I'd have to eject myself from the Jeep very quickly in the hopes of grabbing onto a sturdy tree.

Um, it was at this moment that I allowed myself to say the F-Word.....and I might even have uttered GD, too......and also, I was glad that I had my red cowgirl boots on because everybody in Texas knows that it is a completely unforgiveable sin to die without your boots on.....

(Okay, I know it sounds unprofessional for a nurse to wear cowgirl boots while on the job, but after all, this IS Texas. And the wearing of thin athletic shoes or other nurse-type footwear while walking through rough pastures loaded with hidden cow pies and other various animals' dung is not only foolhardy but just ASKING for trouble...)

(They're slippery, you know, and simply IMPOSSIBLE to wash out of shoe treads....)

Slowly and carefully, I kept inching forwards in the deadly water, gradually turning the vehicle back to a forwards direction. The offending tree branch had floated off behind me. I wanted to go faster, in order to avoid more moving debris, but I was too nervous that I would hydroplane again and leave the road's surface. I forced myself to keep a steady head and I shakily starting singing a Bon Jovi song, trying to convince myself I wasn't afraid. I told myself over and over in my head----I wasn't afraid...I wasn't afraid.....I wasn't afraid....

I tried to imagine my Guardian Angel flying beside me. Surely he was there, right?

I also thought to myself that nobody would believe me about this whole adventure when I got back to the office. And so I was gratified to remember that I'd taken pictures of it. Because, God help me, I never can resist my everlasting, ingrained habit of snapping pictures of everywhere I go and everything I see.

Onwards I drove, hoping against hope that my wheels would stay on the road's surface and that I would reach dry ground soon. I struggled to maintain control of the Jeep, madly shifting gears, switching the level of 4-wheel drive----and struggling not to think of how embarassed I'd be if I actually drowned in this stupid flood on a perfectly sunny day!

I imagined the newspaper clipping of my obituary: "Local Road Nurse's Jeep Found on the Back Forty of the DeWiddy Ranch---Digital Camera Found Clutched in Her Hand Reveals Bo's Last Road Position Before Being Swept Away...."

Onwards I went.....and I continued my chant...."Go baby, go baby, go baby---don't fail me now....."

And then...... suddenly.....I was on higher ground---and I was out of the water!

My relief was so great that I stopped the Jeep, got out, and took a deep breath----fully realizing that I'd been heart-stoppingly close to being carried away in the flood's current towards who knows where.

There were several cars piled up at the waters edge, facing the same decision I'd just made---whether to try and cross or not. None of them were moving, and most of them were staring at me incredulously. I'm sure they were wondering how the hell I'd made it through. (Okay, I'll say it---they were probably thinking I was a stupid fool---or maybe a Texan Marty McFly....)

And then....I simply couldn't resist.....

I took a stance at the water's edge--- and after shaking my fist at the offending floodwater----I started doing a comical imitation of how body builders flex their muscles in competitions. Then I morphed into what I hoped was a victory dance, holding my right fist aloft in the air, yelling "YEAH, BABY!"

The other drivers continued to stare at me, realizing that I was expressing my relief at making it through a VERY bad situation. I gloried in my moment of triumph, and even began puffing up a little, imagining myself a tough "Marlboro Road Nurse".

"Heh heh," I chortled to myself. "Yeah, buddy. I'm a Marlboro Road Nurse alright, out on the Texan range....yeah, me and my trusty Jeep....we can take anything they throw at us and wipe up the road with it...."

Even though I don't smoke, if I'd had a cigarette right then, I'd have lit the thing and dangled it jauntily off my lip just like the Marlboro man does.....

But my glory was shortlived. Because right then, in the middle of my fantasies of Marlboro Road Nursedom, I saw it----a large snake was slithering its way just inches from my right foot. And I'm deathly afraid of snakes...

"AAAIIEEE!!!" I screeched, and turned on my heel and jumped into the Jeep, slamming the door and peeling out of that spot as fast as I could.

"Dammit!" I thought to myself. "I ruined my damn victory exit!" But I comforted myself with the thought that perhaps the other drivers simply thought my screaming was part of my "victory dance"----or, more hopefully, that they simply figured that some vicious Texan red ants had gotten into my cowgirl boots....

I drove the rest of the way to the office, arriving just minutes before closing time. I resisted the urge to kiss the parking lot's DRY pavement.

When I entered the office, I saw that the secretary and Bonnie were sitting, strangely quiet, at their respective desks. As I walked in and tossed my clipboard of nurse's notes onto my desk, I noticed that they both had very serious expresssions on both of their faces. And I wondered why they weren't getting read to leave, as it was a couple of minutes past quitting time.

"Man, you wouldn't BUH-LEEVE what I just went through," I said dramatically. "There was a flash flood out on Route 4809 but I drove through it anyway---and the water almost carried me away. I thought I was a goner for sure. But I showed all them cowardly, lily-livered drivers what REAL driving is, heh! Yeah, I showed them that the good ole Jeep can outdrive any of.... "

I stopped in mid sentence, bewildered by their continued silence. They just kept staring at me with those weird looks on their faces.

"What's wrong with you guys?" I asked, irritated that nobody was impressed with my adventure. "Man, I almost drowned out there. Didn't you hear about the flash flood? So what in the Sam Hill is wrong with y'all?"

They turned and looked at each other for a second or two---and then the secretary suddenly declared: "You tell her, Bonnie..."

"Tell me what?!" I demanded. "Y'all's eyes are so big and bugged-out that you both look like gigged frogs. What's going on?"

"Bo...." Bonnie ventured reluctantly. "It's about Mr. Kessel."

"What about Mr. Kessel?" I asked. And so she continued.

"That neighbor of his who brings him food just called us...."

"So?" I replied.

Bonnie sighed....and then she spoke again. And as she spoke, my own eyes bugged-out and grew wider and wider---until I, too, must have looked like a gigged frog...

"She said that when she arrived at his house to drop off today's amount of food---that he was holding a pistol. He told her that he'd just finished loading it----and that he intended to use on us when we go back there this Monday."

As the reality of what she had just said said sank into my water-clogged brain, I found that I wasn't even able to say anything worthwhile as a retort. I was only able to simply continue to stand there, as if in a trance, trying to comprehend the fact that I had just been informed that a patient intended to murder Bonnie and me---and that fact shocked the livin' shit out of me.

I simply couldn't comprehend the fact that it was actually possible for a road nurse to get shot dead by a patient. I've been in various kinds of danger before----but never in a patient encounter where the patient actually held the intent to KILL me!!....

And then the next thought that came to my mind was.... that......just perhaps .... a flash flood wasn't so dang frightening after all..... *

* * * *

Post Script No. 1: I was quite embarassed to read up on Texas's flood safety warnings and fatality statistics about Texan flooding situations.. I was further embarassed to realize that I had acted in the EXACT, classic behavior of such fatalities with my logic-blinding desire to "get home" in a hurry.

So here's a road nurse's Public Service Announcement: Take it from me, folks----TURN AROUND, DON'T DROWN!

*

* * * *

Post Script No. 2: While I'm fairly sure that my Guardian Angel WAS actually there, watching out for stupid, idiotic me on that Day Of The Flash Flood along with the imminent threat of "Death By Patient's Pistol" (because who knows---he may have had that pistol nearby and might have chosen to use it that day!), I'm also equally sure that my Guardian Angel has had it with my escapades and has most likely asked for a transfer....like to Houston or somewhere.....

*

* * * * * *

Oh yes, and Post Script No. 3: As I've told you guys time and time again, I DON'T WANT TO DIE AN EMBARASSING DEATH. I don't want to die by alcoholism, idiot stampeding cows, flash floods, or even by a patient's pistol. Dammit, if I have to "go down" in the Line of Duty, I want it to be a situation whereby I die nobly and glamorously--- like in a prison riot or something, where Dog the Bounty Hunter saves me with a Star Wars Light Sabre---and we swing out of danger on a Batman rope, ya know?

(Oh yeah, and in my fantasy of dying "nobly and glamorously", I look like the human version of Jessica Rabbit in the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", even though she's a redhead and I'm a blonde.)

*

* * * *

("Ya hear that, Guardian Angel, wherever you are?")

("What the....who are you? My Replacement Angel? So the other guy finally got his transfer, eh?")

("NO, dammit, I most certainly WAS NOT drinking that day....but I do need a brake job.")

*

*

19 comments:

Gwen said...

I'm glad you're still alive, boots and all. Dramatic story, but only once.

And I'm really glad the neighbor called to warn you about Mr. Kessel's plans.

And who would wear white floor shoes in the field? I don't, and I'm in the city field (the poo piles aren't so big here).

Beth in MN said...

Well, I'm so glad you're OK once again ... you DO push fate, woman!

And secondly, I hope you told your bosses that you (or anyone ELSE) are NOT going out to that guy's house again without the cops going in first!!! Remind them what the publicity is going to do to their reputation and caseload if they recklessly and negligently send some road nurse out there to get shot!

LesleyD said...

OMG!! Have the Neighbor call the owners and tell them that ya'll are calling the Adult protective services on his butt!! Don't put Bonnie or yourself into that unnecessary danger!!! Please BO!!! Floods are one thing but patients are another! Call the police if you have to! That guy is nuts!!!

Bohemian Road Nurse... said...

Oh yeah! We definitely had to discharge Mr. Kessel in a hurry!! We also notified APS (finally!) and also the local Sheriff. The Sheriff then sent a Mental Health Deputy out there and do an assessment on him. (Phew! That was a close one!) (And I haven't heard what the outcome of the Mental Health Deputy's assessment was yet, but I'll let ya know if I hear.)

aj said...

Bo, you're a danged fool for going through the flood - I should know, because I did it once myself. Learn and live.

Mr. Kessel seems to have been dealt with. If not, couldn't you at least call the Humane Society for the dog? Adults have choices; children and animals do not.

Your life is not dull. Hang in there.

mielikki said...

I would have called Animal Control to get the dog (warning them about the guns in the house) then THEY would have probably either called the sheriff, or APS themselves. Money or not, the owners of your company had no right to tell you not to call APS. We have to advocate for our patients.
Glad you, and the Jeep survived the flood! What an adventure.

Warrior Knitter said...

GOOD GRAVY! BO!

You can't have just ONE Guaridan Angel, you must have a freaking platoon watchin' over you.

I'm also glad you're OK!

danielle said...

you dag gum fool!
thank goodness you are allright - but dont go doing somethin that foolish again....my heartw as stopped the whole time...even tho I knew you were ok cause you were writing about it!
And dont you be going out to that patients house without some armed guards (AKA police types) with you since there is already a witnessed threat!

susan said...

shit, bo!
if i lived in texas instead of michigan, i come over to podunk and kick your ass! i'm a former road nurse too and while it's good to take care of your patients, it aint necessary to kill yourself in the process!
as for mr kessel, in michigan it's the law, you have to call aps if you suspect a problem. none of the agencies i worked for would EVER have put profit before staff and patient safety. assholes.
you do write well, though and i was on the edge of my seat!

Bohemian Road Nurse... said...

I totally agree with the fact that a nurse should do her duty and notify APS when she feels she must. And I, too, abhor that local road nurse companies put profit before patients. Unfortunately, to my utter sadness, this area's road nurse companies do just that---and there's never been anything we nurses could ever do but quit to make our point.

(Somewhere back there I've got a posting about a former company in Podunk that me, Belinda and Bonnie all worked for---can't remember the name of the posting---but it talks about our experiences working for that company and how ruthless they were about their finances---and I flatly declare that that particular company committed illegal and unethical practices in the pursuit of high profits.)

I'm kind of sad now, since this case, because I never thought that my current company would be like that---I thought this company was "different". This is the first time I have ever been disappointed by the owners' behaviors and morals.

The owner who had forbidden me from calling APS was quite sheepish when the pistol episode happened. And I hope she thinks about it long and hard----because her own niece has visited that patient. She did make a comment that she would "listen to me" the next time.

When I find out what APS and the Mental Health Deputy from the Sheriff's office did, I'll let you guys know.

susan said...

i did read your post about the previous road nurse company. you just come up here and live, any place that treats nurses like that doesn't deserve them.

i used to think of the line from hill street blues, "let's be careful out there."

try hip waders next time you go flash floodin'.

Beth in MN said...

Sorry to post again, Bo, but I had this ridiculously funny thought tonight, remembering your post, that if you were rated "R" before on that other site, I can just IMAGINE what you're going to be rated NOW, talking about abused penises and all!

Bohemian Road Nurse... said...

Oh Good HEAVENS, Beth! I hadn't even thought about that, hee hee!

Knitting Rose said...

good lord girl. TURN AROUND DONT DROWN!!! I am stubborn and foolish too and would have done exactly what you did and been sorry!!! I will try very hard to LISTEN TO THE ADVICE and NOT do what you did. About Mr.K. OMG!! you said you had a bad feeling about him and you were right. I certainly hope he is taken care of the way he should be. I find it extremely hard to believe that ANYONE wouldn't allow you to call APS over that. IT is a crime in itself. And you should stick by your guns and turn it in anyway. Dont let their love of the almighty dollar turn YOU!! I know you need the job and could get fired - but heck - you almost got fired upon! You are very lucky he didn't have that pistol handy earlier. It is obvious that the stroke did some real damage in his head - not just made him mad. Thank God for the neighbor and thank God for your guardian angel.

poody said...

I hate to say this but as a supervisor I would have chewed your butt out for daring to cross that road! Did you ever call APS on this guy? The bosses should be told you are duty bound to report this. We have a policy on abuse,neglect, and exploitation of pts. at our company.

Ragamuffin said...

I've read your entire blog, Bo, and have to tell you how much I admire your writing abilities but more importantly your ability to take a blow and keep on coming back for more!

As a Christian disabled by severe chronic pain and severe, debilitating depression I am no longer able to work as an RN. Because of the pain and suffering I’ve experienced, I admire (and wish I could be more like) people who are "Overcomers" as it speaks of in the Bible. Their faith is oftentimes tested; it bends but never breaks. When you were raging at the loss of your patients and the baby birds, you spoke of the scripture that says (to the effect) “He will never test you beyond what you can bear”. In the middle of the tears that welled up while reading this, I had to chuckle a little. There have been so many times when I’ve (jokingly?) felt and said God must have mistaken me for someone else since there was NO WAY I could bear the hurt or testing I was going through at the time, yet somehow I did and not at all gracefully!

In my mind, Overcomers are broken people who despite sorrow, pain, loss or other suffering are able to somehow put it back together again and continue "walking the walk", not "talking the talk". Most Christians tend to admire those who've always been blessed, never had worries, never sinned, never been ill, etc, etc, saying what wonderful Christians they are. Yet I believe God has greater love for the person who HAS sinned, who HAS been ill, who HAS worries and despite all of these things is still able to turn to God (even if it's with screams of anger). God's love for the broken-hearted is shown out in the scripture that says multiple times "Blessed are they that overcome". After all, think how much harder it is to live in continuous suffering and still cry out to God then it is to just live a life where everything is hunkey-dorey (as we say in my hick hometown).

I'm sorry this is so long and I'm not wording it very well. I just wanted to encourage you and tell you how much I admire your courage and the love you show your patients. I also love your sense of humor; it’s so quirky! I love it!!! Plus your ability to laugh through your pain is amazing. I believe whole-heartedly you are a true Overcomer and therefore much loved by God. I feel so much for you in the sorrow you feel in relation to your family, your mom and sister especially. I know how terrible it is to be ostracized by those who should love you no matter what you do. You are much in my prayers and I sincerely pray you feel a deep sense of the Lord’s nearness to you in spite of your family’s meanness of spirit. I also thank Him for the wonderful friends you have; what a blessing this is! One thing I found after being diagnosed with severe chronic pain twenty years ago is it made me a much better nurse. I was much more empathetic towards my patients and more grateful for my friends. For this reason, I can say I am thankful for the suffering I’ve been through, tho’ I will admit I didn’t feel this way at the time.

Anyway, I know this sounds overly spiritual. Truly I am very much like you (despite growing up in a fundamental Christian home). I have multiple tattoos, long to ride a Harley, and if I were physically able would be doing as many outrageous things as I could, just to make my family roll their eyes in shame. I wanted to say, too, your knitting proves you are as much an artist as your mom is! I wish I had abilities like that and that I had the courage that so obviously shines out of you. Thank you for sharing yourself with so many. You’ve made me see life differently.

Take care of yourself, my friend. You are well-loved and we couldn’t do without you.
Debbie (aka Ragamuffin)

poody said...

Bo, I do love ya gal! here is a website I am so sure you already have for APS It is so much easier than sitting on the phone forever!

www.txabusehotline.org

Cyndy said...

Your Jessica Rabbit will need cowgirl boots, Bo!

iphone headset said...

Just a heads up in case your readers are interested in replacement iPhone Headsets for their iPhone, iPod, or Mac.