Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Greatest hygienic handicap?

At least as your daughter's doctor views it?.

Hey, at least the doctor is a woman here, which was probably unusual for the times.

The poor, poor patient who is experiencing her...uh...monthy "visitor". She looks just beside herself with period-ness.

I wish I had the luxury of flopping in a chair. The more likely scenario is that I'd be in your face because you moved my chart 5 millimeters to the right.

I guess before the advent of Kotex, women had to use "makeshift, unsanitary" items for their hygenic issues.

Come to think of it, what DID they use?

You know, I don't think I want to know the answer to that after all.

All I can say is that the day Stayfree invented the adhesive strip should be a national holiday.

And don't even get me started on the efficacy of "wings". I might have to pop open a bottle of champagne.

(Oh, and the author of this "article" is Ellen J. Bruckland, Registered Nurse. Remember the name. We will be meeting her a few more times....)


Last night was a bitch.

I've had root canals that were less painful.

It started out bad.

The department was full to the brim, people were in the waiting room, our tech went home sick at 2200 and two hospitals in the county were on ambulance diversion. Okay, business as usual.....

.... but then my glasses broke. Not the nice break that can be fixed with a tiny screw at the earpiece. The frame itself actually broke in the middle of nowhere. It was like my glasses had osteoporosis and spotaneously fractured, with the lens falling out. Now realize, I am as blind as you can be without needing a cane. So here were my options:
  • Function for eight hours with my glasses held together with plastic tape that covered
    50% of my left visual field, making me look like an extra in "Revenge of the Nerds", needing only a pocket protector to complete the look.
  • Wear my prescription sunglasses all night, bathing the ER in a brown tint and making me look like an extra from "Miami Vice" or someone with a chronic migraine, which, by 0800, would have been an appropriate diagnosis.
  • Call my loving husband of 26 years and ask him to run my contacts down to me, allowing me to at least hear report and allow the PM shift to leave on time.
  • Run home and back going 80 mph down the freeway to retrieve my contacts myself, with only 3/4 vision, in the dark, having one co-worker go overtime one hour and ten minutes while I made the trip (I have the timing down to the second). Oh, and by the way, the contacts are not progressives so while I can read the monitor a mile away, I will be charting in an absolute blur, not to mention starting IVs by sticking the angiocath into the depths of the bluish haze running up a forearm.
I chose option number four because hubby would not participate in option number three.

(I am pretty sure that is grounds for divorce in California, but I've invested too much time in the marriage and anyway, I kicked his ass when I got home. It will be a cold day in hell before I get him ibuprofen or Sudafed the next time he's sick. Sorry honey, this nurse is off duty! But I digress.....)

So I run breathlessly back into the unit with my contacts in, my vision worse but my looks enhanced by the absence of frames and high-five my colleagues who are breathlessly running out the door they are so happy to escape.

And for the next eight hours I am running. No breaks. No lunch. No food. No coffee.

Just Diet Pepsi (my addiction always gets fed) and I barely got in a third of that.

For six of those hours, I took care of a patient who had chronic pain exacerbated by a fall earlier in the day.

We are talking agony here, folks. Serious pain. 50/10 on the pain scale. Just the slightest movement set off additional spasms.

Because of various other problems discovered in addition to the pain issue, this patient was a 1:1 for almost my entire shift. The emanations of pain that came from her room were heartwrenching. A family member was present, knowledgable regarding their relative's health issues and an absolute saint in the bargain.

I developed an even deeper respect for my sole co-worker that night, an RN who remembers when she would have 14 patients and would cover the LVN's 14 patients on the floors.

She makes me look like a baby nurse.

She took every other patient that came in that night after our 0330 nurse left. Believe me, they didn't stop coming just because one nurse was busy.

And they were sick, no clinic stuff last night.

Just as we were ready to transfer my patient, the family member expressed concern over a possible need for some respiratory medications and the ER doc added an additional medication for pain, which I gave at that time, so the patient remained with me for another half an hour.

And then it happened.

We were able to stabilize my patient and by the time the patient left the unit, they were smiling and comfortable. They were telling jokes!

We had found the medication combo that stopped the overwhelming aspects of the pain.

The metabolic issue would be addressed after admission, but for now the pain was minimal. I told the patient that it was worth the additional half hour in the ER just to see her looking so good after so much suffering.

I needed to see that.

Maybe it is a selfish thing, but I felt like all the ministrations, medications, repositionings, revitalizing and compassion had made a difference.

I was overtime, finishing the shift with a zombie-like numbness. I checked the glucometer. I ordered the drugs - all night shift duties - while my colleague finished her charting and as I left, the day shift began dealing with the five patients that arrived between 0800 and 0810.

I drove home, took the ibuprofen and valium that I take for the back spasms and body aches that I never seem to feel while I'm working and fell into a sleep so deep my husband woke me up at 1800.

I never even heard the phone when my daughter called for me to pick her up after track practice, so I guess I gotta give the hubby a few props for picking her up when it was my turn to do so....


Tonight, during "American Idol", the contestants were singing songs written by Queen (and I hope you all voted for Taylor!)

I thought Freddie Mercury was a doll and I cried when he died in 1991, but I was never really "into" Queen as a group.

Until tonight.

Maybe it's my frame of mind, but I heard lyrics that reached out and grabbed me by the soul.

I don't want to sound like a drama queen here (no pun intended), but one song hit me in particular, especially considering the day I had just finished. The song is called "The Show Must Go On", written by Queen and sung, of course, by Freddie Mercury:

"Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on.......
The show must go on
The show must go on
I’ll face it with a grin
I’m never giving in
On - with the show -
I’ll top the bill, I’ll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on
On with the -
On with the show -
The show must go on..."

Or these lyrics from "Somebody to Love", again written by Queen, that describe so vividly what it felt like to be going through burn out a few years ago:

"Got no feel, I got no rhythm
I just keep losing my beat
I’m ok, I’m alright
Ain’t gonna face no defeat
I just gotta get out of this prison cell
Someday I’m gonna be free, lord!"

I'll stop here. I don't want to get too self-indulgent. I just can't figure out how this closet rock-and-roll groupie didn't "discover" this band long ago. I just downloaded "Queen's Greatest Hits I and II" from iTunes.

After all, who couldn't love a group who paid tribute to "Fat Bottomed Girls" loooong before Sir Mix-a-Lot came along with his "I like big butts and I cannot lie!" rap.

Now if you will excuse me, I have about 20 years of rock-and-roll catching up to do.....


At 4/12/2006 02:31:00 AM, Blogger punchberry said...

Hi Kim:

I love the vintage ads you put up with your posts, and this one is one of the best!

I read somewhere that maxi pads were invented by World War I nurses, but looked for a reference before posting it in a comment on your blog. Here is one from "Sex Info 101":

Disposable menstrual pads were invented during World War I. The earliest disposable pads were used by nurses working on the battle lines and were made from cellucotton, a fabric similar to gauze that was originally used to bandage wounds. After the war ended, Kotex began selling surplus cellucotton as menstrual pads.

At 4/12/2006 04:57:00 AM, Blogger Robin said...

Sounds like that was quite a night.

Several comments:

1) If you picked the sunglasses option, all the patients would have thought that you were "the cool nurse"!

2) I always liked Queen, but Freddie Mercury himself always struck me as creepy.

3) Did you discover "Under Pressure", the song that Queen did with David Bowie? It's my favourite.

At 4/12/2006 07:05:00 AM, Blogger Bob said...

I guess I've always been at least a little "into" Queen, with my first exposure to them being the videos for "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "The Game" on (Nickelodeon's?) PopClips in the early '80's. Not all of their stuff is "great music," but even their schmaltzy songs, like "Radio Gaga," have a certain drama to them ("majesty" is probably too strong a word). Enjoy!

At 4/12/2006 09:03:00 AM, Anonymous dribear said...

Queen as a group is highly underated. And Freddie, boy that guy had a set of pipes!!!

At 4/12/2006 09:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kim. I love your posts. They make me laugh until I cry. Out of curiosity, how did you get over the burn out phase that you went through a few years ago? I'm going through it a bit myself right now and am interested in how you got through it. Thank you!

At 4/12/2006 02:08:00 PM, Blogger Kim said...

Punchberry!! Thanks for the background, I was too exhausted to do any research, but that is interesting. I'll have to look into what they use these days. If you get a magnifying glass to the ad, it mentions cellucotton!

Robin: I tell ya, I have always found quirky looking guys attractive. Freddie had it all, long hair (for awhile), prominent nose, overbite; all the same reasons I liked Robin Gibb even more than Barry Gibb back in the day. And then one day, I see a Queen video and Freddie is like, totally buff with short hair and a moustache! Still cute. Do you know I never even suspected that he was gay, ever? Same with George Michael (sigh) - I guess I have no "gay-dar". Oh, and guess when I "discovered" Under Pressure? When it was "sampled" by Vanilla Ice on "Ice, Ice Baby". Go figure.

Anon: both times I've had true, actual physical burn out I recovered by switching to a different specialty. The first time was to psychiatric nursing which I did for a little over 2 years before getting the ER bug back. I let the burnout go too long before I did that. Should have done it much sooner.

The second time, I went into an office job doing pediatric advice, which I loved, but got the ER bug back after only 9 months.

So, with the exception of those 9 months of office work, I've been "totally ER" since 1991 and have been able to stave off burn out since then by working part time (24-32 hours a week) and recognizing the symptoms BEFORE they became acute.

At 4/12/2006 04:54:00 PM, Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

Queen's "We are the Champions" was a hit during my 10th grade year I think (?) and we are going to state championships for basketball...heard that song OVER AND OVER! :)

Did you know Freddie was a schoolteacher once upon a time?


At 4/12/2006 05:13:00 PM, Blogger Kim said...

Freddie Mercury taught school? How come I never had any teachers like that? I can't imagine a single male teacher that I had who would have made a good rock star.

Trust me, I would have had the biggest crush on him as a student.

And Sting was a teacher, too! I'm not much of a Sting fan, although I adore the video/song "Fortress Around Your Heart".

I'm wierd. I can dislike a performer like Prince and then absolutely love something they do!

At 4/12/2006 05:56:00 PM, Blogger Nurse2B said...

I loved Queen when I was about 13 or 14 - used to listen to that "News of the World" album over and over, I just loved and still love Freddie Mercury's voice... along with Deep Purple Machine Head, Blue Oyster Cult, and to my everlasting and eternal shame, Kiss.

At 4/12/2006 06:27:00 PM, Blogger Fat Doctor said...

1. I think pre-Kotex women used braided rags. Before cotton, I think it was braided papyrus leaves. I take feminine hygiene very seriously.

2. Queen, yes. Kellie Pickler, no.

At 4/13/2006 01:49:00 PM, Blogger ChiaLing81 said...

Wow, what a night - God bless ER nurses. I can't even imagine at this point what a night like that must feel like. At this point, I'm exhausted after being with only two patients on a 10-hr floor shift (followed by 2-hr postconference and a 1-hr commute home).

Queen - my husband LOVES this group, and turned me on to them. I love Bohemian Rhapsody (always good for EtOH-fueled group karoake sessions!), Under Pressure, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. And Fat-Bottomed Girls! :)

At 4/13/2006 05:20:00 PM, Blogger missbhavens said...

Oh! That old Kotex poster is too much! At the hospital I did my nursing school postpartum rounds they were actually still using pads with belts! BELTS!!! This was 2002!!! Insanity.

You had a hell of a shift, there, half-blind and whatnot...I'm glad it ended with some nursey satisfaction!

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