Friday, March 09, 2007

Nurses -- or -- There goes another fantasy!

MJ, the proprietor of Nurse Ratched's Place, has the best collection of pulp paperback art... and she regularly shares selections with her readers.

Many of these are variations on a theme: The handsome male doctor and the intelligent, independent and entirely desirable nurse....

I didn't fully realize, until my recent hospitalization, that none of these covers feature the beautiful nurse and the aging, but still attractive, patient.


Yes, several of the nurses who tended to me during my recent hospital stay were very attractive. But I was fully cognizant that I was anything but attractive: I had one IV pumping pain medicine into my back, another pumping nourishment into my arm, and a Foley running... well some of you know where these run and what they do.

I don't believe I've ever had the dubious pleasure before; Long Suffering Spouse thought I might have been thus rigged up once before. The human mind can suppress almost anything.

I was extraordinarily concerned about the Foley, particularly after an incident during my last hours in the SICC. I had been able to get from the bed to the recliner in the cubicle and I'd spent a couple of hours vegetating there. This was apparently remarkable progress for one so soon out of surgery and I was praised like a little puppy for it. (No biscuits, though, nothing at all to eat at this point, although I could have coffee or tea in the hopes of stimulating my remaining plumbing out of shock and into operation.)

Anyway, rumors of an available room made it necessary to move me back from the chair to the bed. I was going to have to stand and the recliner's footrest would have to be lowered. Long Suffering Spouse was on my left, a nurse was on my right, and I stood without mishap... but when the recliner's footrest was lowered there was this ominous *pop*... and I looked down....

The tube was disconnected! I didn't know what had popped off; I assumed the worst.

But the nurse did not lose her cool. She immediately figured out the problem, lifted the footrest, moved the offending tubing and restored the status quo ante. There is apparently some sort of snap couple joint where the tubing coming from... you know... joins up with the tubing going to the bag which fills up with... well, the point is, that the rupture had occurred at this joint, and nowhere vital.

Eventually, they were able to coax me down off the ceiling. The Fire Department rescue was cancelled.


Anyone so concerned obsessed with the integrity of his various external tubes was not going to transform into a gowned Lothario when Long Suffering Spouse turned her back. And I didn't smell very good either.

Still, I got along well with the various nurses and nursing students that rotated through. There were a couple of things I noticed: First, there wasn't a whole lot of continuity. I was in a regular room for five days and I did not have the same nurse, on any shift, more than three times. You may be inclined to attribute this to the intervening weekend -- but that's when we finally had our first repeat nurses.

The other thing I noticed was how busy the nurses appeared to be. The frequent intercom calls for "lifting help" at one room and then another were one clue. Then, last Friday, when I went through the accelerated course in toilet re-training, I was instructed to ring for a nurse to come and, uh, inspect my efforts. This did not happen right away (OK, I wouldn't want to go look either!) -- but I was ready to make my next, uh, donation a couple times that day before anyone could get back to me.

That was the longest day for my wife. During the course of the day I figured out how to get into and out of the bed by myself and how to move myself and my equipment to where it needed to be. I had altogether too much practice. By midnight, I'd persuaded Long Suffering Spouse that I could handle it on my own.

And I did... but by the third time I was up on my own that night, I needed to ring for help... just to get untangled. Help was promptly forthcoming on that occasion and deeply appreciated. Necessity will trump modesty any day.


Long Suffering Spouse was concerned that the staff did not appreciate her frequent presence. I said it was just the opposite: She was able to assist me with the unpleasant personal tasks, leaving the staff free to focus on other patients who did not have the advantage.

Long Suffering Spouse did not interfere when the nurses came in to do their things. She got out of the way and only asked if there was anything they needed her to do.

I can't imagine that this would annoy anyone.

I, on the other hand, did annoy one nurse. She was puppy-praising me for cooperating with whatever shots she was then administering. This was nothing special, I said, since I was trussed up in the bed like the Thanksgiving turkey in the roaster pan and she had large needles and other means of enforcing obedience.

Apparently she thought I was suggesting that she would intentionally injure me if I didn't cooperate.

And I suppose I was... as a joke. It wasn't much of a joke to start with, and one I'd assume most nurses have endured before, but this particular nurse's response just killed it entirely.

Nurses: Was I that far out of line? And what do you think of spouses who remain on station as Long Suffering Spouse did for me?


A couple of other observations on the kindnesses shown me by the nursing staff:

I had this tremendous shoulder pain when I was installed in my new room. I attributed it to pulling muscles in the course of my thrashing about trying to find a comfortable position on the undersized SICC bed. The PM nurse in my new room made a couple of efforts to scrounge a heating pad -- one leaked as soon as it was started, creating an electrical shock hazard -- it's eventual replacement never got above room temperature. My wife grumbled that she could have gone across the street to the grocery and procured a heating pad in far less time than we wasted in these efforts.

But, after she left for the evening, I was awakened by a young surgical resident. "I understand you've been having shoulder pain," he said. His "understanding" could only have come from our nurse that evening; she'd sent him in to talk to me about it. He explained that this was a 'referenced pain' -- and if that's not the correct technical term, it's my fault recollecting and nothing else. He explained that the way the body is 'wired' it sometimes sends pain messages from areas that aren't really in pain -- thus the arm pains reported by some heart attack sufferers. The arm isn't really hurting, he said, but the pain in the arm signifies the heart attack for purposes of diagnosis and treatment and is therefore helpful. My pain, he said, could be of this type: Air had to be introduced into my chest cavity in the course of this operation; it would eventually dissipate... but I might experience phantom shoulder pains in the meantime.

I felt tremendously better for having this visit and I'm grateful to the nurse for having set it up.

I was also grateful to the night nurse over the weekend who understood that I needed sleep -- desperately -- and who readily agreed to 'push' the necessary intrusions as far to the beginning or end of the shift as possible. There was no one waking me up to ask if I was sleeping well....


By Saturday afternoon I had been disconnected from enough tubes and wires that I could put on a robe. Long Suffering Spouse accompanied me on a walk around the unit. The nurses' station was not immediately adjacent. The SICC was in one corner of the unit; it seemed a much longer trip from there to my room when I was riding on a bed.

I was greeted enthusiastically at the nurses' station. They told me how much improved I seemed to be. I was indeed improved, now that my south end was no longer facing true north....


Anonymous said...

Welcome back! I was so glad to read the recovering posts you've written. They're a real hoot.
Feel better.
A lurking fan,

Heather said...

Your shoulder was most likely hurting from the CO2 they pumped into your abdomen during your surgery. It is a common post-surgical complaint.

Maybe the nurse you cracked the joke at was having a bad night? I dunno. But I would have laughed and certainly not taken offense if I had been your nurse. :-)

sari said...

Some people probably either don't have much of a sense of humor or maybe just aren't used to hearing it from others.

You sure went through a lot, you and your wife both. I'm glad you got such good care!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

So many interesting things happen in a hospital!

Patti said...

Your sense of humor is the greatest, and the fact that you have maintained it through this most trying time is a credit to you.

You are not really a curmudgeon after all...

Best to you and Long Suffering You-know-who.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

and what is your name curmie? i am so happy that you are progressing nicely! and i agree the arm pain is air inside there that will go away on its own. you know i once read that do it yourself brain surgery book so i ought to know! well, plus the same thing happened to me. keep getting better my friend!

smiles, bee

landgirl said...

Even nurses can have bad days. It is wonderful to hear how considerate you and your wife are in the midst of your own travails. Congratulations on your first post-surgical walk. Didn't it feel just as wonderful as the first few steps you took as a toddler? Keep up the good hard work of convalescence. Best, landgirl

Lahdeedah said...

Your recovering posts are entertaining, but I bet, very helpful for you as well.

I'm glad you're home though! No matter how good the nurses, or the staff, it's just not a comfortable place to be.

Sarge Charlie said...

Best wishes, I have been there and did that, now 6 years later life is good. Get well, that is an order.

Shelby said...

laughing way out loud. This is entirely too funny:) My mom is a nurse and I can assure you from her point of view, your wife's helpful presence was appreciated by the "reasonable nurse standard".

Amazing Gracie said...

Having been hospitalized, I can relate to a lot (except the dreaded Foley!!!). All sense of modesty quickly evaporates in a hospital. Your descriptions are absolutely priceless and should not be read by anyone with stitches!

Anonymous said...

my comment will be long and boring, so i will post it on my blog when i get the chance. as for your obviously speedy recovery, it is great to hear such good news:)


Mother Jones RN said...

I'm glad you're out of the hospital and back home.
Yes, we angels of mercy don't have much time for our patients anymore. Tell LLS that I know the nurses were happy that she was there for you because they always need the extra help.