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They Tell Me It's Nurses' Week
"We go deep, and we don't get no sleep, cuz we stay up all night, 'til the early light."
--Janet Jackson "Go Deep"
"HAPPY NURSES' DAY, BABY!" My mother, who has yet to learn her time zones, has called me at still-dark o-clock, the day before Nurses' Day.
It is dark, I hate life, and my manners are brewing at Starbucks. "Several things, Marcella," I begin. "It is not Nurses' Day. I don't go to the hospital today, and it is still dark." I hate my Droid for ringing, myself for answering, and my mother for not acknowledging the west coast as being three hours behind the east coast--in no particular order.
"Still...it's soon, though right? Anyway, I don't want anything, just go back to sleep."
Sure, because that's possible. "Birdie, you might as well continue, I'm up now."
Today it is about Alaska, and all the things she's sure I haven't done in preparation for a trip still three months in the future. But now that's she's brought up nursing, it has made me start to reminisce about going in to this occupation, and ponder what level of masochism it has taken to continue to walk this path. Reminiscing gives me something to do while she's talking.
I think of my very first patient that I ever had as a student nurse. She was an elderly Italian woman who cursed me out in three languages--English, Italian, and Dementia, for sleeping with her husband. She called me out of a group of four other girls with so much certainty and anger, it was beginning to sound like the truth, even to me. In my inexperience, I tried the fruitless effort of logic and truth. I cited the fact that we'd just met--her and I, and that I didn't know her husband. I considered bringing up my aversion to sleeping with dead guys, but I left that part out. She was seething.
Finally, I apologized for, in a weak moment, sleeping with her husband. It was just simpler that way. She calmed right down, and let me help her.
Later that day, she told me I was pretty, and that her husband would really like me. She licked her lips. I shook off the idea that I was being invited to a senior threesome, where the "third" was dead. The didactic portion of nursing school had definitely not covered how to handle this.
"Well, Ma, I gotta go. I have to...hmmm....you know what? I don't have the energy to lie right now so I'll just go with I don't feel like talking. Whaddya think? Are we at that level in our relationship?"
"You're terrible. You NEVER want to talk on the phone. And no, we are NOT at that level in our relationship! Call me later, kay?"
"Sure thing, Baby Jane." I hang up. It's been a rough work week. They are short at the hospital, it is my day off, and I'm going in anyway. Now I hate life, unborn children, myself, and my manners are still brewing at Starbucks. I make a mental note to change the hospital's ringtone to sound more like my co-worker Robin's. Her ringtone for the hospital is her own voice saying, "Girrrrrl, you better not pick up this phone. IT'S THE HOSPITAL!" She's a genius.
The following day is Nurses' Day, and I am on dayshift. I go in curious about what we would get this year to commemorate the occasion. Last year, we got jackets. This year, we get our butts handed to us--they didn't even gift wrap them. I have decided to blame the economy. I make a mental note to check and see if the United States government is looking for a new national anthem, because I will submit this one--MIA Paper Planes. The "all I wanna do is, BANG! BANG! BANG! reload, and take your money!" speaks to me as a citizen.
"Gods!" Debbie, my co-worker, exclaims. She is Pagan, and she's had a very rough day. She's thinking of her cauldron. "How is that some days the only good thing you can say about a shift is 'nobody died?'" She believes she will be charting for hours after the shift ends. She's right.
"Yeah, well you gotta admit--some days it really would be easier to just zip someone up in a bag." I reply. I'm Christian, and I'm thinking of shopping for a cauldron after today.
"Touche', SJ. Touche'," she says without looking up from her pile of papers.
It was a very difficult day that ended in a helicopter transport, but all of the patients were nice, and we didn't have to call the police on anyone's boyfriend. That will have to be enough.
My friend Joy is a pediatric intensive care nurse, who recently came to the area with her son to take a position in one of the most elite hospitals in the country. The problem with working in an elite hospital, is that their patient population is "elite" as well. Joy is a New Yorker, and I love that. Despite my gooey-goodness approach to life, I have a New York state of mind, and sometimes it shows. I feel an instant connection with her, because I love how forward New Yorkers are. Plus, their accent makes me giggle--on the inside. These are New Yorkers we're talking about, and I don't want them to hurt me. I've never actually fought. I just have a big mouth that I recruit others to back up. I delegate.
Our congregation had a big cleaning thing to do, I messed up and asked Joy, 'how's work?'
"You know how sick kids tear at your heart, and you just want to do everything you can for them?"
"Yes," I say. I really do get that.
"Well, not where I work, you don't. These brats think you're the help. You can't do enough for them, and their families think they can buy a kid back to health. They are impossible! I want out!"
"Wow...Joy, that's horrible." I messed up again and thought she was finished. I try to go back to cleaning.
"Like this one family. The family can't let go, so they've taken turns for the last year driving the staff crazy! The child is gone in every way, but they won't accept it," Joy's voice is starting to climb.
"Letting go can be really tough," I say.
"Yeah, well...they keep a revolving recording that is just yelling, 'I REBUKE YOU SATAN!' at the foot of the kid's bed...and it's directed at US!" Joy's eyes are bulging.
I am now laughing my face off, I can't help it. I hug her. She deserves it.
Afternoon has come, days after nurses' day, and the police have been called. I could sense the hot-tempered dad in my room was starting to lose it after a phone conversation his girlfriend had with the doctor. I find the nurse in charge, and we're making plans to find an under-handed way to smooth things over for everyone. Our scheme is nearly plotted out, when--let's call him Bob, the patient's boyfriend--storms the nurses' station.
"GET ME THAT (expletive removed) ON THE PHONE!" He screams. For the curious, the expletive involved an act hopefully no one would consider with their mother.
"WHO DOES THAT (expletive removed) THINK HE'S DEALING WITH?" (I think to myself, he's dealing with Bob the sideshow, but I have the good sense not to say this).
"I'll get him. Go back to your room, I'll transfer the call there." I also refrained from adding, "and have some more steroids while you wait."
The doctor and Bob's conversation is not going well, and threats are flying. Bob can be heard yelling all the way down the hallway. Some nurses are afraid. I am not one of them. I've been around him all day, and I believe he's blowing smoke. He's been nothing but nice to me.
The doctor calls me. "He's pissed, Doctor B. I told him to go walk it off, and he's listening for whatever reason. Your fighting days are over, Doc, his aren't. Just lay low for a while. He thinks you were rude to his girl, they're leaving AMA."
The doctor defends himself to me, I tell him it doesn't matter. Now I have a bunch of charting to do. And the police are here.
Happy Nurses Week to the Craziest Bunch of People I Know~
If you're mad, get mad.
Don't hold it all inside,
Come on and talk to me now.
Hey, what you got to hide?
I get angry too..
Well, I'm a lot like you.
When you're standing at the crossroads,
Don't know what path to choose,
Let me come along.
'Cause even if you're wrong...
I'll stand by you."