Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Big Thank You to Modern Medicine!

Call me crazy, but I really expected more of a spa vacation for this kind of money.

So, I'm stuck here in ICU, of all places. Bad enough the hospital room with the inconsiderate roommate and the door banging at ungodly hours, but there is no shower for my non-existent roommate to glut (not that Craig is looking for a bunkmate for me or anything), and there is no door.
I have nurses stationed right outside my door; if I want to do something I'm not supposed to do, like walk to the sink or anything precarious like that, I've got to make sure the screws aren't looking. All in good fun; they really are a great staff here. I'd just like to have met some of them when I had my derriere properly concealed.

There's been no food since 8PM Thursday. I am starving. Ok, probably not, this is a hospital. Any associated risks of literally starving to death -- I hope -- have been removed. My blood sugar is high because of the meds and I can't even blame it on the delicious chocolate cake I dreamt I ate last night! I have more wires attached to me than RoboCop; I think I must be burning calories just trying to keep them out of the way of my little spongy sticks that are supposed to substitute for sustenance. You know those spongy sticks -- they're bright green with cute little plastic straws. The way last night's nurse took such care to arrange them in crisp, icy water made me want to jump right in! So cheery, in a sadistic, ineffective kind of way

But this is not all about me, right? Truthfully, I haven't met any of my neighbors -- anti-social that I am. There is however, the nursing tech, Christina, who has a year left before graduation. She took me on a walk to the window today. The sun was bright, and you could feel the heat radiating through the window. Christina has worked as a dance teacher, and here in ICU while studying full-time. She loves to read when she can find the time. She thinks she might like to try NICU and maybe some hospice later in her career. She's lively and ambitious, likes her job, and her excitement over the possibilities before her makes me want to see her dreams come true.

The nurse who was my caregiver last night has two sons, 7 and 8, if I remember. She's besties with the nurse who looked after me the night before (boy, did I put that poor thing through the ringer). Jen, the RN from last night is married to a soccer coach; she seems to enjoy sharing the experience with him. His athletes are high school age, and Jen has seen classes come and go. Despite her young age she is a wealth of experience, and she is generous enough to share it with the students' parents. I couldn't resist interjecting my own advice for her to pass along: "You haven't lived until you've gotten the text, 'So...we're married.' Enjoy the ride." Jen has a great attitude and loves fun; I think she'd change the world, given the opportunity.

Nurse du jour is Heidi. Her husband is in the National Guard and is packing up to do his two week training in Hershey. Heidi has a fun sense of humor and is anxious to get me kicked outta here! I like this girl! If only I had working vocal cords I would -- loudly -- share her enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I don't think she minds the audience at all, and it's well worth the bu-thousands of dollars the insurance company is paying for this.

I say all this because in the short hospital stays I've had over the years, I've met some really great people, workers and altruists. I've heard their stories and they've heard mine, personally as well as physiologically. It never occurred to me what it takes to do this job, and I'll never know it all.

Many mothers think they have it licked when it comes to being a caregiver; I know I did. But this is a whole different animal. These folks need to be strong beyond belief. Someone coded here the other morning, and they're not coming back. I have no idea how long the patient had been here, how many their ups and downs, or how many conversations the staff around here had with them about their children or with their children about them. But these medical movers had to leave that room and enter the next without missing a beat, and without projecting whatever grief or shock or disappointment on to their next patient with which they'd have the same conversations.

These are professionals. The amount of medical knowledge they possess fills volumes, and experience is just as integral to the job. They advocate for patients who can and cannot progress. They try and fail, and try again. They document and do; they advise and hold their tongues when it's best. Then they go home to engage with families, remember anniversaries, schedule veterinary appointments, oversee their child's next dose of Augmentin, and check the propane for the Father's Day barbecue.

They are authors. Who else could enjoy hearing so much about someone else's life when they do so much living of their own. The tech, Christina said she loves hearing people's stories. I'd always thought of doctors and nurses as selfless, constantly bestowing what talents they have on others, endless reservoirs of help and care. But these folks look to be touched as well. Not just by the thrill of watching a critical patient rebound under their efforts and encouragement, but really stepping into the lives of others, indispensable voyeurs, longing to know the ones with whom they share many of their waking hours and taking pieces with them as they leave theirs behind.

I doubt I will ever have the privilege of writing the end of their stories, or having them write mine, but these life-weavers are worth whatever appreciation and respect we can give them.
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