Murder and Mayhem

It’s chaos out there. Utter chaos. But quarantine is not what’s on my mind this week. No, I’m still reeling from the everyday, run-of-the-mill events of this past week at work. Have you ever taken care of a murderer in your line of work? Nope? Not suprising. (Clue…It was the colonel with the candlestick in the library….)

Well, life and death often go hand in hand; after all, nursing is all about the circle of life. Earlier this week, not only did I help code a murder victim, but I also took care of the accused only hours later. It’s a bit of a surreal feeling; we did our very best, but a gunshot wound to the chest is not something that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can ever put back together again. And as remorseful as a soul can be, there’s no returning anyone back to life after a split-second action gone wrong. I mourned for everyone involved in the scenario. The young children who no longer have someone to call “Mommy”, the mother who lost her adult child, and the poor soul who “accidentally” discharged the weapon mere feet away from his girlfriend’s chest. His life will be over from this point on. He can never close his eyes and forget what happened or the consequences of his actions. He will be reviled and hated for the rest of his imprisoned days. His tears were real, and far from over. And of course, there were extenuating circumstances. (There always are, it seems like, but I can’t speak to that here.) I shudder to think of what the girl’s family is going through. Unimaginable pain and loss, and the day after Mother’s Day, at that. So, so incredibly sad…..

The night after that, I was called in to work due to an emergency c-section for a 27-weeker who was bleeding and in labor. There were tears in that room that night as well. Tears of fear…and pain…and then JOY when the baby responded to care. It is always miraculeous to see a baby that small respond to modern-day emergency medical care. We are a small hospital — to enjoy the benefits of a NICCU team, we have to call ahead of time and arrange their 1+hour drive to our facility. They work alongside our nurses to stabilize the baby for several hours before loading up and driving the 1+hour back to OKC. They are courage under fire, calm under pressure…it is always amazing to see them at work!

I also took care of my first-ever case of mumps this week. Having never seen it before except in textbooks, it was still immediately recognisable. My first question was, “Have you had your immunizations?” Interestingly enough, it was the doc’s exact same first question, so I knew we were both thinking the same thing. I’m telling you, it’s been a weird week, and it’s not even full moon.

All this is going on while the covid virus is still running amok and causing chaos. Or, at least in our area, the covid restrictions are causing chaos. We have been extremely fortunate to not have the virus in our town, other than a handful of cases which have all been resolved. I hope you have been fortunate wherever you are as well.

2020 has not been a stellar year for anyone. For us, it started with the death of an extended family member hours after the ball dropped to bring in the New Year. Then, an unexpected death of a dear friend on January 4th, and it just went downhill from there. A huge house renovation has hit multiple snags and delays for us during all this. We are still fostering the same child we’ve had for three separate placements now. Parental termination hearings have been delayed several times, but are finally happening in two weeks, if all goes according to plan. We anxiously await to see if we will be able to adopt him. We have been “in limbo” for so long, it seems like we will wait forever to find out. Such is the foster care system, and I repeatedly remind myself that patience is a virtue.

That’s my life in a nutshell, how is yours? We are all in this thing called life together. We may not be in the same vicinity, and our covid restrictions may not look the same, but we are all experiencing loss and change at the same time. We are all learning new things about ourselves, as well as our neighbors and coworkers. If you didn’t know before if you’re considered “essential” or not, you know now. If you didn’t know before if you’re an extrovert or introvert, you certainly know now. 🙂 Perhaps you’ve learned a new skill or taken up a new hobby. Maybe you’ve found new favorite TV shows or movies that have helped you get through this. Maybe you are a better cook, or gardener, or family member, etc, after all of this. I hope this finds you well and slowly returning to a more normal lifestyle. May there be peace in the midst of our chaos, and hope amid our covid fears. I have faith that we will come through this stronger than when we started. We have a better understanding of our fellowman, and a stronger sense of identity. We have hopefully gained a better appreciation for what’s truly important in life, and can take that with us into a better future.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ” John 14:27

                                 Nurse Ames, RN

 

What’s it all about, anyway?

When I started this blog, it was with the intention of reflecting on stories of my nursing career. As time went by, life got really complicated. Gradually, I stopped. I was working through a lot of things mentally and emotionally–things I didn’t want to write about and share with the world. Grief eclipsed my desire to write about every-day, mundane things. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself writing blog posts, but never publishing them. Just the catharsis of writing and exploring my feelings on page, helped me work through some of the problems I’ve been facing. Lately, I’ve been returning to my reasons for starting the blog in the first place. It was meant to be a place of warmth, healing, comfort, compassion….And the more I thought about it, the more I realised…Hey, maybe I was writing about the wrong things! Maybe I SHOULD be writing about the every-day stuff. So, so MANY others out there are walking the same steps I am. Perhaps not the same personal journey, but certainly the same situations. Where I go, others have gone before me. And others will follow me…So, maybe we can help each other down life’s highway by sharing stories and easing each other’s burdens. Or maybe adding joy or a smile to someone’s day with a funny anecdote…Life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured… (Although, I think we could all agree, 2020 deserves a do-over so far. )

This morning, I started my day at work by watching a patient’s heartbeat slip away to nothing on the heart monitor. She was the grandmother of a nurse friend of mine. My friend came out of the room crying, “She’s gone.” What do you say? I’m still numb with grief myself over the unexpected passing of a good friend of mine several weeks ago. I’ve learned that a hug and a listening ear are some of the most valuable gifts we can give to each other. We need to share our grief with each other, friends. This world is a great place with so much to offer. Really, it is! But with it, we pay the price for the love of family and friends when we lose them. The greater the love, the greater the grief. In a way, it’s a tribute to that person you’ve lost, to care enough to grieve their absence. To let the world know that they mattered, and that you will keep their memory alive.

And tonight, as we collectively mourn for one of our greatest basketball athletes of all time, let’s all remember to be there for each other, no matter what we are facing. Everyone goes through good and bad times–let’s be there for each other through thick and thin. Give a fist bump in the good times, and a hug in the bad times. Be that friend that someone out there so desperately needs.

“Good friends help you to find important things when you have lost them…your smile, your hope, and your courage.” —Doe Zantamata

The City that never sleeps

lady liberty

Ahhh, that feeling.  You clock out of work that last time before heading out the door so fast they never even see you leave. PURE BLISS.

Cue the frantic packing, long lines at the airport, Uber’s and hotels, way too expensive food and drinks–Congratulations! You’re on vacation!

Well, this week that was me and my destination was the City that never sleeps, the Big Apple, the city of dreams…New York City in all her glory.  I flew with one of my daughter’s friends to see where my daughter Hannah has been working in NYC all summer. We spent the week with her sightseeing, and this evening we’re heading home on the plane to Oklahoma.

What a week! Have you ever been to New York? I visited Niagara Falls when I was about 18 or 19, but I have never actually made it to NYC until now. And WOW! I had so many misperceptions about the place–probably due to the news, movies, tv shows, anything that portrays NYC in the media.

I was happily surprised!😊.  I realised about a day or two in that I was much safer than I thought I would be walking around town. I quickly lost the fear of being robbed, kidnapped, or on the next episode of Law and Order SVU.

So, here are some things I noticed that are unique to NYC.  First of all, traffic was as congested as I assumed it would be, but it was a stark contrast to what I experienced in Europe.  Although there seemed to be about a gazillion buses, Ubers, and taxis, it seemed to be mostly stop and start traffic.  There was not that insane honking, frenzied, all-out sense you were in a NASCAR race the whole time. Europe has Craaa–zzzy traffic. 😳. Another thing I discovered was that New Yorkers are not the rude, power-walking get-out-of-my-face stereotype that we see on TV. Almost everyone we talked to was polite, smiling, willing to help answer questions for us. It was a good feeling.

The subway.. well, it was the subway. You feel like you’re descending into the pit of hell every time you go into it. It is so hot you start sweating buckets the minute you go down the steps. And then you sweat more buckets while down there waiting on your train. We did get to experience the buskers singing or playing in the subway stations– some of them were really talented. One thing I didn’t expect was to be cornered so often by homeless people begging for money. They’d accost you in the subway trains, going from car to car making announcements about needing money and going from person to person. Or doing it while you’re standing in a bus line and can’t get away. Or come up to you while you’re checking out of a store, asking for change. Few of them looked truly needy, as they were quite aggressive and seemed able bodied and able minded enough to hold down a job. That DID frustrate me. But, who am I to judge? I tried to help the ones who appeared truly needy and ignored the rest.

Did you know it cost 46.00 a person to go up the Empire State Building? Or that you need to reserve tickets four months in advance if you want to go up the Statue of Liberty? Yeah, me neither. So guess what I didn’t do this trip. 😳🤔. But we did get to go on a cruise that took us close to the Statue of Liberty so we got a great look at her. And let me tell you, she is as tall and proud and beautiful as she is in pictures. I was awestruck. I also felt a little bit like an idiot that I didn’t know she was on a different island than Ellis Island. You know, where all those people used to come to read about Lady Liberty holding up her lamp to welcome the masses, while they registered to enter the United States. Yeah, two separate islands. Duh….🤦‍♀️

Ground zero was heart-breaking. I cried when I saw the Survivor Tree. I told my daughter and her friend that they were so lucky they couldn’t remember that day in history. How each of us who can remember it can recall in detail the horror of that day and the following days and months. The agony we felt as a nation.  Almost everyone of us knew of someone who was affected some way, some how by the events of that day. In a sense, we are all survivors of that day. We came thru as individuals, and a nation, forever changed. Life as an American changed that day and we can never return to pre- 9/11. And while visiting Ground zero gave me a huge sense of loss, it also kind of felt like a pilgrimage to holy ground. I was able to pay my respects to those lost, and to their families who lost so much when they died that day.

We unexpectedly got to see a Yankee’s game! That was incredible! We walked up to sight-see the stadium, and a security guard gave us free tickets and sent us on in. We absolutely loved the experience!! My 13-year-old son wouldn’t even talk to me the next day when he found out- he was so mad I got to go to a game and he didn’t. He is a HUGE Yankees fan, and he couldn’t believe I went to a game without him. Poor kid 😊😊.

Brooklyn was quite a bit different than downtown Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge is absolutely beautiful and we loved Jane’s Carousel down by the water. It’s definitely a different vibe there than across the bridge. We didn’t stay long, as we had a plane to catch, but I enjoyed sitting by the waterfront watching the river and skyline view.

Our hotel this past week was right across the street from Madison Square Garden and about two blocks from Macy’s, with the Empire State Building just beyond that. We hit up Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks 5th Avenue, Tiffany’s, Swarovski’s, Fao Schwartz… we did the circuit. And had oh-so-much fun doing it! One evening we watched the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.  The next morning we went and stood by the same window Audrey Hepburn did, and ate a croissant there like she did in the opening scene of that movie. For my theatre major daughter, it was epic. ❤️

I saved the best for last, of course. On Wednesday night, we got to see one of my most favourite actors in the world. Tom Hiddleston (“Loki”) starred in the opening night performance of his first Broadway play. We were ten rows back in the audience and I KNOW, I just KNOW that he made eye contact with me at one point. 🙀😉. That man can do no wrong, know what I mean?? 😜😂. He is that rare combination of being a beautiful person, both inside and out. So, highlight of the trip, right there.

Well, that mostly sums up my NYC experience. I enjoyed the bus tours, street vendors, sidewalk artists, gift shops, little street markets,… there was so much to see and do. We didn’t see it all, but we sure did pack in a lot of fun in five short days.

In short, the Detweiler’s took Manhattan! 😊😊

Trying to teach an old dog new tricks (Uh, that would be me)

Have you ever been in that situation in life where circumstances force you out of your comfort zone? Where you have to jump into a new skill set, or learn a new way of doing an old job? Where you get transferred out to a different facility, town, maybe even state? If you’re like me, I’ve had my job down pat for quite some time. It’s comfortable like an old hat. I can do it in my sleep. I do so many things by rote memory, I’d be hard pressed to have to explain to an outsider what it is exactly that I’m doing. But, ahhh, that great dictator Time brings change for everyone. And for me, that change has come in the form of taking on a new department at the hospital. I’ve been asked to join OB land, mother/baby, labor/delivery, whatever you want to call it. Now then, I’ve avoided that department like the plague for the 25+years I’ve been a nurse. But here I am. My patients are no longer only the COPD, pneumonia, heart attack, stroke, postop variety. They now weigh under 10 pounds instead of the 300-400 pounds I’m used to. They’re at the beginning of life, not the end.

If all goes well, it’s great. Cue the pink bows and blue hats. The big smiles and proud parents. If not? Well, it looks a little different. I work in a small rural hospital, so we have no NICU to call on. It’s just us. If babies are bad enough for NICU, we have to neo-flight them over an hour away to OKC.

For that matter, we don’t have an ICU either, so we often fill in as ICU nurses (unofficially) until the patient gets better, or takes that same ticket out of here to an OKC hospital.

That saying about trying to teach an old dog new tricks? It does have a ring of truth to it. We who have honed our skill set for years, who have gotten too comfy in the job we are in, sometimes have a hard time with change. Gotta fire up those brain cells and make some new brain pathways to incorporate all that new knowledge. Gotta get off the couch of life and jump right in there with both feet forward. See the world thru different lenses.

Well, here I am, and I AM learning new things. For instance, did you know that if you work on a bad baby while standing under the warmer for upwards of eternity, you can practically get a sunburn without even going outside? 😂😂. At the very least, what feels like heatstroke. And the babies born today are just as slippery, tiny, and fragile as they were when I had my babies 15-20 years ago. Then again, they’re just as cute, so that counts for something.

So, here’s to new beginnings. Whatever new venture you might be facing, I hope it’s going well for you. I hope you’re out there killing it every day, turning your world upside down and enjoying every minute of it. Because ultimately, it IS satisfying to change things up a bit, to knock those brain cells around and see what shakes out.

Good luck, my friends! And may your new experiences include great things that don’t involve the eternal sun of a baby warmer. 😊

Katie Brack Day

fullsizeoutput_c750

So… I know we all have them.  If you don’t, you will sooner or later.  (And consider yourself very lucky if you don’t already.)  You know them, those days we all dread…those silent, looming anniversaries of some terror, some horror, perhaps the loss of a loved one.  Maybe it was the day you were told you had cancer, or that your loved one was killed unexpectedly in an accident, or the day you realised you’ve lost everything you’ve ever worked for.  Your spouse was unfaithful, your dog died, another war started and your loved one didn’t make it back alive.  So, so many things in this life can and do go wrong.  And we go through the stages of grieving, and we gradually recover, because we are a resilient people.   But there’s always that day that comes around once a year, that day on the calendar, that marks for you a space in time to stop and remember.  To grieve anew, to honor what was lost, to put into perspective what time and change has wrought.  Everyone deals with that day on the calendar differently.

I have been radio silent the past two weeks for that reason.  (Well, that, and partly because I was on a Carribean cruise soaking up some sun–I really was radio silent and unable to write during that time. )

This past week marked the 21st anniversary of when my beautiful five year-old goddaughter passed away unexpectedly in my home.  A whole person’s drinking age life-time ago.  I have had three great kids of my own, helped care for numerous foster kids, have taken care of oh-so-many kids in the healthcare system as a nurse, and still the ache remains.  Oh, time has greatly helped heal the wound.  Now the anniversary is more of a tug at an old scar vs. ripping my heart open again, like it used to years ago.  The way I remember the day is different now than what it used to be–I don’t fall to pieces anymore, for one thing.  I still cry a few bitter tears each year, and we still plant flowers in her “memory garden”, and my hubby makes sure I know he remembers too.   I message her parents, who are divorced now and live in different states than we do.  We check in on each other, make sure the other is doing okay.  And I look at her scrapbook, and remember all the beautiful, wonderful things about her.  All the things that made her so uniquely “her”, that made her so sweet and loveable, despite her severe level of cerebral palsy.

To this day, I have a hard time talking about the details of that day.  We’ve since moved to another state, where no one knew her, or what happened.  It’s easier to not talk about it at all.  But I made a promise to her and her parents.  That her short little life was not lived in vain, she did have a purpose, and I will always strive to keep her memory alive in whatever way I can.  I tell my friends and coworkers about her.  I tell my kids about her.   When we go “back home” to visit every couple of years, I take them to the cemetery with me to visit her.  (And then I choke up and start crying and I whisper to her I will see her in heaven someday, and I have to leave before I’m a complete wreck.)

I suspect you know what I’m talking about.  Your scenario might not look the same.  You might handle grief totally different than I do.  But we all have those memories, those moments in time that stand out starkly in our minds.  It’s one of the things that bonds us together as humanity.  Just as a smile is universal, so is crying and shaking your fist at the sky.

Whether it’s been two years or ten, or way longer than that, grief and loss never totally go away.  We are grateful that the sharp sting fades away, and the jagged edges smooth away like rocks worn smooth in a stream.  But that takes time, and time means days and weeks and years.  Which, of course, means anniversaries that roll relentlessly by.

If you still struggle with the anniversary part of the grieving process, I encourage you to start something new to carry on as a tradition for years to come.  Something that lets you vent your grief in a positive way, to honor your memories, to help you get through it.  And when it’s come and gone, and you can breathe a sigh of relief again, whisper a prayer of thanks that it won’t roll around again for another year.  And hopefully by then, it will be easier to deal with.  Trust me, I’ve been there.

Rest in Peace,  KatieBug,  I Love You

4-25-93  —  6-6-98

fullsizeoutput_c752

                            Nurse Ames, RN

Housekeeping Blues

 

Now I’ll be the first to wholeheartedly agree that without good housekeeping staff, no institution functions properly. They are the backbone of any hospital, Medical Center, nursing home, etc. That being said, they can sometimes offer up humor without trying, just like any of the rest of us.

This past week in the ER, we had an interesting experience. I had a elderly patient that had an unfortunate experience in the bathroom. An enema gone wrong, and diarrhea that somehow ended up covering the walls and also the floor near the toilet.

We called housekeeping and let them know the bathroom would need a thorough cleaning. After the patient left, housekeeping came to clean and we warned them how bad it was and that they would want shoe covers and gowns.

They dressed up like they were going into major surgery. They were covered head to toe in blue throwaway gowns, caps, shoe covers, eye protection… it was like aliens were invading that bathroom. Or so we thought. We saw them from the doorway cleaning the whole room– floors, walls top to bottom, mirrors, equipment–they even took the clock down and cleaned behind it! We were so impressed they were going the extra mile –although we didn’t quite understand their reasoning, we weren’t complaining. They finished and left, and soon another nurse went to put a patient in that room. She took the patient to the bathroom in that room and handed them a specimen cup for a urine sample. Soon the nurse and patient came hustling out of the door and headed for another room. When we asked what was wrong, the nurse said “There’s diarrhea all over that bathroom!”

Completely puzzled, we called housekeeping to come back. What were they possibly thinking, meticulously cleaning the room itself and not the bathroom where the actual mess was?

It wasn’t long before we found out. And when we did, we were rolling on the floor laughing. Tears were coming down our faces– I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!

(And remember, friends, you can’t make this stuff up. Absolutely priceless.)

When we asked the two ladies who had cleaned so diligently before and yet missed the mess altogether, here is what their response was. ” We thought the mess was in the patient room itself, not the bathroom, and since we didn’t see any mess in the room, we thought it was that kind of diarrhea that is the clear diarrhea!” Huh? Clear diarrhea?? “Yeah, you know, the clear kind!”

Omg, smh, lol. 😜😂🤔🤣

                           Nurse Ames, RN

 

istockphoto-636984370-1024x1024

Old MacDonald had a farm

585A9AA0-3C49-4CDC-B855-CBF0B4B45CC8

Little man had his end-of-year daycare program yesterday evening. He was a little piggy for the verse of “Old MacDonald had a farm, E–I–E–I–O… and on that farm he had some pigs…E–I–E–I–O”.  Little man didn’t want to be a pig–specifically, he didn’t want to wear his cute little piggy ears. He wanted to run and play, and hit the balloons, and eat the pig-shaped cookies. Wearing the piggy ears just wasn’t an option in his little one-year-old mind. I suppose if I was a one-year-old, I would feel the same way.  But doggone it, he sure was cute for the 2.2 seconds we got him to keep them on for a picture. 🙂

My heart was happy to see him run and play and act like any other kid his age.  It  hurt though, to know that although we love him, and he calls me “Momma” with confidence, that’s not the way it will always be.  And last night as I thought about his fate in the foster care system, my sweet friend walked by with her daughter.  My friend, who is as good of a mom as any you’ll find, was there with her daughter, yet was missing her son who was killed in a car accident two summers ago. Why did she lose her child while the foster child I raise desperately needs a loving forever home? Why is life so unfair to those completely helpless to fight back? My foster child doesn’t lack for love, but he does lack for a stable home. His parents are caught up in a series of bad choices and it’s not clear yet whether they will improve so he can go back to them or not.  Will I be left with a few artwork pieces and precious pictures and memories ? Or will he need a forever home at our house? There’s no way to know for now.  As for my sweet friend, she doesn’t lack for other children or a loving husband, but that in no way whatsoever takes away the pain and anguish over losing her firstborn child.  Sometimes being a mom is one of the hardest tasks handed to us as human beings.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.  I think of all the moms (biological or otherwise) out there who come together with a common interest on this day.   Whether it’s a year to rejoice over how blessed we are, or to mourn what we have lost or never had, it’s an emotional time.  For some moms on this day, they must visit their kiddos in jail, while others visit theirs at a gravesite.  And yet others rejoice while they hold sticky, cuddly, smiley little ones…and their hearts are full, rightfully so.

To celebrate this Mother’s Day,  I pray for my little ones.  The ones I’ve cared for and sent back to their parents.  The ones I’ve been blessed with biologically (who aren’t so little anymore).  For the current foster child in my care.  And then I pray for moms everywhere.  I pray for my friend who still cries for the loss of her son.  I pray for my friends who have never been blessed with children, despite their most fervent wishes.  And for the moms who need a helping hand up, a better support system, a mother figure in their own lives… Let’s not forget them either.  (May we not forget–as a mother’s path goes, so does that of society).  Today, let’s take time out to be there for each other.  May we be that helping hand, that listening ear, that shoulder to cry on.  Remember–It doesn’t take a mother, it just takes someone who cares.

                                             Happy Mother’s Day

                               Nurse Ames, RN

 

Dixie update

 

For those of you who are wondering how Dixie is doing, here’s a quick Dixie update.

She is craaazzyy. And cute. And cuddly. With a little bit more crazy mixed in. :).She’s got teeth like a piranha. She’s got a tail that can wag 90mph. She dances when she’s excited, which is most of the time. She’s just happy to be alive.

Her favourite pastimes are terrorising the half grown kitten in residence, as well as chewing on anything and everything she can find. I mean, anything. She has taken to even trying to chew on my clothes as I’m walking by. She will nip at my pants as she prances along beside me while I’m walking through the house. If I stop, she’ll reach up and grab on to my T-shirt and start a game of tug of war. If I’m working in the kitchen? The kitchen towel is a free-for-all if I accidentally let it get too close to her level. I basically have to decide how important that particular kitchen towel is, because her little piranha teeth are not letting go. I have caught her chewing on the cupboard doors, the baseboards, the dishwasher, my grandmother’s sewing machine stand, the couch, the refrigerator… nothing is safe from her. At least she is finally potty trained and I seriously thank God for that.

You should see her eyes light up when she’s outside and the chickens or guineas walk by. She starts to chase them but remembers she’s not supposed to, so she stops and follows them with great interest for awhile.

You should see our little foster boy’s eyes light up when he sees her. “Dixie!” he shouts with all the excitement that a 19 month old can muster. He absolutely adores her. Until she wants to chew on him too, and then we have to separate them.

Our two older dogs have agreed to live with her, although neither of them wants to play games with her like she so desperately desires. Our basset hound will occasionally acknowledge her, but the old lab completely ignores her, which isn’t easy to do. And she’s still small enough that the barn cats will swat at her as she walks by, if she tries anything too rambunctious.

All in all, Dixie is a puppy.  Plain and simple.  She’s adorable, frustrating, cute and cuddly, high maintenance… she is behaving exactly like what God made her to be at this point. She teaches my 17 year old responsibility while he learns how to take care of her. She teaches all of us to let loose and enjoy life a little more. She makes us laugh, and to sigh contentedly when she curls up next to us for a short peaceful nap.

If you haven’t considered getting a dog in awhile, consider it. Dogs are such great companions, and they bring so much joy and laughter into your life. That is, if you’re willing to go through the teething stage. That’s a growing time for everyone. :).

Here’s to Dixie, may she live long and well. With plenty of chew toys along the way. And here’s to our house, may it stay standing in the wake of her path.

Have a great day, everyone, and enjoy the cute and cuddly ones in your life, whoever or whatever they may be.

                          Nurse Ames, RN

Do nurses ever truly clock out?

IMG_3531

Ahhhh… Vacation.  Gotta love it.  Nurses tend to joke around about never truly being on vacation.  We make t-shirts about it, send each other funny memes, laugh about it at work.  But really, we do tend to try to avert anything that looks like it might turn into an emergency, because hey, everyone needs a mental break sometimes.  Even nurses. That being said, we also jump in and help without hesitating if the need arises.  Even on vacation.

Last weekend I met up with a girlfriend of mine for a weekend away from home.  We met in St. Louis, which makes the most sense for us while trying to meet halfway.  (I live in Oklahoma, she lives in Ohio.)  We had an awesome weekend just catching up, trying some new restaurants, seeing some great sites and places.  We even managed to get in on opening night of Miss Saigon.  I did not manage to get away from being a nurse for the weekend, however.

We were hiking up the concrete steps of the Gateway Arch when it happened.   I was blazing a trail to the bathroom (which seemed a good half mile off in the distance) when I hear my friend call my name.  I turn around and see her.  One of the sweet little elderly ladies we had just talked to is lying on the ground, clutching her head, groaning softly, a grimace on her face.  My friend later told me “her head sounded like a melon cracking open” when she hit the ground.  She has fallen down the concrete steps onto the equally hard concrete pavement below and taken a direct hit to the back of her head.  My friend motions me over, saying “You gotta help”, and I’m doing a split minute decision on whether my bladder will hold out for this emergency, or if it will become the main emergency itself.  I can’t NOT help her though, so I rush back to her side.  I gently address the elderly group surrounding her– “I’m a nurse, may I help you?”  The look of relief is evident on their faces.  I quickly assess her while someone goes for help.  She hasn’t passed out, and she is talking to me without difficulty, so I know she is okay for the moment.  Soon a physical therapist stops and offers help, and bystanders are quick to help with whatever they can–keeping her shaded from the bright sun shining in her eyes, something to put under her head to pillow it from the concrete ground,  etc.    Her friends are praying out loud, panicky, scared something terrible has happened.  My training kicks in–regardless of what has happened, calm the patient and those around her.  I quickly point out to her and her friends that she is stable for the moment, and that emergency services will be here shortly for further assessment and to take her to the hospital.  I talk directly with the patient then, discussing her condition and telling her what needs further testing and why.  She insists she doesn’t want to slow down her group of friends, which has not yet gone up in the Arch.  I gently remind her that she might have suffered a brain bleed from the fall, which wouldn’t necessarily be obvious in the few minutes that have passed.  At the very least, she might very well have a concussion.  I convince her to keep from moving until Emergency Services get there to take over.  Once they arrive, I step back and let them do their thing.  We leave after they have taken over and have things well in hand.  I still really need to use the restroom, and it’s almost time for our tour to go up the Arch.  For all I know, that elderly group of visitors may have been slated to go up on the same tour as us.  We’ll never know; neither will we ever know how things turned out for her.  We did ask a park ranger after the tour if they had any updates.  Apparently, she was still refusing further medical care and was not taken to the hospital.  I laid awake that night, worried for her.  Was she okay? Did she eventually get worse as time went on? Was she near help if she did worsen?  As I lay there, I thought of all the things I could have done differently to help her.  Did I miss something? Was there anything else I could have done before EMS arrived? And other thoughts I had…Why are the steps and walkway designed like they are at the Arch? How many people fall on them each year?  How much worse are they when it’s actually wet?  How do they respond to emergencies inside the Arch? Or at the top? How far is it to the nearest hospital?  Where DID those emergency workers come from so quick? Why aren’t there better signs posted around the Arch, directing traffic?  Sometimes I have a hard time shutting down the “what if” questions. 

Nurses are trained to look at scenarios to find out what’s wrong and to try to fix it.  I guess that’s something you don’t just turn off when you clock out and walk out the door.  I had a great weekend in St. Louis, but I came away with a few golden nuggets of wisdom.  1) Allow plenty of time to reach your destination, in case something unexpected happens.  2) Never turn down a bathroom break when it’s presented to you, as you may really, really wish you would’ve taken it a little while later.  3) Always be prepared to lend a helping hand to those around you…you’ll be so glad you did.  

To the sweet little lady who fell, I hope you are okay.  I hope you and your friends were able to go see the Arch.  I hope your vacation was all you dreamed of.  And… here’s to many, many more adventures for the both of us. 

                   Nurse Ames, RN

ladyat arch