Pressing On

In case you are new to this blog, I am a Pre-Op nurse. I am assigned on average 7 patients during my nine hour shift. My job is to do a physical assessment, a medication reconciliation, a health assessment and comb through their medical history with a fine tooth comb to find anything about their health history that may indicate the patient is not safe to go under anesthesia. I also educate patient and families, comfort them, medicate as needed, place IV access and give IV fluids. It’s fast paced and mental. Some patients come for elective surgery. Some come because their lives depend on it. Lots of sick people for me this week. Today was particularly difficult. Everyone’s life depended on their surgery today. To top it off, in the middle of the day, one of my coworkers was notified of a death in her family. She had to leave immediately. Those of us that remained just pushed on as if we were soldiers on a battlefield, pulling our own casualties to safety and pressing on to fight the terrible war against death. The day dragged on and on with hard IV sticks, complicated medical histories, and unexpected additional tasks.

When I sat in my car to go home, I realized that I had not yet processed the death of my coworker’s parent. Despite our busy start, we’d spent the beginning of our morning laughing, teasing each other and bickering as we always do when we are assigned in the same area. Now the flow of her life has changed and I am sad for her.

Towards the end of the day I was getting some negative vibes from a patient. I felt like she and her husband didn’t like me. Maybe I just sounded too systematic to her or too routine. Maybe it’s my imagination. Maybe she was too worried about her condition to appear friendly. She was assigned to me as fast as my coworker ran out the door. I was hypoglycemic and in shock over my coworker’s loss. Yet I pressed on as best I could, because I am a nurse.

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Beau Jangles

I always listen to music when I write but I only allow myself to listen to instrumental music. No singing. Singing is a distraction. Tonight, I am listening to the 70’s station on Pandora Radio.

It’s funny how when we revisit old memories how those moments in time are frozen, waiting for us to revisit them. As I write this, I need to listen to the music that brings me back to my childhood. 

It’s June 26, 1978. I am 7 1/2 years old living in my childhood home in Buffalo, New York. My younger brother was four and my older brother was 11. It was after dinner , still light out and we were playing in our playroom.

“BEAU STOP”, my father yells. Tires screech and then a car peels away. There is yelling. There are men in the street. Our neighbors. My brothers and I run out of the house to see what’s wrong. There is blood all over the street. My father firmly commands us to turn around and go back into the house. My grandma runs out of the house to bring us back in. They don’t want us to see what happened. We know though. Our dog has been hit by a car. He is dead. Our dog is gone. That was a terrible night in our house.

The bitch that ran him over just kept driving. Although I would never wish anyone harm, for all these years I have wished karma would find her. Accidents happen and Beau did bolt across the street but it was obvious she killed our dog and she drove away without apology when my father was standing in the driveway. Really? Who does that?

Then men on our street hosed off the blood and helped my father put Beau’s body in a box. The box was placed up against the house in the driveway for the SPCA to retrieve the next day. My bedroom faced the driveway. For the longest time I could not sleep facing my bedroom window which faced the driveway. My back always had to be facing the window. Who knows what a psychiatrist would say about that today. Denial maybe.

Beau Jangles, Beau for short was a black mini poodle. My parents must have adopted him shortly after they purchased that house. I was around two. My little brother wasn’t born yet and my older brother was adopted later on. Beau peed on the light post in front of our house. That was his spot. When he wanted to go somewhere on our street he ran. He bolted as a matter of fact. There was a fat basset hound named Maude that lived down the street. She used to lay in the street and never got hit by a car. As a matter of fact sometimes people would stop to pet her. Beau slept on a rug in my grandma’s room. She’d let him out the back door and when she wanted him to come back in the house she’d call for him out the door and he’d come running. In the winter, my grandma let Beau out to do his business and he came right back in. He didn’t play around with Buffalo’s harsh winters. Moments before his death, he came into the room we were playing in. He’d approached each of us. We greeted him and pet him and then he went outside for the last time.

We moved to Atlanta two years after Beau died and never got another dog. We had a few cats instead. I was too young to understand the magnitude of a dog’s love as I do now but somewhere deep inside I could never bring myself to get attached to other people’s dogs, simply because they weren’t my dog. That didn’t happen until I was 41. My friend adopted a poodle mix that I fell head over heels over. I loved his face and the la la la playful way about him. That’s when I knew it was time for me to love another dog.

My husband had never had dogs growing up. Only cats. I gently eased him into a conversation about getting a dog. It was a good time for our family to adopt a dog and our kids had been asking. A few months later I was on Petfinder looking at Black Mini Poodles. A black poodle not to replace Beau Jangles, but because that little girl who lost her dog in 1978 can’t imagine herself with any other kind of dog.

Beau Jangles must have been watching over me from Heaven because there was a black male mini poodle waiting for us on Petfinder when I began my search. He was 2 1/2 and he’d been listed a few months.  I looked at other poodles too but kept going back to him.They say you don’t choose the dog, the dog chooses you. It was his eyes that drew me to him. Eyes that said, “I need you, you need me. Bring me home”. We went to meet him, spent two hours with him and brought him home. We changed his name from Pooky to Cooper Jay. There was an adjustment period of course. He’d been in a shelter for six months and wow did he ever have skeletons in his closet. We got through it though. We earned his trust and he taught us how to take care of him and love him on a level we didn’t know we were capable of.

I think of Beau from time to time. Especially on June 26. I wish he didn’t die so tragically. The little girl from 1978 believes somehow from Heaven he let me fall in love with my friend’s dog here on earth and  helped realize it was time okay for me to love another dog again and go looking for Cooper.

 

When it Hits Home

As health care workers, we witness tragedy, illness and death on a daily basis. We learn to cope with it, block it out, shake it off and “Just keep swimming” as Dory the fish would say. Each day as we walk out of the hospital at the end of our shifts, we step into that imaginary phone booth to twist around and shed our super life saver cloths. No one will ever know what we’ve experienced during our work day if we don’t want them to.

In the hospital I work in as a nurse, we refer to each other as family. There’s the hospital wide family and there’s the unit where you work family. Regardless of a person’s job description, we have one common goal: to save lives. We celebrate holidays together. We pass each other in the halls, we chat about our lives, and we share joy and sorrow.

Unfortunately, I’ve experienced illness and death on multiple occasions among my coworkers in my 22 years as a nurse. It doesn’t get any easier as the years pass, as we get older, knowing what we know about life and death.

Monday morning, my unit family learned that an employee in a unit that we work in conjunction with every day had a medical emergency over the weekend. Although they were still alive, the outlook did not look good. The hospital family held a prayer service. This employee’s unit family held a prayer breakfast. A Go Fund Me account was set up.

Early yesterday morning we learned that this member of our hospital family was placed in hospice. After learning this, I took some time to reflect and pray for this person. I didn’t know this person as well as I know others but she always smiled and nodded at me in passing.Β  I thought about her in her street cloths and not her super life saver uniform,Β  as the human being that she is outside of the hospital, how full of life she was prior to this illness and how sad her family must be.

As I went along with my day yesterday I had that familiar feeling in my gut that I often do when something is wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I was sad. I’d gone out for a random lunch with a friend, ran errands, cleaned up my house and took a nap. It was a good day. Then I figured it out.Β  I’d just kept swimming after learning about my coworker in hospice. I thought I could just reflect, say a prayer and shake it off because that’s how we are programmed so we don’t go crazy. Not this time. I didn’t have my super life saving uniform on. It made me feel vulnerable. I realized that I would never see this coworker again and it hurt.

I woke up this morning and knew that I had to write this post for my coworker, for anyone who’s ever lost a coworker, and for the non medical world to understand how much it hits home when we lose one of our own. Later this afternoon I learned that God has taken my coworker home. May she rest in peace.