Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why Nurses Knit

Last Thursday was weird. I should have hunkered down to spend the day in my pajamas.

I like my job, I really do. I just have a hard time liking the day I have to get dressed and actually do it. Make sense? I'll still never quit completely. I can't. It's is more grounding, more focusing, more perspective building than a year's worth of Sunday School lessons. That may or may not have anything to do with the fact that it's been over a year since I actually sat through an entire Sunday School lesson, but whatever. I don't get paid to go to church.

If I ask for a sharp pointy object before I even get there, it is a bad sign. Man, I usually love it when I'm right! I politely and professionally discussed Hospice for a 97 year old man. In my opinion this conversation should not take more than three minutes. "97? Pneumonia? I will get an order and make the referral right now." Instead, I found myself in (multiple) round and round conversations with an attorney daughter who was not ready to let go. She needed to get to a place where she was ready to make a decision, but she also needed to hurry the hell up and get there. He was on his way out and unless she made some sort of decision the dad she loved too much to let go was going to go anyway, and in a miserable and torturous way. There wasn't much for me to do except schedule a follow up visit for Monday, knowing damn well he wouldn't make it through the weekend. That might sound cold unless you've ever seen what chest compressions will to do a 97 year old body ready to transition to the other side.

I left, made the necessary 'cover my ass' phone calls, and went on to my next patient. Bless her heart! This poor woman has been trapped in her body for the last thirty-five years. Along with pulmonary hypertension, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis she also has a rare condition where calcium deposits form in the skin. In her case all over her body. It is incredibly painful and I was the poor shlub who got to perform her woundcare and draw her labs. Oh, for the love! I prayed and prayed. Please let me hit this vein the first time! Please, oh please! And my prayer was answered, proving there is a God because I haven't needed to draw blood in a very long time. I hit it square the first shot. I did not want to add even the slightest to this woman's pain. "I'm still here because there is more to teach and more to learn," was this righteous woman's attitude towards it all. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to take her home with me, she was so sweet! But I think we might have a policy against that.

While I sat in her driveway filling out the lab slips (Wa-hoooie!!) I got a call from Wendy.

"Hey!!! How's it going? I could have used you in a case conference this morning!"
"Weeey-elll. You know. It's been kind of weird. I put myself on Hospice this week."

Weird, does not even begin to describe it. What do I say? What can I say? So I told her I was sorry and that it was really, really shitty. My dear 47 year old friend is going to die. Having been a nurse for thirty years she knows what it's going to look like, too. I know what it means to go into respiratory failure. It is more than a weird place to be. Suddenly what seemed so clear earlier in the day, to just let go, is all so blurry. I didn't need to be the professional here, I get to be the friend, but I've never done this before. I know the greatest act of compassion will be to administer the medications that will make the transition easier. You gotta be free from pain to go Heaven! Wendy is the one who taught me that. But I'm not ready to let go. I'm not ready for my friend to die, so what do I say when she tells me she's not ready to either? The best I could offer her was that I am coming to see her in May and she told me she'd still be here.

After I cried for a few minutes I drove the hour in traffic, but not home. I don't like to wear scrubs in public because I think it's yucky. I didn't care. I headed straight for the cafe to relieve some tension. After a day like that, I'd earned it. Finally! A few hours with sharp pointy objects. My brother-in-law once noticed that I knit faster as I get more and more stressed. That might be true.

We had a new woman join our group last week who is a total kick! Oh, she was funny and I hope she comes back. At some point she asked me what I did for a living.

"I'm a nurse."
"Oh, really? How funny! I know sooo many nurses who knit. I wonder why that is?"

I just smiled.


I'm going to be blocking Hemlock Ring today.

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