Shortly after sunset, the dance began.
We hovered together, huddled in clusters around the floor. In a quick, steady, tempo, we recited the day’s events, and the things to come. A murmur, slightly above a whisper, so patients and families walking by could not hear the secret exchange- our passing off from one nurse to another, during shift change. With too much to do and too little time, we spoke in acronyms, in voice and dance.
“Sixty-five year old male, DNR/DNI, on Contact for MRSA, with a history of HTN, DM, COPD, and…” my coworker threw his hand in the air, palm facing me, his fingers extending straight up, like he was about to give me a high-five.
I nodded, without a word. The high-five was the informal gesture indicating he had HIV, meaning we’d continue to give compassionate care, but had to be cautious to avoid needle stick injuries.
Shortly after, I tiptoed into Mr.A’s room. Raising the level of the bed to my height, I simultaneously dropped the bedrail. “I’m going to restart your IV,” I explained.
Tying the tourniquet, my index finger traced the spongy vessels running along his thin forearm.
His brows furrowed, his eyes followed my every move.
I wiped his arm with alcohol and positioned the catheter, ready to aim…
Be careful. No mistakes.
You got this.
Do it just like you’ve done it…
hundreds of times.
Guided by intuition, my index finger glided the needle into the vein.
I paused. Blood flashed back into the catheter.
Phew! I’m in.
Withdrawing the needle, I advanced the catheter, and secured the IV.
~ ~ ~
As nurses, it is our duty, our calling, to care for our patients. Recently, I was stunned to learn the identity of the 2nd person in the U.S. to contract ebola. She’s a young, Texan, nurse. (And fortunately, she just tested negative for the virus after receiving treatment.)
For her, it was a seemingly routine day, when a patient with ebola walked through her hospital’s door.
It could’ve been me.
Although I have no experience caring for ebola patients, I’ve cared for hundreds of patients with all types of infectious diseases. If nurses and doctors do not step up, who will?
Who will battle ebola on the front lines?
Who will care for our fellow healthcare workers, who risked their own lives, to save others?
(And upon their return, if they do not carry the virus, why do we isolate them like prisoners?)
How my heart aches.
~ ~ ~
Years have passed, from those nights which I tangoed between life and death, caring for really sick HIV/AIDS patients. I have since traded my nights for days, and the hospital hustle for the clinic’s shuffle. Nevertheless, whether giving injections, or preparing for possible ebola exposure, risks (for healthcare workers) always remain.
At the the end of each day, begins a new sunrise. I’ll don my scrubs, lace up my tread worn Asics, and embrace the unforeseen. Do whatever it takes to care for my patients.
‘Cause no one can keep me from dancin’.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.”