Hurt/ Helpless/ Hopeful

With the door ajar, I heard a voice. “Love you, see you in the morning.

She walked out the room and headed towards the elevator. “If there’s anything, call me,” she waved at me.

“Your mom is so sweet,” I handed over a cup of pills. As a new nurse, I tried to juggle both- caring for my patients, while getting to know my patients. “How are you feeling?”

“Hi Soapie, it’s good to see you again,” she tried to smile. “But my chest feels tight.”

I checked her oxygen level, listened to her lungs, then ran a marathon: rushed to the medication cart, back to my patient to put her on a nebulizer, and reassessed her breathing. I repositioned her, raised the head of the bed, called respiratory and her attending, and gave all the PRN and STAT meds.

But her breaths became more shallow. The pink in her lips disappeared.

Please don’t die… you are too young to die… Before I knew it, my legs pushed her bed out the room and sprinted down a long hall.

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No Turkey, but Tombstones

When the sun rose on Thanksgiving morning, I inhaled a deep breath.

It was a holiday like never before.

As a family with a baby and toddler, no relatives nearby, no help with childcare, and both of us as healthcare workers, we had been running on empty since March. How our chests ached, yearned to see our family! But we chose not to travel, and told our family not to visit us, for everyone’s safety during the pandemic.

Despite our sheer exhaustion, I was still thankful. We’re still alive, thanks be to God. (As I write this, there have been 1425 healthcare workers who have died in the U.S. from fighting COVID.)

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Unraveling

She frowned and kicked her feet in frustration.

“We have to be apart right now.”

“But I miss Baba!!!” she wailed.

A few months ago, my husband decided to quarantine in a separate room, just in case. He had some symptoms, and we didn’t want to risk getting me sick (since I have asthma), nor our young kids.

Ring…. Ring….

“BABA!” my daughter exclaimed. Her eyes lit up as she looked at the screen.

Then, a pair of brown ears and an animal face appeared.

“You’re a monkey?!?!” she giggled. We had never used the animoji setting on Facetime before.

Her laughter was a fresh breath of air; it gave me the boost I needed to get through the longest, most exhausting days.

~ ~ ~

A few weeks ago

Bright sun light poured into the room. But it didn’t wake him. He probably arrived home around 4 or 5 a.m.

I took one glance at him, then ushered my baby and toddler towards the stairs. “Let him sleep. We have to stay far for now. Just in case.”

He was wearing a mask… while sleeping.

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When There’s No Room

photo of a hospital hallway

“Did you eat today?” In Asian culture, asking did you eat yet is another way of asking how are you?

He tossed his dirty scrubs in the hamper. It was part of our decontamination routine. “For once, I actually ate. I had a short moment to run to the caf.”

I grinned. “Remember at our old hospital, how we would get pizza in the caf before I worked a night shift, and before you went home from your day shift?”

“Those were good memories,” he smiled, like it had been a past lifetime, pre-covid era.

I remembered the sounds of plates and chatter, and I envisioned the people buzzing to and from the cafeteria.

Then I remembered walking those long basement hallways and turning a corner. My brows narrowed and my grin faded.

~ ~ ~

Suddenly I was transported back in time, and I felt this heavy weight upon my shoulders. It was a crushing pressure that drained every last ounce of my strength, after all my energy had already been emptied from working so hard to NOT go there. Pushing the stretcher up the hall was the most impossible task, like pushing towards Mount Everest.

It was the task I dreaded the most.

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Two Choices

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Around the corner, I heard a soft, but labored, panting.

Curious, I walked into my patient’s room to find him breathing rapidly.  I took his vital signs: blood pressure was a little high, pulse ok, temperature ok.  His respirations were fast, but his oxygen saturation was 100%.

Normally, when I call a doctor to report a patient’s worsening condition, I’m ahead of the game.  If my patient’s short of breath, I hook them up to oxygen.  If they have ‘as needed’ medications available, I give them. If he’s aspirating (choking on fluids), I raise the
head of the bed, I shove a yankauer in their mouth and suction the crap
out.

But this time, I was empty handed.  Continue reading

Flinging Gloves

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Remembering & Looking Forward. (Hong Kong, 2013)

After hearing some news today, I felt like flinging my gloves in the trash.

Not in an angry manner, but in a different way…

*sigh*

~ ~  ~

August 4, 2005

“I can’t find a pulse…” he said, with urgency in his voice.  The nurse was scrambling around the bedside trying to get the patient to respond.

“YOU NEED TO START CPR, it doesn’t matter Continue reading

A Beautifully Painful Mess

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The Ruins of Rome. Summer 2014.

Strange. The door was ajar, a moment ago. I knocked, then pushed it open.

I had expected my patient to be on the phone. Instead, she sat on the exam table, her young daughter standing at her side. The little girl’s left hand wrapped the blood pressure cuff over her mom’s arm, and the other hand squeezed the inflation bulb.  Startled by my interruption, she hurriedly put the cuff away.

“When you grow up, do you want to be a doctor or nurse?” I smiled, reaching for a pair of gloves.

“A nurse,” she replied. Continue reading

Locked. Unleashed. Leaving.

In honor of Veteran’s Day, reposting an old blog post that includes a vignette of one of my patients.

For all those who have served our country.. a sincerest thank you.

~ ~ ~

April 9, 2010

He glanced out the window, then looked at me. “I’m 92. I’ve been through a lot.”

He began to story tell. “It was winter time, and I was stationed in Europe during World War II. At night, we wore all of our gear and slept in the trenches. They were these deep, buried holes in the Earth. I thought it was going to be cold, but that first night, it was rather warm. Then in the morning, I emerged from my trench, and Continue reading