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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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

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

Thawing at the Moon’s Feet

A frozen Charles River, thawing at the moon's feet...

A frozen Charles River

The city skyline twinkled in the deep, dark night. Its light reflected upon the icy waters of the Atlantic.

En route to work, my car scurried around snowbanks from February’s fury. I rushed into the hospital to receive handoff from the off going nurse.

“He’s very fascinating, if you get a chance to chat with him,” my co-nurse reported during shift change. “But the main thing is to watch his breathing. And his wound.”

I scribbled notes and stuffed them into my pocket. “Got it.”

~ ~ ~

His gray hair seemed like it had just been combed. He leaned against a stack of pillows. His skin and lips were pink; his breathing fine. He gave a gentle nod. “Hello.”

I checked his vital signs. “How are you feeling? Any pain?”

“Actually…” he hesitated. Continue reading

Seven Day Fight

the few resources we had. cambodia, 2010.

all we had. cambodia, 2010.

At first, I didn’t see her.  She was her husband’s shadow, following him closely from behind.

His chest heaved, and his neck muscles retracted, as he fought for air.

Please help my husband, her eyes pleaded. She fidgeted beside his bed.

His skin pale, his lips faded to a blue grey. “ហត់ចង់ងប់ (I’m so tired, I could die),” he panted.

We were losing time.  Continue reading

HighFives and Heartache

a sunset that lights our feet on fire

a sunset that lights our feet on fire

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.

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