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.
“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 thecaf.”
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.
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
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 →
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.