Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thump Stump

I am a nurse at a Trauma Center that I will not name, thanks to HIPPA laws. I really do what a lot of people claim to do when they meet a guy at a bar. I love my job, I hate my job, and I really, really love some of my coworkers. Where else can you find the perfect balance of compassion and sarcasm in the same person? My undiagnosed childhood ADHD is satiated by the never ending throes of humanity begging for either real help or their drug of choice. This is the first of many stories, now released from the Frontal Lobe to make room for more freak shows.

One night we had a young guy in our unit. I was working with my friend Amy, whom I found hanging her head in her hands. "Why so glum"? I asked. She said, "Do you remember all the screaming that guy in bed 1 did from the foley?" (Putting a catheter through one's penis is never pleasant, but this guy could be heard from the next county when she did it.) "Of course" said I. "Well, now I have to put a NG down him" said Amy. (A nasogastric tube goes down into your stomach via your nostril and is equally uncomfortable as a tube through the penis). Being a good friend, I offered to help. Hard enough to put one down on a patient who was cooperative, let alone  a drunk strapped to the stretcher in leather restraints, except for his amputated leg, which we call a stump. The stump had not healed correctly, so there was this freakish flap of skin that hung off it like a little tongue. I opted for focusing on the task at hand instead of the scary appendage.

So there are 3 of us holding this guy. I am holding him down on the bed by his chest, Kristin is holding his head so Amy can put the tube down, and Mahdi is at his good leg, since he would thrash so hard the bed would rock. Amy goes to put the tube in his nostril, and he is spitting and screaming. Charming. Slowly, like a bad dream, in my peripheral vision I watch as his stump leg goes up and backward at an unGodly angle, literally kicking like a hyperextended Rockette. Over and over again the stump hits me, landing firmly in my boob each time. The little flap of tongue/skin at the end of the stump is hitting me in the ear and I am thisclose to throwing up because stumps in general freak me out. I finally let go of his chest and say in my best mom voice: "put that damn stump down right now!" (Which he does not), so then I say "I will not tolerate you thumping me with that stump" which sends my already giggling pals into full blown hysterics. I honestly don't remember much else, other than offers to stump thump me still crop up on any given night.

In the spirit of fondling, I offer another take from work.

We had a middle aged man drop dead at home. CPR was done for almost an hour trying to save him, but he was gone when he hit our door. It was incredibly tragic and sad and predictably, family was in the viewing room for hours before they left. It was time for us to wrap him for the morgue, and we had 3 people in the room to do this. We are very respectful when we do this (seriously). It's always so sad that you end up naked in a plastic bag after all you have done in your life. We should find something a little more dignified, but then there is that whole hazmat thing. So we have to get this guy into the bag, which involves turning him on his side and sliding the bag under him, then turning him on his other side, pulling the bag through and zipping it up. We turn once, no problem, then we turn toward me. I am holding the bag in place as my friends turn, and as the man comes my way his semi-rigor arm flops through the air and his hand gets caught in my stethescope, coming to rest on my right breast and resting there. (Cupping it quite lovingly, I might add). I have my hands on the bag, and am sort of stuck because if I let go, groping dead guy might fall off the stretcher. Did I mention my coworkers were both male? Did I mention they refused to move his hand, screaming for everyone to come look at Kim taking one for the team as the guy makes his way to the Great Beyond? Sick, sick mofo's, that's what they are.  And I love them.

I take comfort in the fact that I have these stories.   It means that the decision to walk out of  Business 101 class at OCC in the middle of lecture was a good one.  If I worked in a cubicle I would surely die of boredom or ADHD.  Thank you, my patients.  You complete me.

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