Hard Evidence That I Suck at Life Right Now

I’m sick. Not deathly ill, but just a little under the weather. And what comes with feeling a little under the weather? I have absolutely no desire to do anything.

My house is a mess. Not just any mess, mind you. No, it’s a mess. I’m choosing to call it crackhouse-chic. As in nothing is where it should be. I am sitting at my desk right now, and I am appalled at the clutter. A dirty coffee mug, abandoned and empty and left there most likely at 3AM when I was awake in the wee hours trying to get a paper submitted by a deadline. An empty OJ bottle from when I grabbed some juice from the cafeteria on the way out of work on what was my fourth night in a row at that hell hole. Camera, cell, and mp3 player, all with their affiliated charges and USB cables, in a jumble of wires. My purse, unzipped and laying on its side, with contents strewn out across the space. I think this is the remnant of the search for my sunglasses for our walk yesterday. And there are about three empty inhalers.

Empty inhalers from where I have been wheezing like a freak for the past few days, to the point that coworkers would tell me, “Andrea, take your inhaler.” Because they could hear my dysfunctional lungs. It has yet to be seen if this is due to the fact that I have allergies like a mofo, I have been coming down with something, or a few days ago, I was taking puffs off of an inhaler that apparently was involved in a freak body-spray-leakage and thus drenched in the stuff. Nothing like Victoria’s Secret’s Strawberries and Champagne fumes all up in your lungs. Anyhow, I think it was the second one, that I’m coming down with something, simply because yesterday, the other stuff started: runny nose, cough, achiness.

But my dysfunction isn’t limited to the desk. Let’s discuss the kitchen table. Diaper bag. A stack of board games that have been uprooted from their home when Zach started really  walking, and we realized he could reach them, complete with their choking-hazard little pieces. As in, “What’s that in Zachy’s lung? Oh, it’s a family member from the Game of Life–not sure if it’s mommy or daddy because the pink or blue doesn’t show up on an x-ray and he’s gonna need a bronchoscopy to get it dislodged from his bronchiole so we can know…” But I digress. What else? Text books. Mine. From where Ev spilled juice the other day and John made a mad dash to save the (quite literally) thousands of dollars’ worth of what is essentially paper and cardboard and ink. There’s also a bottle of shampoo that never found its way to the bathroom when groceries were put away…two weeks ago. A bottle of multi-purpose cleaner…ditto.  The list goes on and on.

I’ve fallen behind on my blog, as well as reading others’.

Evan starts school in 2 weeks. T-W-O. I have not bought him a single school supply. He needs all new uniforms this year, from short sleeve to long sleeve, shorts to pants. Hell, he even needs new gym clothes. That one is all the school’s fault: we wore whatever for gym class when I was a kid. Evan has to have navy sweats and plain white t-shirts. And he needs new shoes….Gah.

The day before Ev starts school, John does as well. He can get his own damned books. He’s a big boy.

I am finishing up my e-commerce class. Next up is corporate finance and  operations management, Don’t be jealous. Actually, I have the overwhelming feeling that those two are going to suck when put together in the same 5 weeks. I have this week and next to not have to worry about it, so screw it. And I must admit that I have coasted by on my e-commerce. But I also have a perfect score right now with only 2 assignments left to submit. Oh wait, I lied. I missed 5 points on last paper because I forgot to close the parentheses on one of my citations. So I may only get a fucking 99.9%. Pffft.

I have a mandatory meeeting coming up as well. For the NICU. I’m on the list to go there. As a result, I have to go and spend some time at Cincinnati Children’s RCNIC (Regional Center for Neonatal Intensive Care). Sweet baby Jesus, help me. Because I can keep my shit together when it counts. But then, once it is all over, the baby is saved, and it is time to move on, I think of mine. I picture Zach and Evan and what could have been with either one of them, and I break down. Well, there, that is all I’m going to see for 8 hours a day until my rotation is over. These are the gods of the neonatal world. Other specialty children’s hospitals send them the shit they can’t handle. Actually, they’re ranked number 3 in the nation. 3. Out of God-knows-how-many. This will be so exciting, yet so emotionally and mentally stressful. I can wait on that, too.

I have to come up with 36 continuing education credits in order to renew my creds with the National Board for Respiratory Care. Yeah. I actually don’t have to have that finished, but I need to ensure that all of my credits count before the deadline, so I have time to replace the ones that do not count. Either that, or I can sit for my credentialing exams all over again. No, thank you.

So the bottom line is that I have a lot of crap to do, and no gumption to do any of it. Yes, I suck at life right now.

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Sometimes It’s the Little Things

We cannot fix everything. People have asked me what I thought was the most difficult aspect of my career in healthcare. It isn’t the 12-hour shifts anything else about my work hours. Yes, I work a lot, but my family understands that when I am not here, I am taking care of sick people, and that someone has to do the job. It isn’t that I have yet to find a good, comfortable pair of shoes that can hold up to what it is I do to them all night. It isn’t the blips on monitors or the screeching alarms of a ventilator.

It is simply this: We cannot fix everything. And sometimes, the things we cannot fix are the ones that will completely rip my heart out. I cannot cure cancer. I cannot take home an abused baby. I cannot expain why it is that a loved one has to die outside of the realm of the logistics of science and pathophysiology. And it sucks. And so, while not all of us do, most of us focus our working hours on what it is that we can do. Sometimes, that just isn’t much. It may mean I can hold a hand. Or tell you I understand. Or get you a warm blanket when you’re cold, or ice water when you are thirsty. I always ask when I leave a patient’s room if there is anything I can do to make them and their loved ones more comfortable. Most of the time there is nothing, and this just makes them smile to know someone cares enough to ask. Sometimes they come up with something frivolous. Sometimes I don’t get an answer and I make it my job to anticipate. Little things.

It was a standard night in the emergency room. I was at the more urban campus in a poor neighborhood instead of the large suburban campus where the median income in the area is well into the six figures. No. The majority of the patients that night were on Medicaid. And drugs. They were inmates arrested and awaiting jail clearance to be taken off in handcuffs. They were young girls in with STD’s or pregnancy tests. They were drunkards found in a parking lot, completely passed out. And you would think all of this would break my heart, but you really do grow cold to this stuff. You can tell the people who are having a rough time from the people who are in that situation by dumbass choices.

Here came this patient one night. He appeared to be no different than the others at first. We was downtrodden and dirt-caked. He was wheeling a grungy suitcase like he expected to be admitted. I heard a nurse ask what was up with the suitcase as he was escorted from the waiting room to his room in the back, to which he weakly smiled through grimy, decaying teeth and replied that he takes it everywhere. He was assigned to Craig, a tough-talking RN who really can be an asshole if the situation calls for it. In fact, Craig is the one we intentionally put with the assholes. The beligerent drunks who curse and yell at us. The idots who tried to get high and overdosed to a point that they have depleted their respiratory drive, then get angry at us for giving them a reversing agent because we ruined their high. Those are the ones for Craig simply because he will respond to their abuse by getting back in their faces and speaking to them in the same way they talk to us. And I heard this patient from my desk. He was out of his anxiety medication and wanted more. A refill on one of the most comonly abused drugs. Yeah. Like we haven’t seen that one before.

But the night wore on. The board went from being filled with drug seekers wanting prescriptions to get their weekend started right, to twenty-somethings who had sore throats and wouldn’t go to a family doctor like a normal person would, to the wee hours where the ones who come in are the drug overdoses, the arrests, the beligerent drunks with head lacerations from bar fights. And this man was still there. I heard a young guy yell and curse because he had been there a long time for his earache because we were treating true emergencies before we would get to his non-urgent complaint. I heard a drunk guy in one of the psych rooms yell at the doctor because he would give him narcotics. I heard laughter from a group of 14-year-old girls who all came  in for an STD check, as if this was a social function. I never heard a peep from this man. And Craig seldom had to go into the room.

Finally, at around 3 AM, the great asshole Craig had the papers to discharge the man. The man who looked like so many of the others, but behaved so differently. Polite, quiet, respectful, appreciative…Craig went into the room, discharge papers in hand. And I heard him ask the guy if he had somewhere to go for the rest of the night, to which the man replied that he did not. And Craig told him that, so long as he continued behaving the way he was, he could have the room for the night. The tough-talking nurse emerged from behind the curtain and promptly went to the fridge to take the man a boxed lunch. It wasn’t much: a ham sandwhich, chips, and an apple. But Craig showed his soft side. He gave the man a bed for the night and a meal to fill his belly. Without being asked, he sensed this from the patient. That he needed this, and Craig responded without request to do so. As the night faded to dawn, and the clock ticked closer to dayshift, the man had to go. Craig went in and woke him. Escorted him to the restroom with soap, a washcloth, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, clean socks. Allowed him to clean himself up. Gave him numbers to local shelters and other social service organization in the area who may be able to provide more long-term assistance. And as the man left, he smiled and thanked us all with eyes glistened with tears.

It really is the little things we can do that matter. The tasks may be tiny to us, anyway. I go into a patient’s room in the ICU to withdraw care and allow the patient to die. I am no-nonsense. I perform the taks as if I am doing something menial like folding laundry. One would think, from my demeanor, that I do not care. It isn’t that. I do it because this keeps me from being sucked in. From crying. But if you watch closely, it is there. It’s there in the way I smooth the patient’s hair when I am finished. Or the way I tuck the blankets up around them in the bed as if I am home and tucking in my young child for his nightly slumber. Or the way I place a cool washcloth on thier face. Not much. Little things. Because that is all I can do. I can make them a teensy bit more comfortable as they slip from this world.

But sometimes, I think it can be the little things that mean the most to the patient. And just when I start to have my doubts in humanity after caring for some of the scourge of society in that urban ER, I see what it means to be human. Not in the patients, but in the staff. The people with whom I work day in and day out can do some things that touch me deep into my core. You don’t see it at first, because we have all been doing this long enough to allow ourselves to be encased by this hardened shell. The years add the layers onto this shell to where the softer side of us gets deeper and deeper down. But it is still there. And that night with the homeless man, Craig showed me that.

I love my coworkers. When the world shows me all that is wrong with it, the people with whom I spend my nights come through to show me the very best of humanity.

 

(Please note, as I have stated before, that I abide by all rules governing a patient’s right to privacy. I will NEVER reveal any characteristics that can identify any patient. NEVER! I extend the same courtesy to my coworkers, because, hey, I wouldn’t want stories about me to pop up randomly on the internet. Quite simply, if you are reading this and it sounds familiar, I can assure you it isn’t. You don’t know the patient. You are NOT the patient. Nor are you the nurse. ALL IDENTIFYING CHARACTERISTICS HAVE BEEN OMITTED OR CHANGED. For all you know, I may have just completely made this shit up. So…Peace Out, Homies.)

All Signs Point to YES

I work too fucking much. Sorry, but the f-bomb is the only word befitting that statement. Since I am a creature of science, by nature, I only believe that which can be proven, generally speaking. And so I have proof of this statement and all are completely true stories, I swear.

  • I looked at my pay stub this morning, since payroll hits my account on Wednesday evenings. MMMMHMMMMM. Bastards. My net pay was only $52 more than the amount of my deductions, of which only about $250 was by choice because I like having insurance for the fam. They took fucking half. Enjoy the food stamps, people. You’re welcome.
  • Just now, someone on a tv show yelled “OH MY GOD HE’S NOT BREATHING!” And for a split second I was just about to spring into action. Knee-jerk response.
  • I tried to shop for new scrubs yesterday since mine are getting a little worn. And old. And I haven’t bought any new ones since I was 3-months-knocked-up with the Zachmeister. Damnit. I walked in and must have looked rather haggard, and the girl struck up a convo with me about where I work. And I told her. And she said this: “Where do you work there? Housekeeping?” (DISCLAIMER: Nothing wrong with housekeepers other than they are grossly underpaid. I’m just saying that I looked like shit and she assumed I was poor, underpaid, and overworked. She got the friggin’ overworked part right.)
  • When I walked into the same store, I swear the sight of all of those scrubs–from white to neon-farking-green–made me nauseous for a minute or two.
  • Yesterday, John and I tried to leave the house for some random errand. I had on a tee and denim capris with flip-flops. I knew in my head what we were doing. But nothing more than sheer habit made me reach into the little basket on my desk where I unload my work stuff every morning, and I actually put my damned stethoscope around my neck and grabbed my badge as I headed for the door. It took John cracking up with laughter to make me realize what I had done.
  • John has ceased to ask me when I have days off. Instead, he looks at me and says, “What do you work tonight?” Because one just assumes I have to work something, whether that be a 4-, 8-, or 12-hour shift.
  • I bought a perfectly good pair of gym shoes last month with the intention of wearing them to work. They look brand new, but feel like they are worn out because they are–on the inside.
  • I have a stretch of 7 whole days off starting on the 14th. I was going to try to make plans to do something with them, like get away just for a bit. I know better. So instead, I am wondering how many of them I will actually get off. Surely someone will get sick or need a day off and I will be called at some point during that week.

So yeah, I work too much. It’s a combination of factors that make me do this, really. A sense of obligation to my coworkers. Money. The fact that I have worked too many nights where we are grossly understaffed and I know what it is like to work under those conditions, with a hospital full of really sick patients who have to have our care. I hate having my coworkers work under these conditions when I can help them avoid it by coming in on my day off. But it gets to you. You turn into the job. And it ends up that your whole life is wrapped up in your place of employment. And then it gets to be too much and there is a sort of breakdown where you know you simply must have some time off in order to avoid complete devastation in your life. So you take a couple of days before getting back to it.

I am at that point currently.

Why I Went to Bed at 5 AM and STILL Wasn’t Finished

Who could resist him?

Oh, for shit’s sake.

I am in this accelerated business program where it alternates between one class and two classes at a time, right? And the classes are five weeks long. Okay, we all have that down.

And I write insane amounts of papers. 3 papers each x 2,000 words per paper x 2 classes underway right now = a lot of farkin’ writing. We have that down, too. As do my professors. And this means that any time I have off of work is spent writing fucking papers. It couldn’t be possible that I have a demanding job. Or two kids who need their mommy. Or a husband who is in need of my attention. It just matters that MommyNeedsHerMBAStatSoSheCanTakeOverTheWorld. Yeah, right.

Friday, I was off. I had two papers due Saturday. But earlier in the week, when my boss called and asked me if I would cover a shift on Saturday, I said yes. So the papers had to get finished Friday. Then work on Saturday. Off on Sunday, but two more papers due today. Keep in mind, y’all, that when I have one day off at a time, it really isn’t a day off because I return from work at about 8AM andf then have to at least sleep a little.

So I am prepped. I’m ready. I even cleaned off my desk and made a home for the laptop, note-taking, and more. I was ready. I was going to Get. Shit. Done. And then this little voice said to me, ” Mommy, will you watch a movie with me?” Gah! Just thinking of that makes me cry. I had papers to write with only one day off. I had to return to work today and couldn’t devote the whole day to the writing of said paper. I had so, so much to do…

Of course I said yes. And so after my babies were all tucked in, I worked on 2,000 words on the post-Enron business world and the collapse of corporate social responsibility. And another 2,000 on the value of CVP Analysis in management accounting. It didn’t matter that I was up until 5 AM. Or that I still didn’t finish and know I would be giving up over half of my sleep time today before going to work, all to get the papers finished.

All that mattered was that voice. That request.

After all, there is absolutely no point in any of this shit without them. Without John, Evan, and Zach.

And so now, I will sleep. And I will have a whole 3 days off starting tomorrow morning. And I’ll spend it all with them.

Screw the MBA. Screw papers. Screw work. Just for 3 days.