Monday, June 13, 2011

My Crush

Bling!  The tiny electronic cricket of the phone breaks through my sleep and I am suddenly awake.  My skin crawls with the desire to move, but I master the impulse and lay still.  The light of early dawn is the palest of blue as it creeps in around the curtain and gives me just enough light to see.

I am glad my slumber was shattered for I am now acutely aware how many hours there are left until you leave.  Our time is so short.  Juliet's plaintive cry over the coming of the morning sounds in my head, and like her, there is nothing I can do to slow the clock.  All I can do is savor this sliver of time.

Your body is curled into mine, both hands rest of my stomach and I hold each in my own.  Our fingers curled together in a delicate balance, much like our legs.  Your breath betrays how deep you slumber; respirations slow and even.  With each exhalation your sweet scent wafts over me, and it is intoxicating.  I wish I could hold on to it, so I try to memorize it every time it comes.   It is so soft, like the fuzz of a chick, yet so overwhelmingly male that I am suddenly aware of just how manly your entire being is.

The bulge of your arm is soft now that your arm is at rest, but I know it can carry out all the work you must do.  The broadness of your chest, that I know holds a tender heart that few have a chance to see, extends around to your back, that I know is strong enough to carry the world.  Tiny blades of stubble cover your perfect face; lashes closed in prayer.

I lay perfectly still in this moment, for fear of waking you and losing it forever.  For as much as I long to see your eyes looking back at me, I know when they do, it will be to take their last look before our separation.  So I instead I lay, basking in the heat your body is radiating out and fighting off the return of my slumber.  Slumber will steal the few precious hours we have left.  Whisk them away into nothingness.  Obliterate the last moments of happiness I will get to enjoy of you.  I try to hard, but fight it as I may, finally my perfect moment is stolen away, gone with the blink of my eyes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Days Like Last Friday

They don't tell you when you become a nurse that there will be days like last Friday.  They don't tell you when you become a nurse there will be days that are 11 hours and 45 minutes of normal and 15 minutes of the surreal.  They don't tell you when you become a nurse that somedays there is nothing you can do but be the sentinel that watches the end come.  They don't tell you when you become a nurse that there will be days like last Friday or you would never have become a nurse.

I have not had a patient die in four years.  I have not had a patient die in four years but I can remember every last one.

The first death I was ever present for was when I worked in the ER. It was a woman who had an aneurysm while driving.  She was 50ish; an average looking woman. After her car met the highway barrier, the paramedics were able to restart her heart once, but when she came in, she was fading fast. After she coded for us, we lost her.  Her very large hispanic family began the ritualistic weeping and wailing in the hallway, that I could hear through the curtain where I had been left to clean the body.

Alone in the room with her, I finished cutting off the rest of her clothes, removed all the IVs and equipment attached to her, washed and prepped her for viewing. What I remember that most was that she had these ridiculous Halloween earrings on; tiny hinged skeletons that danced when moved. Removal of jewelry is not part of the checklist, due to the jewelry usually being quite expensive, so we leave them on the person. Had they been any regular, expensive earrings, I would not have given them a second thought. All I kept thinking was she got up this morning in her own house, she put those earrings on, jolly and having no idea she would never see another Halloween. She was not a failing body shipped to us from the nursing home, awaiting the sweet release of death. This morning she was a person, and now she is nothing more than a chunk of flesh that had to be dealt with.

The first death of my own patient was an elderly black gentleman, exactly the nursing home patient most of my deaths are.  He had been my patient the previous two days, and no family came to see him, no friends crowded his room wishing him well.  The third day, I had some extra time, so I pulled out a razor gave him a shave he was in very bad need of.  While I shaved him, we had pleasant chat.  Near the end of my shift his heart failed, and upon his request, we did not attempt to save his life.  Instead I watched from the doorway while the death he knew was coming claimed him.  His was the only death I have cried at.

I remember the toddler we could not save after she choked on a toy, I remember the post-op bleed that left literally pints of blood in the bed, I remember the AAA who died on the toilet, I remember the cancer ridden patient who's family was finally ready for the morphine that would release him, I remember them all, and Mr. S from Friday will be no exception.

Mr. S was not even my patient.  He came up to the floor around 04:00 with a GI bleed of unknown origin.  As I helped the other nurse get him settled in, he chatted with us.  He told me about his dog, Precious, whom his daughter rescued from Mexico last time she was down there, and I showed him pictures of Tucker on my phone.  He chatted with me about how warm it was getting, and about how the doctors were making a big fuss over nothing.  We tucked him in and told him to call if he needed anything. I didn't go into the room till his call light went on at 0645.  His nurse was not around, so I got up and went to see what he needed.  When I got there, he asked to see his nurse because he needed to urinate.  I left the room, had another room ask me for a warm blanket, told his nurse he wanted to see her, and went to get the blanket.

I could not have been gone for more than 30 seconds.  When I returned, his nurse yelled at me to get the charge nurse.  I went and got her, and by the time I turned around, she yelled at me to call a code.  I called the code and when I entered the room, he looked nothing like the man who asked me less than two minuets ago to get his nurse because he had to pee.  He was ashen, and limp, and the monitor told all of us, heading for death.

His heart stopped, and we intubated.  After we intubate, the doctor told us that his lungs were full of blood.  Turns out he was bleeding from more than his rectum.  We pulled out 1,000 cc of bright red blood from his lungs. We brought him back once, but he never had a chance.  One moment he was holding my phone, talking to me about my dog, and the next he was just like the 50ish Hispanic lady with the skeleton earrings.  Covered in blood, naked, surrounded by a room of frustrated people who want nothing more than for him to open his eyes.

By the time we were done, he was cold, he was pale, and he and half the room were covered in blood.  For most people, death is an abstract concept.  People are in their lives one day, and the next they are not.  They might as well have moved away.  For the unfortunate few, death is life shattering because the one on the bed is their whole world.  But for the even more select few, death is something we work against everyday.  We struggle and we fight, and even when we do everything right, and we do all that we can, we still have no control over death.  We don't get to say that Mr. S gets to go home to his dog, or toddlers get to live because they are young, or that someone should live because they are loved.  They don't tell you when you become a nurse that there will be days like last Friday, days where there is no control, that you don't get to be the hero, that your patient doesn't ever get to leave.  They don't tell you when you become a nurse that there will be days like last Friday or you would never have become a nurse at all.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Puppy Love

Tiny Tucker lays curled in the crook betwixt my hips and rib cage.  He has somehow perfectly alined the curve of his spine with the curve of my waist.  I look down at him and watch his pint-sized chest rise and fall.  Puppy love washes over my heart and a smile creeps over my lips, but then it is almost immediately over taken by a tsunami of guilt.  An accusatory voice echos in my head, asking how quickly have I forgotten Carson.  Like a new husband, can teeny Tucker ever replace the colossal Carson shaped hole left in my life?

When I made the cross country move with all my possessions in tow, Carson was my co-pilot.  And why not, he had been beside me for every life change for the past 11 years.  Finally free of my collegiate bonds, the first two major purchase I was determined to make were washer and dryer, and a dog.  Shortly after arriving to my new job in clothes fresh from my own appliances, I went in search of a my canine companion.

Living in a small apartment with an even smaller yard, I had to find a pup who's mass would not make my tiny space a mess.  I visited several shelters but found nothing but the Greatest of Danes, Bloodhounds requiring their own queen mattress, and St. Bernards who could consume a metric ton in a week.  It was not until leaving a Petsmart adoption event empty-handed, and spied a man walking in with nothing more than a wee tuft of hair in his arms, that I found what I was looking for.  After chatting with him, he told me that the breed was a Britney Spaniel and the breeder had one more male he was anxious to find a home for.

A phone call, a short drive, and $150 later I returned home with a perpetual motion machine incarnate of a puppy.  His name was Chris for a few days, but after that didn't seem to fit his sizable personality, I landed on the moniker of Carson.  Carson is lucky he made it out of puppyhood alive.  His antics made the movie "Beethoven" look like a walk in the park.  He was a holy terror.  The day I came home and he dug a hole in the wall, and ate all the insulation, he was so lucky the pound had already closed their doors for the day.  Several weeks of obedience classes, some patience, and the unkindest of snips helped us settle into the routine of everyday life together.

Carson was not the brightest bulb.  In fact, amongst my friends it was the running joke that I had one of the dumbest dogs alive.  He never could quite get the gist of frisbee.  He would allow it to hit him in the face, fall the ground, and then pick it up from there.  I had to finally stop trying for fear of the resulting brain damage.  You could literally knock on the table for eight hours straight and he would still be convinced there was someone at the door.  My favorite illustration of his lack luster mental prowess is one day he was laying on the floor, spies something across the room, gets up, and starts to lick it.  I cannot imagine what is on the floor that he is licking.  I get up to investigate and discover he is licking a spot of light.  Lovable but not solving world hunger in the near future.

It was shortly after the move that I began to notice old age over taking my energetic guy.  He began to put on weight, was less interested in playing fetch and would rather sleep than go for a walk.  Old age happens to all of us.  Since the dog's life is condensed compared to ours, I had the opportunity to see him from infancy to a geriatric.  It had me pondering how our bodies changed, and how none of us can escape it.

One night I came home and found him down in the backyard.  He was so sick he could not even stand.  I had to dead lift my 55 lb dog into the house, where I tried to give him what comfort I could until the vet opened.  The verdict there was ominous.  Carson was suffering from DKA secondary to acute pancreatitis.  After a valiant battle, the call came that it was time to release Carson from the pain.  My dad  came in and together we sat with him while he drew his last breath.  I was a wreck.  I cried so hard that the entire staff, including the vet cried with me.  Suddenly after 12 years of constant companionship, he was gone in the blink of an eye.  All our time together, all our understanding, all of our relationship was suddenly just extinguished like it never existed.  Having never lost anyone close to me, I had just the slightest, tiniest, minute glimpse of what some of my patient's families must feel.  I was devastated.

Coming home to an empty house was the hardest.  The first day I caught myself yelling for him to come greet me at the door.  You don't realize how something so silly like a dog fills your life with happiness and unadulterated joy.  There was a hole in my life that made the loneliness ebb in from the fringe of my consciousness.

It was then that I found myself at the shelter.  I was just going to look, to see how I felt about someday having another dog.  I had no intention of bringing anything home.  That was all before Tucker.  Tucker was found somewhere off Jones, nearly dead, grossly underweight, and considered by the staff to be unadoptable in his condition.  He would need special medication for his infected eyes, a regiment of soft food and high calorie kibble to try to get his weight back up to healthy, a vet visit fairly soon after adoption, and someone to show him not all humans will leave him helpless and alone.  The whole story melted my heart.  Picking him up, I could see him hip bones clearly beneath his taunt skin, but all it took was a flick of his tongue smaller than that of a cats across my cheek to seal the deal.

Bringing Tucker home has already had its associated growing pains.  I have caught myself comparing the two dogs to each other.  I find myself wishing Tucker was as free with his love as Carson was, or loved to be outside like Carson did.  I logically know it is not fair.  Tucker is an individual with his own individual personality.  He cannot forever live in Carson's shadow.  While on the flip side, I cannot let the place Carson will alway have in my heart leave no room for Tucker to make a place.  Like all people in our lives whom leave us, there should be no guilt in finding the ability to love again.  It is a matter of allowing myself to not feel like I am abandoning my love for Carson, while allowing a new one to grow.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How Meta Is It To Blog About Blogs?

I have recently been on hiatus from blogging for various reasons, but tonight putting the proverbial pen to paper seems apt.  While I may not be ready to return to my prose, I was thinking about my own little niche in the electronic sphere.  How meta is it to blog about blogs?  I have always done a mental eye roll when reading fiction and the protagonist is a writer by profession.  Authors like King, Irving and Vonnegut have elevated their narcissistic to a level of masturbation.   "Write what you know", has just earned its cliche status.

Still, the need to decide what I am doing here has taken hold of my active thoughts.  Originally I started my blog to give my self a space to work on my writing.  A skill that lays dormant will soon wither and fall away.  My daily interaction with the written word is laid down medical jargon, cut to the bone to be concise and declarative.  No room to describe the tone of the air, the tilt of a head as the question is asked, or the lithe movement used to cross a room.  With school behind me, if not to blog, my textual competency would need not to be more sophisticated than the ability to make smiley faces and hearts via text message.

"A Girl and Her Blog" is acutely personal to me; sharing it is akin to intimacy.  As I fill the space with my words, my reader can judge me, love me, or revile me.  I am opening myself up for it all.  While some of my posts are silly or cathartic, most are serious expressions of my creativity.  Reflective and probative of self or prose hammered out over months, all are elemental to my core.  Sharing not only allows me to practice my art but allows me to lay bare my character.

While I am hesitant as a cat with strangers to starts regular posts again, it feels so nice to be back amid my words.  I miss the way I look at the world, searching for the next stroke of inspiration to quiver inside me.  I miss the way I stop before speaking to search for the perfect turn of phrase.  I miss the way it changes how I read books, looking at technique and appreciating the subtle art.  I miss the way my fingers itch to tap out all the buzz inside my head.  I miss the way I get to tell you, my reader, just who I am.