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Ok, I’m getting way ahead of myself here (not even remotely in the not-so-near future), but I found the perfect place to have a wedding.
I was in Austin the last few days with an old college roommate for the music festival. While seeing the city, we ended up visiting the Austin Museum of Art’s Laguna Gloria. Beautiful building. Gorgeous grounds. When first touring the building and grounds I was snapping pictures to inspire my own decorating as I loved the Italian style. It wasn’t until we took a lovely walk down a wooded path lined by a row of lights overhead that I realized how romantic a spot I was in. The path ended up at a simple gazebo in a small clearing.
Once I got home and saw pictures of the events, I knew this was it. The pictures included all the details that I knew I wanted.
So, now that that’s settled….
I arrived the night before my scheduled weekend shift, the night before Ike’s projected landfall. I was prepared to stay for several days if necessary due to possible flooding in the low-lying area where the hospital sits.
The hurricane hit early morning and passed over our area fairly quickly. The lights flickered for a while before the generators kicked in and almost completely gave out. This meant that we only had basic power: the nurses station lights, hallway lights, and the red outlets. Patient rooms were dark, only two computers were running for documenting (no orders), and – most importantly – there was no AC. Of course, the windows can’t even be cracked open, or we could have enjoyed the tropical storm winds. Instead, the heat and resulting humity was so great that the walls and floors were slick. We ended up lining the floors with blankets to try to save the nurses who were perilously close to hitting the floor everytime we made a trek down the hall. I was passing oxygen to patients who had no pre-existing respiratory conditions because the air was so thick and warm.
It was a long and scary day for me. The storm had cut out all our communications with the doctors. No answering services, cell phones, and pagers were working. I just prayed that everyone stayed stable. With the exception of one particularly scary moment, they did.
I stayed over again. The next morning the power situation had remained the same, but big utility fans had been placed along the halls for slightly more bearable conditions. I went home that night to find that while we had no power, we had suffered no damage from the storm. My town was lucky. Just a short drive away Hurricane Ike had devasted neighboring cities.
By the time I returned to the hospital 3 days later, it was running at a full power. My power at home was returned a week later, and I had decided that – unless already scheduled – I would not be working through another hurricane. It was so not worth the bonus.
My patient was experiencing symptomatic a-fib. Another nurse came in to see if she could help. The appearance of a second nurse worried the man, and he asked, “I’m going to be okay, right?”
She smiled and quipped (ever so morbidly), “Nope. We’re going to bury you tomorrow.”
Ummm… my guy is scared and feeling very sick. Thanks for dropping in, but could you leave your deranged humor at the door?
Before I could even say something, he looked her squarely in the eyes and said, “That’s not funny, and I don’t need to hear that right now.”
It was all I could do not to laugh loudly at her face. Good for him.
Two weeks after Gustav, another hurricane is blowing through during my scheduled weekend. We’re not evacuating this time and have already taken in another hospital’s patients. I’ve packed enough for the next few days and will be spending tonight at the hospital to avoid Saturday morning’s wind and rain.
I’ve woken up smiling.
I’ve woken up laughing.
I’ve even woken up singing.
Last night, I woke up sobbing.
I dreamt that my youngest brother had died from a vaccination, and the dream followed me in my grief over the next few days. I was crying all the time. I saw him everywhere and spoke to him (about my day, about how I missed him, about little things I knew he would have found funny), even though I knew he wasn’t really there. I kept thinking about how this was how I would always imagine him, always know him – frozen at 18. I cried for all his big dreams that would be left undone.
I was angry at my mother when she insisted I not tell his girlfriend that he was dead. I did anyway. I was furious when she asked Sarah Palin, a scholarship person, if she’d still be receiving his 2 year music scholarship check.
I was riding in a horse-drawn carriage with my mother and Palin when another horse charged the cart. I stood and waved my arms to make this blonde horse back down. It would retreat for a moment before attacking again. I could see the building we were headed toward up ahead. I shouted at the women to hurry. We were almost to the entrance when the cart suddenly turned sideways, and I fell out. I turned around to see a man attacking Palin. Someone came out of the entrance holding a large remote, and I yelled at him to help. He started to go back inside instead. I grabbed the remote from his hand and hit the attacker over the head.
He back away, pulled out a can of mace, and sprayed it into his eyes. I had closed my own eyes tightly and turned away at the sight of the can. After a few moments I carefully opened my eyes and looked around. Droplets were suspended in the air and through them I could see a uniformed Andy Griffith putting the guy into a blue car with flashing lights. He walked over to me and patted my shoulder, saying, “I just want you to know that you can talk to me anytime as someone who knew the guy (my brother).”
I was walking back toward the building when I passed my brother watching the whole scene. “Look,” I said, holding up the remote. “I went to a fight armed with this.” He laughed, I laughed, and then I started crying again.
Then I woke up, still sobbing over the loss of my brother. The pain was so real, and the cries came from the pit of my stomach. As I became more alert, the tears didn’t stop. It was all I could do not to jump up and crawl into his bed to hold him close. Now I was crying over the idea of losing him and the memory of the shocking emotional pain. As I cried, I tried desperately not to cry out loud in the dark. I was reminded of the footage of grieving families where the people are screaming and making guttural cries. I suddenly felt as though I could partly understand the searing loss they were feeling, and I prayed for a long time for my brother’s safety.
Today I gave him a big hug and said, “I love you.”
My hospital has mandatory scrub colors, and I thought I’d hate it. I gave all my patterned and multi-colored scrubs to my sister who works in a doctor’s office (on the condition that I can have them back if needed) and went out to buy new scrubs. Eight months later, I wouldn’t change a thing… about the scrub policy, that is.
As a new nurse it helped me identify my co-workers. I can glance down our long hall and know exactly who is going into my patient’s room. And if it is helpful to a new nurse who doesn’t know anybody, it makes sense that it would help a patient identify those strangers in his or her room. I don’t think name tags alone would be enough. The tags get turned around all the time, and the writing would have to be much bigger. Also, it is early morning when the most number of people come through the patient’s room. We all introduce ourselves to the patient, but usually all the patient can remember when telling me who came by is the color that person was wearing. The patients don’t usually remember which color belonged to which of the various positions, but they quickly pick up on at least two colors: those of the nurse and the nurse aide. Three if they get regular breathing treatments.
Consistent, solid colors look much more professional than a sea of clashing colors and patterns. It shaves off the 5 seconds l used to decide which pair of scrubs to wear. All my tops and bottoms match. Most of our assigned colors go well with a lot of other colors, so our staff are able to use colors and patterns as layers (though not technically sanctioned by administration)- still uniform with a touch of individuality. I have one blue jacket with multi-colored stars. One of the colors matches my uniform perfectly, and patients comment on it every time I wear it. Silly, but I think it shows how our patients are sensitive to our appearance.
And there’s room for change. Our LVNs recently got together and voted on a color change. Unfortunately for the male LVNs, it was to a bright, quite feminine-looking color. One big guy now refers to his new uniforms as his “gaydar.”
*** Disappearing John RN: Mandatory scrub colors…
On Saturday morning we were discharging everyone possible; my unit’s census dropped 50% by noon. By Saturday afternoon there was a team going around making up evacuation packets for each patient remaining: copies of the chart, facesheets, patient worksheets, updated contact info (to add cell phones), armbands with said contact info, etc. All that was left was to include copies of the latest orders/progress notes/lab and imaging results, current medication administration sheets, and a bag with enough meds for 24 hours. Saturday night we were told we wouldn’t be going anywhere. In fact, we’d probably be taking on patients from other hospitals.
Sunday was quiet. We had five nurses with three patients each. A few discharges that were soon replaced with ICU transfers and ER admissions. Supervisors came by regularly. There were no immediate plans to evacuate. Nope. Still nothing. Then…BOOM! Or, rather…. RING! Our charge nurse got a call just after 5pm to inform us that there were 60 previously unavailable ambulances out front waiting to be filled. Go!
Oh, and someone was coming up right now for one of my patients. It was insane. I’d never seen our unit trashed so quickly. Papers were flying everywhere. Lines formed after our unit’s one copier and the two Pyxis medstations we shared with another unit. All the phones were being used to call patient’s families to let them know of the transfers. People were called to come in early to help with the evacuation. By the time I left, I only had one patient remaining. (The first one gone was that first transfer. The other I was able to get discharge orders from his surgeon.)
This morning I arrived prepared to stay a few days if necessary (in case of severe flooding around the building and parking garage). The hospital was dark and silent. The only floors operating were ICU with 10 patients and mine with 4. The ER was open but empty. Surgery had a possible 3 cases. I spent the first part of my day preparing my one patient for surgery, but then the MD decided to wait another day and another set of imaging since the GI issue appeared to be slowly resolving.
It was a long day. And, thankfully, Gustav was a no-show.