Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Almost All the News

We all knew him, because he came in a few times a year. He was a chef, apparently of some repute, but I was unfamiliar with his cooking. He was polite, quiet, and he had good veins.

He had been with us a couple few days already this time around. Basically we gave him a lot of Demerol. Sickle-cell flare-ups are said to be very painful so the doctors had ordered fluids and 150mgs. of intravenous demerol to be given as needed every two to three hours.

Now we know.

Janelle, an older nurse who had worked there for years, brought the patient his lunch tray, and he had asked her for his pain medication. She gave it in the dose noted above and checked on him maybe ten minutes later before she herself went to the hospital cafeteria.

Dr. Andrews was telling people at the lunch table a story on me and my dog. I was jogging down the main street sidewalks the day before and had stopped at the news shop to check out the newspaper headlines. They always put up a rack of out-of-town papers like the Boston Globe, the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Sacramento Bee, and such. While I was comparing headlines my dog took a long hard wizz all over a bunch of papers on the lower rungs.

After gently cussing out my loyal jogging partner I gathered the steaming odorous newsprint and went into the shop, explaining that I had no cash on me and apologizing for my dog's political opinions. Dr. Andrews was there and he thought this was just totally hilarious, and he paid the shop-owner for all the papers my dog had soaked.

I had gone to the hospital cafeteria cashier and paid up for a week's worth of free lunches for Dr. Andrews for bailing me out that previous day, but he enjoyed the story and rubbing it into me for weeks after that. Janelle sat with us as he finished his retelling of the tale with his nerdy laugh, which was as unique and oddly charming as the classy little old-fashioned bow ties he wore.

A little while after I'd gone back up to work I saw Janelle outside the sickle-cell chef's door down the hall. I could tell just by the way she looked into the patient room, then dove in, that something was up, and seconds later they called a code.

What a mess. He had seized while eating his lunch, which was bad enough, but by the time we got through with him the room too was a disaster area. Janelle blamed herself entirely and Monique, the charge nurse, hauled her out of there.

Jack and I were "volunteered" to do the clean-up, because we were all caught up and could spend a little time away from our own assigned patients. If we had hurried we probably could have wiped up the food, vomit, and post-code garbage more quickly, but the longer we were in there the better. We stretched things out until shift change and Janelle went home without having to face the situation head-on again.

Coroner case. We bagged the patient with the endotracheal tube still in.

Janelle was better by the next day.

Demerol toxicity. The stuff is junk.

Things happen quickly in hospitals, and a day is as good as a year for those of us who work in these places. Whatever situation is presently at hand renders the day before to the distant past, so it seems.

And the hospital beds do not grow cold.

The elevator doors opened and I saw the sickle-cell chef's sister step out and walk toward his room. I called out to Jack to go get Janelle while I ran down the hall after the woman. She was already peering into the room at another patient; the patient who replaced her dead brother in that bed the day before.

Nobody had told her, so I did.

8 comments:

jomama said...

I thought wings were for the birds.

Anonymous said...

I have to hand it to you. I worked in a hospital lab (long time ago). This was a research lab that among other things performed cardiac catherizations. Over the year I worked there I 'watched' several people die. In fact I'm having trouble even writing about it now and think I'll stop.

But if (when) I'm in a hospital again, I hope those who care for me are like you.

may said...

whew! i guess that's why demerol is sort of "banned" in our unit. but as always, it looks like you handled the situation pretty perfectly...

Gail said...

I have to hand it to you. I worked in a hospital lab (long time ago). This was a research lab that among other things performed cardiac catherizations. Over the year I worked there I 'watched' several people die. In fact I'm having trouble even writing about it now and think I'll stop.

But if (when) I'm in a hospital again, I hope those who care for me are like you.

HypnoKitten said...

Sounds like a hard day - you did the right thing taking over 'til the end of shift. Hopefully the other nurse will get over it and it won't be something that haunts her.

shrimplate said...

May, I'm not sure I handled the situation well. I was gentle but the story was brutal, and the sister got very upset about hearing the news that way. I don't know why she didn't hear about it the day before from other family members.

lily said...

Thats some story, shrimplate!

I like the antics of the dog....:)

Lizzy said...

Shrimp,

I think you handled it just fine.