Thursday, July 20, 2006

In the Land of the Living, Sort Of.

Today I'm pissed off with the world, and to every human that comes near me I feel like roaring, "Fuck off shithead!" I was awoken from my much needed deep sleep by a telemarketer from some call-center in the Phillipines harassing me, "Good morning, this is Rose. How are you?" "You're a parasite Rose, get a real job and fuck off!" Slam! Ring, ring, ring, ring! I finally picked up, "Yeah?" "You fuck off too!" hissed Rose, like a snake. This after a super-hard slog at the Hospice, the lone RaNger, doing the job of 3 nurses, run around like a mouse in a maze for a tiny piece of cheese. At 5.30 in the morning chaos rained down, all the aged denizens decrepit neurones firing off at once, as if they'd felt the god of Entropy was about to descend upon them, and I had to run from the basement to the 4th floor like Kali with 8 arms to deal with it all.

I'd been nursing a guy who was on the brink of death, he'd been lying curled up like a vegetable in his bed for 11 years and finally the time had come, thank nogod. To help him die comfortably I had to give him morphine every 4 hours, and when I saw he'd gone into labored, sterterous breathing, I gave him 4 litres of oxygen per minute to help him breathe easier. Just as he passed out of the body, peacefully, breath quietened, finally at ease, the rest of the hospice exploded with demands and desperation, and I had to find my own peace to deal with it. Down in the basement a woman kept shrieking, "Help me! Help me!" over and over, she had a black eye from a fall and looked a sorry sight, I gave her 2 Panadols and tried to mollify her but her shrieking was fit to shatter glass, and my nerves frayed.

Another woman went into breathing difficulties and her oxygen cylinder was empty so I had to change it over to a new one, but the dam screw had been bolted so tight I couldn't wrench it loose and spent precious minutes banging away at it with a lump of metal, finally it gave way and I got the new bottle started, the nasal prongs in her nose, and her happy to be breathing easier. The other woman kept screaming, "Help me! Help me! Help me!" I focused on her, what is it I can do that will mollify her? Of course, the most simple thing! I make her a cup of tea and she quietened immediately, sucking on that heavenly brew.

Then I had to rush up to the 4th floor where a woman had a pressure wound on her elbow untreated, I quickly applied Betadine and dressed it. Another resident's call-bell chimed and I dropped the bottle of Betadine, spilling the brown goo all over, mopping it up as I cursed and scrabbled. A few rooms down a man suffering from Parkinson's called for yet more Panadol tablets, he'd been buzzing all night and I ran to placate his irate demands. Down on the ground floor, the dead guy was being laid out, I consoled his crying son who'd sat by his bed for 2 days, arranged a doctor to come in and sign the death certificate and filled out all the paper work to do with a death.

Suddenly my assistant ran in and squawked "There's something wrong with Mrs. Smith in room 4!" I rushed down there to find an old lady, feeble and wan upon her bed, all entangled in the gear of the lifting machine, cables wrapped around her like a spider's web, she'd just had a very minor stroke, a TIA in med lingo, from all the swinging about in the pelican-lifter for her dawn shower, like a whirly-gig at an un-amusement park, the whizzing in and out of the water and around and around to get her back to bed, it was all too much for her, she had spun out. I checked her neuro Obs and saw she was Ok, just a bit worn out, and I told the assistants to be more gentle and do it more gracefully, like in slow motion, and ordered bed-rest for her that morning.

Back to the office, where all the day staff were milling, confused as to what floor and ward they were on, pleading with me to sort it out, phone calls of staff ringing in sick and I had to replace them too. Uuuggghhhh!

Oh yeah, I forgot, towards 7 a.m. I had to give out more morphine to seven other dying residents plus a load of pills spread across 4 floors, 7 wards, mainly for the Parkingson's sufferers who'd get the shakes all day otherwise. I also had to write Progress notes and resident Classification Scheme updates for the many exceptions to routine that happened in the night, all this while signing my signature in every tiny little bureaucratic space to cover the S8 and other medications that had been disbursed. My assistants rush at me with lots of inane questions like, "Should I give Mrs. Wadarowski her shower at 5 past six or 10 past six?" "You decide!"

At seven thirty I'm supposed to hand out pills and nebulisers plus do a handover to a swarming gang of RNs ready to enter the trenches of the 7 wards, but many come late, till way past 8 when I'm supposed to knock off, so I can just manage handing out the pills while running, and the last of the paperwork, reminders of things in the Diary or notes about little things I remembered from the deep hours of the night, such as Mr. McGlintock telling me he felt pain down his right side after his TIA of the previous day, and maybe he's got a broken hip that nobody's noticed.

Then comes my relief nurse, Clarabelle, an officious little bitch who was until recently an AIN, an assistant, but did her 3 years studies and has now been a RN for a year, never worked in any other place, but thinks she knows everything, and orders me about like a dog's body, lots of little jobs she could fucking do herslef but taking enormous pleasure in stretching out my agony, she's not letting me knock off even a minute early, unlike me who arrives at work early so my fellow nurses can be relieved and go home half an hour early, for I care about my comrades as much as my patients.

She breathlessly tells me there's been a call from the 4th floor, a patient didn't get his 6 o'clock pills, disaster! I'm mystified as I definitely gave out all the pills, but I tiredly rush up there to be greeted by a 6 foot gay Polynesian AIN who lisps with great seriousness,
"Mr. Simpleton didn't get his pills!" I go to the demanding Panadol Parkingson guy's room, he's propped up all confused, doesn't know whether he's Arthur or Marthur, his empty pill pot by his bedside, he simply forgets he had his pills at 6a.m. Fuming, I go out into the corridor and the huge Islander queen again lisps, "He says he didn't get his pills!" I couldn't help myself, I yelled, "He doesn't know what time of day it is! He got his pills, OK?"

I stormed back downstairs and dear Clarabelle has more jobs for me, it's a minute to 8 when I should knock off, and I look at her with x-ray venom, "Get off my back sweetie or I'll spit chips!" She wants to count the S8s, the opiates, a job usually left to the morning shift, the precious drugs toted up ad nauseum in a red book, "They" are terrified we nurses will become junkies with so many drugs lying about, and of course it's been known to happen, the nurse guzzling the narcotics instead of giving it to the suffering, but not me, yuk, you could tell from a mile away if any nurse was stoned, they'd stagger about with bleary faces leaving havoc in their wake. Clarabelle couldn't give a shit that I'd worked thru the night, she just wanted to one-up me and be super-nurse. Fuck, humans shit me, hell is indeed other humans!

When I looked at my payslip I saw I'd been short-changed, didn't get the "In Charge" allowance, a mere $25 for doing 2 other nurses jobs and taking on the whole building alone. I looked up to see the poor dead guy being carried out, curled up and stiff like some ancient mummy from a lost, fallen civilization, the Mayans, Aztecs or Anzacs, whatever. Life and death sure is a mystery, he was once a Queen's Counsel, now he's back to the interstellar dust, and I'm back to the land of the living, sort of.