Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nice Shoes Lady
At one time, our ward clerks were required to wear yellow uniforms. Nursing personnel wore a light ceil blue uniform, and the operating room staff wore the usual O. R. greens.
Della was one of the ward clerks in the emergency room. She was originally from Texas and often reminded us that she was a young teenager before she found out that “damn Yankee” was two words and not just one word.
While she was shopping one day, she just happened to find a pair of yellow canvas shoes. She thought that they would be perfect to wear to the hospital as part of her yellow uniform and bought them.

The first day that she wore them, she was walking from the parking lot into the emergency room just as two ladies were leaving the hospital. As Della passed them, one of the women glanced down and exclaimed, “Nice shoes lady!!”
Della looked down and was surprised to see that her shoes almost glowed in the bright sunlight. We called the color fluorescent urine. They were not green, but the yellow was so strong that it leaned towards green. It was a vibrant and brilliant somewhere-in-between hue.  She told us, that in the store, they didn’t seem so bright. It was the sunshine that made them bright. Ah, right Della.
She, of course, made the mistake of telling us what had happened outside with the two total strangers. Her small desk was located just outside the triage area, between the triage desk and the nursing station desk. When she leaned back in her chair, which she often did the toes of her size nine shoes would stick out from the front of the desk. They were not easy to miss.
Each time we walked past her and would see her “yellow” feet protruding from under her desk, we would comment, “Nice shoes lady!”
She would snatch her feet back in and scowl at us. It wasn’t long before she would forget and lean back again. The infamous fluorescent urine shoes would reappear and we would call out, “Nice shoes lady!”
She never wore those shoes to work again.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Just Checking
Sometimes the state troopers or the local police would stop in the emergency department on the night shift for a cup of coffee. Sometimes they had a few minutes of chat before continuing on their rounds. It is a small town and back then, nothing was open after about eight p.m. While they were visiting us, they would often share their stories about things that had happened to them.
One night, a trooper said that one of his friends asked him and his partner to stop and check on his daughter and her friends who were staying in a remote cabin in our area. The trooper promised to check on them as long as time permitted.

It had been a slow night. The trooper’s rounds had taken him close to the cabin, so he decided to fulfill the promise and check on the girls. When they drove into the parking area in front of the cabin, three girls came out to greet them. He introduced himself and explained the father’s request to keep an eye on them.
The girls laughed and chatted a bit. Each girl was wearing a bikini top and Daisy Dukes. One of the girls hopped onto the fender of the police cruiser. She asked, “Do you want to see my tattoo?”
The officer shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sure. Why not?” He told us, “I thought I’ve got nothing to lose.”
The girl pulled aside the leg of the shorts at her inner thigh. There on the inside of her the labia, was a tattoo of a small devil with a pitchfork in his hand.
“When I saw that, I jerked my head for my partner to leave.” We climbed into the cruiser and drove away, I told him, “I figured if those girls would get a tattoo there, they can take care of themselves.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Conflict of Wills
Two of our emergency department doctors were at odds with each other. Each doctor had issues with the other physician’s appearance. Dr. Vandyk dressed sloppily and drove a Volkswagen bus while Dr. Sikova was a more dapper dresser, with a long pony tail and drove a Corvette. Dr. Sikova complained about Dr Vandyk’s disheveled clothes, often covered in dog hair and Dr. Vandyk complained about Dr. Sikova’s pony tail. They didn’t hate each other, their personalities just clashed; old school versus the new school.

One night Dr. Vandyk was on duty in the emergency room when we received an ambulance call. They were bringing in a male patient involved in a motor vehicle accident. The patient had not lost consciousness, but had a laceration to the back of his head. When the male victim arrived, it was none other than Dr. Sikova. The laceration precariously bordered on the doorstep of the doctor’s prized pony tail.
Dr. Vandyk ordered skull and cervical spine x-rays to rule out fractures, before he began treatment. When the films cleared him of any breaks, the nurses opened a suture tray and made the area ready for Dr. Vandyk to sew the laceration shut.

But before the nurses could clean and prep the area to be stitched, Dr. Vandyk snatched a pair of bandage scissors and claimed his trophy. A young Apache warrior holding up his first scalp taken in battle would have been no less proud. Dr. Sikova’s pony tail was no more.
After we cleaned and prepped the area, Dr. Vandyk stitched the wound’s edges back together. We applied a dressing to the wound.
Not only was Dr. Sikova lamenting the loss of his beloved Corvette, but now he was also grieving over the loss of his pony tail.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Can't Touch That
William Shakespeare said the world was a stage and all the people in it actors, but I think that some people are more like characters and some of these characters that arrive at the emergency department, we call “frequent flyers.” They are the repeat visitors. Some come as drug seekers, some are actually sick, others want to be the center of interest, even for a few hours, and then there are those who are just lonely.

We had a married couple, I think, who didn’t quite fall into any of these categories, but straddled several. They came very close to being frequent flyers. I think they came just because they could come to the hospital and would not have to pay for it. We named them Prince Charles and Princess Dianna. Charles and Dianna were their real names. But there were no guards from Buckingham Palace, no British intelligence, or secret service who would come in with them when they appeared.
The closest thing to being escorted occurred when Prince Charles came in by ambulance one night. He was accompanied only by a couple of medical attendants. He and Dianna carried the “gold card.”  Pennsylvania welfare cards were yellow. You’ve heard the commercial, “It’s the gold card, don’t leave home without it.” and this couple never did.
Before anybody complains about my comment, I just want to say, there are people who are unable to work due to a disability SHOULD have assistance. But there are those people who are able bodied and intelligent who should NOT be eligible for those benefits.
I feel that Charles was one of the latter. He was intelligent and if he can have sex, he’s able bodied enough to find a job. At an earlier visit he told me while he was in the triage area, ‘I was teaching the old lady how to play chess tonight before we came in.” He has to have some smarts to play chess, right.
So, let me get back to the story. Charles was brought in by ambulance. As he was moved onto our bed, I noticed that under him was one of the dirtiest, filthiest, spotted, and stained sheets that I had ever seen or ever hope to see and he was completely naked.  The spots were not the pattern of the sheet. He told us that he and his wife were having sex when his “back went out.”

He was given x-rays, medicated, and discharged. We gave him a pair of pajama bottoms Because he had arrived “au natural” and a patient gown to wear home. He was to bring them back, but I doubt that he did. We probably doubled his wardrobe.
He and Dianna had hardly disappeared behind the exit door, when she came bounding back into the emergency room. “Where’s my sheet? Where’s my sheet? I need to put it back on the bed when we get home.”
The nurses looked at each other thinking the same thought. “Who would put that filthy thing back onto the bed?” We shrugged, gloved up, and dug through the dirty linen bag to find her sheet and gave it back to her.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

If a Picture paints a Thousand Words....
When I made rounds as a nursing supervisor, I was often asked to look at photographs of weddings, vacations, new babies, children, and grandchildren. I could share the hospital’s families through their own eyes; graduations, births, proms. It was nice to be able to see just a bit of their lives away from a work setting.

There was one incident stands out as the most vivid and shocking photographic memory that I can recall. It occurred when a nurse asked me to look at her vacation pictures. She had gone on a cruise and spent several days on a Caribbean island.
She was a very intelligent, dedicated nurse and when she invited me to look at her photographs, I felt obligated, as with any of the other staff, to do a quick review. I had always managed to take some time to look through other nurses’ photos. If they were important and integral part of their lives, they were important to me.
Her photographs were beautiful, the sand and the sea, as well as the trees and flowers. I was casually flipping through the pictures until I saw what seemed to be a picture of a man, but there were breasts. The person in the photo was raised up from the sand on elbows with breasts dangling completely bare in all of their glory and buttocks were squeezed into a pair of “Daisy Duke” cut off jeans.
I was about to ask who was this person, when I bit my tongue. I recognized the person in the photo. It was the nurse who had gone on the vacation and who had taken the pictures.
This nurse had a square, mannish face. She had large hips, legs, and thighs; very large.  She was the last person I would expect to see in a pair of short cut-offs shorts and being bare breasted, but there in front of me was the proof.
When I looked up, the other nurses in the unit were all watching me. They saw my face as it went from being puzzled to recognition and then absolute astonishment. They already knew what picture was lurking in that stack of photos and what photograph I had just seen. They were just waiting to see my reaction.
I am still puzzled why a person would keep a picture like that in with her other photos. Why she would allow me and her co-workers to see it? She wasn’t afraid to show me her photographs, but I was afraid I’d never be able look at another set of her pictures without some fear and trepidation.
One of the nurses later said to me, “I knew exactly when you saw that picture and exactly when you recognized who it was in the photograph. Your face reddened and you shook your head.”
No wonder I did. I think anyone would have reacted the same way.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spray Cans

This is a story about my mom Sybil, but if you knew my dad Carl, you know that he weighs heavily in this story. My dad’s live-by rule was, “If you’re not early, you’re late.” He was a stickler. “If you couldn’t be there before something actually started, stay at home and save the gasoline.”
One of Mom’s great likes was her hair. She slept with toilet tissue wrapped around her beau font hairdo to sleep at night. It was fastened securely with an army of hair pine. She would unpin and unwrap the tissue to reuse it again when she went to bed that night. “Waste not want not.”
The paper held her hair vise-like overnight. It would remain just so until she could unwrap it like a Christmas present.   She would lift it to its original height and shape with a hair pick before coating it with another layer of hair spray into her tight helmet of beauty.

Now for the rest of the story, if you ever saw, “All in the Family” program you might remember the episode when Jean Stapleton as Edith, got the spray cans she had stored confused and sprayed her hair with Glade instead of with the hairspray. The memorable line was “I reminded myself of the great outdoors all day.”
Mom kept the ironing board behind the door in our large bathroom. She’d pressed the clothes for us and she knew that Dad had already gone out to the car with my sister, my brother, and me. There were no car seats and no seat belts back then.
She was hurrying. She knew that Dad would soon be tooting the horn to let her know that he was ready to go. Had been ready to go, and was going to go soon. In her haste, she grabbed the spray starch can instead of the hairspray and “Ps-s-s-s-s-s-t” she starched Rock of Gibraltar hair helmet. The turban of hair was no match for the spray starch.
Now is where the two worlds collide; Dad’s desire to be early and Mom’s desire to have her hair just-so.
She came outside long enough to tell Dad, “I’m not going to church. Just look at my hair.” Her coiffure had wilted under the onslaught of the chemicals in the starch or the starch had reacted with the lacquer of the hairspray. Her crown of hair had melted. It was flat. There were “dewdrops” of starch hanging from the strands of her once lofty beehive do. She had a wet dog look about her.
Dad knew that if he didn’t want to be later than early, he would have to leave right then and not argue with her. His second commandment for us was, “Thou shalt be in church.” We drove off letting Mom standing in the doorway.
At home she could try and save her hair from the stiffness of the starch and resurrect her do from ruin and like the Phoenix, return it to its glorious stiffness with the hairspray.
When we came home, she had managed to recreate her crowning tresses, although she hadn’t quite achieved its remarkable height and fullness. That would have to wait until her weekly visit with her hair dresser.

(Thanks Ken for reminding me of this story in the on-going saga of our family.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Knock on Wood
I really feel for this maintenance man. I just got over the flu bug. I had a headache for two days and had two days of intense muscle and joint pain. I was miserable. I could not imagine anyone hitting my forehead with his fist, no matter the reason why. This would be a reason for a man to carry a sidearm. 
One evening one of the maintenance men was walking through the emergency room. He looked miserable and Dr. Vandyk asked him “What’s wrong? Aren’t you feeling well?”
The maintenance man said, “I have a miserable sinus headache.”
“Climb up on the bed and sit down.” the doctor directed. “I’ll help you get rid of it.”
The man sat on the stretcher. Dr. Vandyk said, “Take off your glasses.”

The maintenance man did as he was told. He pulled off his glasses and looked to his right to place them on the mattress beside him. When he looked back up, Dr. Vandyk used the heel of his fist and struck the man’s forehead just above his nose and between his eyes. The doctor turned and walked away.
The maintenance man was stunned. Later he told me. “When he hit me, I thought the top of my head was going to blow off. My eyes popped open and I saw stars! After a few minutes, the sinus pressure and headache were gone. It just seemed like everything opened up and drained out, but I’ll never do that again!”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Trains at Night

                My brother Ken and I shared an upstairs bedroom; it was half of the second floor of my parent’s house. The other half of the upstairs was my sister Kathy’s bedroom. The ceiling sloped down to the walls on both sides. The walls were about five foot high at the edges while the center was seven foot high.  The walls were painted white, the ceiling and trim was dark blue and my brother painted a huge red star on each door of the closet.
                Our single beds were against the wall with the closet, one bed to each side of the closet. At each end of our bedroom, where the ceiling was highest, were our dressers; one at each end of the room. The carpeting was red tufted. Our sister’s room was painted peach with orange shag carpet.
                It had been an attic, but as our family grew, Dad converted it into our bedrooms. The bedrooms were warm in the winter and hot in the summer, even with the windows at each end of the upstairs. All summer long the windows were wide open, even if it rained.
                When I moved upstairs, I was surprised at the sounds I could now hear that sounds of the heavy vehicle traffic on route 711/381 was limited and now that I was above the muffling effect of the trees that filled the small valley where our home was located. I could hear the birds, the stream that flowed behind our home, and the occasional owl hooting in the woods behind.
                 There were times as I lay on the bed late at night, I could hear trains whistle as they rolled along nearly five miles away. In the darkness its wailing sounded so lonely. Yet it had a strangely comforting aspect to its tones as it spilled out of the darkness.

                My brother Ken had red hair that was kinky, curly. When someone asked what he looked like, I would say, “He’s as tall as I am, thinner, with hair that looks like rusty steel wool,” and it did. Ken hated it. Most times he would put a toboggan cap of after he washed his hair and slept with it on his head. When he awakened in the morning, his hair was straight and stayed that way until he started to sweat, then his hair would start to curl.
                My brother Ken and my sister Kathy were younger than me and would do things that I couldn’t or shouldn’t do. Often they would take the long seat cushions from Mom’s couch and would use them as toboggans to slide down the stairs from the bedrooms down the stairs into the living room. That would last until someone crashed into the door hard enough for Mom to hear them or until one of them got hurt and that would end the luge for that day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bloody Geyser
An ambulance brought in a man who had fallen through the glass window of a storm door. The sharp edges of the broken glass made a deep laceration in the crook of his right arm.
The ambulance packed the wound with several ten packs of 4 by 4 dressings. The bleeding slowed slightly, but kept pouring from the wound. They tried direct pressure, but couldn’t keep it constant. Instead, they applied a blood pressure cuff above the wound and like a tourniquet, they inflated it until the bleeding stopped. If they dropped pressure, the bleeding would start again.

The emergency room doctor asked that we slowly deflate the cuff. The bleeding started almost immediately, coming out through the multiple layers of the 4X4 dressings. We pumped the pressure back up to stop the hemorrhage.
 Because this incident happened on the daylight shift, the surgeon on call was in the hospital and was quickly summoned to the emergency department. He arrived in short order. He asked us to slowly deflate the blood pressure cuff. When we slowly released the pressure, the bleeding stared again. We pumped more pressure into the cuff.

We set up a surgical tray while the doctor gowned and gloved. He began to remove the packing from the wound, placing them in an emesis basin. The wound was very deep and wide. He removed five packages of the 4x4’s that the ambulance crew had stuffed inside the gaping laceration to control the bleeding. The cut was almost as wide as the man’s arm.
“Now,” he said. “Let off the pressure of the blood pressure cuff, slowly.”
I had just started to slowly release the pressure when a geyser of blood shot high into the air. It arched about two feet above the surgeon’s head, reached its apex, and started back down towards his upturned face. His eyes widened and he managed to step back out of the way just in time to dodge the descending fountain of blood.

I pumped the cuff’s pressure back up.
“Let’s try that again, but just let it out a bit and stop. Let’s do it in stages.”
I dropped the pressure just a bit and stopped; nothing. Again I eased out a bit more air. A vessel in the wound began to leak. Seeing the general area of the bleeding, he reached into the laceration and pressed on the vessel until he could clamp it with a hemostat.
“ Again.” He said. I eased the pressure a bit more.
We continued to slowly ease of the pressure off the cuff and the doctor applied hemostats until the wound only oozed blood and the surgeon was able to repair the deep laceration at his leisure.

Armed with a sling, a prescription for antibiotics and pain medications, the patient was discharged about an hour later.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I was so sick last night. Sorry I couldn't post.
Fired Up
Eileen worked in the computer room on the night shift. She would always amble down to the emergency room to buy a cup of coffee before the beginning of her shift. She was the only person in the I. T. area and didn’t like to make a pot of coffee for just herself. She would chat for a few minutes until her shift started before reporting to work.
The coffee pot in the emergency department sat on a stand at the end of long, narrow nurse’s lounge.

I got a page from the emergency room. When I answered, the nurse asked if I could come down, not explaining exactly why I was needed. She pointed to an exam room with the door closed. I gave her a look and she pointed again. “Eileen needs to talk to you.”
When I entered, Eileen was crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’m gonna get fired!” she wailed. “They’re going to fire me.”
“Wait! Wait! What do you mean you’re going to get fired?” I asked. “What in the world happened?” Eileen was the most meek and timid person that I knew at the hospital. I could not imagine anything that she could have done to get herself fired.
She said, “I hit the Dr. Allen.”
“Okay?” And I paused. I didn’t know what else to say to her. I needed to hear more. I wanted to hear the details before I aid anymore.
She began to explain between her sobs, “I walked into the nurse’s lounge to get a cup of coffee. The doctor was sitting on a chair at the side of the room. He was the same doctor who brought his girlfriend in to visit at night. As I walked by him, he grabbed my leg behind my knee and I hit him on the top of his head with my coffee cup.” She had the two pieces of the cup in her hands. The coffee mug was one that had a cup nestled inside the other to make it insulated.
She explained that she was ex-army and any sudden noise, unexpected moves, or if she was touched when she wasn’t expecting it, she lashed out.
I chuckled and then explained, “You’re not in trouble. If anyone’s in trouble, he is. If he says anything, he could be accused of sexual harassment. He had no right to touch you in any way. You could even have him arrested for assault if he wants to complain. He’s not going to do anything. Dry your eyes and get back to work.”

Eileen thanked me later that night. She said, “I was so worked up and I was so afraid I would lose my job.”
The funny thing about the whole incident was the doctor walked around for several days with a reddened area across his scalp and a scrape on the top of his bald head. I wonder how he explained that to his girlfriend.
Several other odd occurrences in the hospital were traced back to him. It was found out later that this physician had bouts of manic depression and that explained why he would occasionally dial into the overhead paging system, flush the commode, and laugh hysterically before hanging up.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Feeling nauseated and ache all over. Sorry to disappoint, but heading to bed.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Halloween Prelude
Our medical/ surgical head nurse was Sara, she was consistently late for the beginning of her shift. She was an out and out germ-a-phobe. Every morning she would clean off the counter space of the desk with alcohol. Everything got cleaned, even the telephone. If she was forced to answer the telephone before she had given it its daily cleaning, she would gingerly lift the receiver with her fingertips only and hold it away from her ear just close enough that she could hear the conversation.
 Sara always walked to work, no matter what the weather. She only lived about two blocks from the hospital. One cold winter morning, she looked through the window to see what the weather was like before she showered, put on her makeup, and got dressed. She hadn’t seen any snow and decided to wear her nurse’s shoes.
As she was leaving her home, she found that the ground was now covered in about one inch of light, fluffy, powdery snow. It had fallen while she was getting ready for work. As usual, she was running late and didn’t want to take the time to go back inside and change into her boots. Grabbing the broom from her front porch she started to sweep her way to work. Each sweep cleared a space for several steps. The wispy snow would dance out of her way with each swipe of the broom.
She was almost halfway to work, when a strange man in a car stopped, rolled down his window, and called out, “Hey lady! You’d make better time if you hop on that broom and ride it.” Laughing, he rolled up his window and drove away hidden in a cloud of water vapor coming from his tailpipe.
Sara arrived on our unit in such a snit; she forgot to wipe her telephone and desk area with alcohol until much later.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Filch'er Up
One of our orthopedic surgeons ran a small medical clinic at a nearby winter recreation area. When the skiers, snow boarders hadn’t come into vogue yet, were injured, he would provide emergency treatment for them at his clinic. He would do x-rays of their injuries, patch them up, and send them home to see their own physicians for follow up care. Of course he would be able to collect his fees for his services.
He kept the costs at his clinic low, by pilfering “his” supplies from our hospital’s emergency department. It kept the outlay of his clinic at a minimum and this increased his profits greatly.

 When he was on call, he would see a patient in the emergency department. While he was seeing them, he would hide pillows and blankets under his coat and walk out of the emergency room with them. Casting supplies, splints, and dressings, he would sneak them into pockets or into his briefcase. Anything that wasn’t nailed down was fair game for him and helped him feather his clinic.
One day, he was called into the emergency room to take care of a woman with a broken wrist. He already had a plan in mind to take “his” supplies. He came in and placed his brief case on top of the counter just outside the cast room and popped the lid open.
While he was busy putting the cast on the patient, I needed the counter area to treat another patient. I closed the lid of his case and moved it to the floor behind one of the dressing carts.
I wasn’t paying attention to what was the doctor was doing, but the assistant head nurse and another nurse were watching through the windows that separated the nursing station from the treatment areas. As Dr. Selim exited the cast room, both of his arms were filled with casting material and supplies. He walked to the counter where he had left his open brief case. He stopped and looked puzzled when it wasn’t there. He turned around in a circle and still couldn’t find it. Walking back into the cast room, he tossed all the supplies onto the stretcher and walked out of the room without any of the almost purloined equipment.
As he exited, he asked me, “Where’s my briefcase?”  I told him I was sorry, but I had to move it for another patient and pointed to where it had been placed. All the while, the nurses at the station were laughing. Our little bandit’s plans were accidentally foiled by me. I guess we mark one up for the good guys. The doctor left the emergency department with empty arms and an empty brief case.

Years later, after many complaints lodged from the head nurse and the staff in the emergency room about his pilfering, the administrators finally told us to “keep track of the things he took and the hospital would send him a monthly bill.”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's a Drain
One of the physicians who worked at our hospital was an older urologist. He was notorious for the bloodiness of his T.U.R.P.s. Transurethral prostatectomy is a procedure where the physician passes an increasing diameter instrument that has a roughened surface much like a file or rasp up the urethra and removes bits and pieces of a man’s prostate gland.

 through and through catheter was placed up the urethra and allowed fluid to be instilled to flush the bladder and empty into a catch bag. The fluids that drained through the catheter after his procedures were always dark, grossly bloody, and filled with clots. Even with the irrigation and continual flushing of the bladder, we had to manually irrigate the system with a Toomey syringe to keep it open and free flowing. If we didn’t flush frequently, the clots would block the catheter, the bladder would fill, and the pressure would cause the patient increasing pain. Each time we would round, we would describe what the urine would look like and the work that we had done to keep the catheter open and patent.

One patient, on whom he had done surgery, was a good friend of his. When he rounded the next morning, Angie, the assistant head nurse was with him. He pointed to the bloody drainage bag and roared, “Why wasn’t I called last night about this bloody urine!”
Angie wasn’t intimidated at all. She looked down through glasses perched on the tip of her nose at the drainage bag, then looked the physician in the eye and said, “Frankly doctor, I don’t see any difference with this patient than your others.”
With his tail between his legs and chart under his arm, cowed he left the room.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An obstetrician/ gynecologist at our hospital had a habit of falling back to sleep when she was called for a delivery or surgery. The nurses would call to let her know that her patient was ready or that one of her pregnant patients was just admitted and she needed to come in and see the patient. The problem actually arose when she was called again to remind her that she was needed. She would get very upset if, after waiting a reasonable amount of time, a nurse would call her to remind her that she had a client waiting. She always made it seem as though it was the nurse’s fault that she had fallen back to sleep. She would often belittle and yell through the phone at the nurse who dared to remind her of her job.
 I was making my rounds on the obstetrics unit one morning, when one of the nurses said to one of her co-workers, “Dr. Shawna isn’t here yet. I hate having to call her back and ask if she’s coming in. She’ll yell and scream and call me names like usual.”
I told her. “You need to be smarter than she is. Dial her number and ask “Is Louise there?” This was a time before caller I. D. “When she says ‘no’, apologize to her and tell her you must have dialed the wrong number.”
It worked like a charm. The doctor came scurrying onto the unit about fifteen minutes later; it was just long enough for her to take a quick shower, to get dressed, and to drive in.
The patient was treated, the nurses were saved from further abuse, and the doctor arrived in a pleasant mood. Case closed. There were happy nurses, a happy patient, and a happy doctor.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Janie had an extremely squeamish stomach. She could not tolerate seeing sputum, urine, or feces samples when they were placed in their clear plastic containers on the nursing station’s ledge. The containers had to be wrapped in a paper towel or she would call for the person who dared to place it there, to come back to the station to cover the specimen. Janie’s job was to complete the request form for the proper test and place it beside the offending sample.
Underneath the ledge of the nursing station was the intercom box for the unit. Janie was the one who most often answered the call bells and made announcements for “patient care needed in room #... ”
Unknown to the nursing assistant, the specimen bottle of urine had a crack in it. When she placed it on the ledge, the urine began to ooze out. It began to drip down onto the call box. Janie had seen the sample sitting there and was filling out the request for the urinalysis. She turned to place the completed chit on the ledge with the sample and noticed the urine dripping down onto the call bell system. First she gagged, holding her hand over her mouth. She jumped up, her chair shooting across the station and bouncing off the wall.  She danced in a circle, not knowing what to do. She thought “I can’t use the call box, it’s covered in urine. Even if I tried to use it, I’d get electrocuted.”
Holding her hand to her mouth, she gagged again, darted out of the station and into the hallway, grabbing the nearest person to rectify the problem. That nursing assistant brought a Styrofoam cup and placed the leaking bottle inside. She toweled off the ledge, but they had to call housekeeping and maintenance to clean and check the call bell box before Janie would even look at the intercom system again

Monday, October 14, 2013

It Was a Great Day

Although much of the day was cool and overcast, it was a great day. My son and his family are visiting from Texas. On the spur of the moment, we decided to have a picnic at Mammoth Park. The long double dip slide wasn’t slippery when we started, but the descents down the steep, metal chute became more rapid as we broke it in. Everyone rode the slide and had a lot of fun. My older daughter had nylon windbreaker pants on and she went like greased lightning. She shot off the bottom of the slide and landed on her bottom. She was a little tender, but continued to make the ride.

The foliage on the trees was beautiful. Many trees were still green, but enough had turned into their fall colors of red, orange, and yellow. The squirrels were running through the leaves on the ground from tree to tree to gather more food for the winter.
We sat around on one of the picnic tables and ate sandwiches, pretzels, cheese balls, and cookies. Not a hardy meal, but enough to fill the grandkids who were more interested in going back to ride on the slide.

Later today, we met again at my older daughter and her husband’s home for the evening meal. She made a chicken, potato, cheese, and bacon casserole. With the salad, it was enough.
After the meal, we played a few games of dominoes. I won of course. We had great a time of family bonding, talking, and laughing. That is missing in most families today. With us, it is limited due to the distance, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable and necessary. Love should always bind us closer together and never separate families.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Just a Year Ago

It’s hard to believe that a little over a year ago, I retired. I have been in the medical field either as a naval corpsman, nursing school, or as a practicing nurse since 1967. It has been a giant learning curve. Even when some days seemed repetitious, as I look back I can see the sadness, joy, and humor that was all a part of my history. That was why I have written down the stories and have shared some of them with you.
When I graduated from high school in 1967, the war in Vietnam was in full swing. Although the government didn’t call it a war, it was. Few can deny that now and being of the right age, I was torn about the idea of the military. I got a job at the Walworth Valve Company in Greensburg, Pa. thinking I could earn some money until Uncle Sam called or I made up my mind what I wanted to do. I worked there for nearly a year until I got the letter saying I could soon be drafted. I knew that I didn’t want to be a Marine or Army soldier, so I enlisted in the Navy.
I was always interested in the field of medicine and signed on as a candidate for being corpsman. It was the one thing for which there was a demand. They were being injured and killed in Vietnam at that time. In basic training, one wise cracking first lieutenant asked, “How many are going to be corpsmen?” Several of us held up our hands. He proceeded to say, “Do you know the lifespan of a corpsman in Vietnam?” He finished by saying, “From the time they leave the boat until they almost reach the shore.” This added greatly to the pressure of boot camp.
My duty stations were in Orlando Florida and in Keflavik, Iceland. I never got to Vietnam, but lost buddies there. I got “early outs” to go to college and earned my bachelor of science in nursing in three years. I worked at Monsour medical center for a year before starting at Frick and worked there until my retirement. I worked the night shift for three years on a medical/ surgical floor. Then I worked the emergency department for five years.
Management approached me and asked if I would take one of the nursing supervisor jobs. After some soul searching I agreed. The supervisors had a lot of responsibilities in the day to day function of the hospital, from assigning of beds, making sure there was adequate staffing, finding coverage for sick call-offs, and other and various problems and complaints from staff, patients, and visitors.
A little over a year ago, after thirty-four years at Frick, I decided to retire and am trying to share those parts of my life in what I am now putting in my blog spot.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

When a Tree Falls...
It was the week before Christmas and a young, mentally challenged young man was admitted to one of our general services units. He loved to draw. The nurses found some crayons and gave him leftover computer paper.  His pictures were taped to the walls in his room and all over the nursing station. He was able to walk and talk. He would come to the station to talk with the nurses and to look at his art work.
The only thing that competed with his passion for drawing was the artificial Christmas tree in the waiting area. It was an older tree. Its branches looked like dark green bottle brushes and the needles were just that stiff. It had gold tinsel with red and gold ornaments.
He would wander to the lounge and lean forward until he could touch the branches. Pointing with a finger, he would single out each ball as though he was counting them. He didn’t touch them, but seemed fascinated by their shiny surfaces.
Late one evening the nurses heard a crash and glass breaking. They rushed to the lounge to see what had happened. “What happened?” the first nurse into the room asked.
The young man was sitting across the room from the downed tree and was saying. “It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me!”
One nurse helped him back to his room while others righted the tree and re-hung the bulbs that were still intact. The ward clerk called for housekeeping to sweep up the balls that had broken.
As the nurses attempted to make order from the havoc, they noticed the “gifts” that were under the tree had finger n holes poked in the wrapping paper. (The gifts were just empty boxes that had been wrapped in bright paper and bows to add to the Christmas tree look.)
We were never sure whether he had tipped the tree while he was “counting” the balls or whether he knocked it over when he was checking out the gifts.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Looking For Her Old Man
There have been times that I’ve been only surprised and then there were times that I was completely shocked. I was working in the triage area of the emergency department, when a man walked in with the seat of his pants covered in blood. He was pressing a towel tightly against his bottom. I hurried him inside and helped the other nurses remove his pants and underwear while keeping pressure over the area that he had been covering. His pants had an almost three inch tear across the seat of his trousers. When we removed his clothes, we began to wash off the blood as we moved closer and closer to the injury.
We needed to see what had been cut and how large it was. Changing the towel for an ABD pad, we could see its size. It was nearly as long as the rip in his pants.
            While we were cleaning and assessing the wound, the man explained that he had been at a party and was shoved onto an empty beer bottle that had been left on a chair. “It shattered and cut me.”
            The glass shard had cut him deeply. It had lacerated his anal sphincter. When the emergency room doctor saw the depth of the wound and its location, he said, “Keep the pressure on it and notify the surgeon on call.”
            The other nurses started an I. V., started a dose of antibiotic, and began to get the man readied for the operating room. I went back to man my post in the triage area.
I hadn’t been there long when a teenage girl walked in; she looked about thirteen or fourteen. I asked her, “May I help you?”
Flippantly and disrespectfully she said, “Yeah, I’m looking for my old man.”
This was in the early 1970’s and such a cavalier attitude was unusual and unexpected.
“What’s your father’s name?” I asked.
Her answer almost bowled me over. I could hardly believe my ears.
Without giving me the name, she chirped, “He’s the one with the new asshole!”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Rambling Wreck
We had finished treating a middle aged woman for vomiting and a migraine headache. She was discharged from the emergency department. When her husband went to get the car, I pushed her out under the covered canopy seated in a wheelchair. I stood alongside her, watching as a car approached. It drove up the inclined driveway and under the portcullis, the overhead lights of the parking lot reflected off the glass surface to reveal that the whole wind shield was spider webbed with tiny cracks running from one side of the car to the other.
When the car stopped near the wheelchair, I moved the woman closer to the car to help her. I opened the passenger’s door for her to climb inside. As I lifted the latch and pulled the door open, it dropped about one half inch on its hinges. I held onto it, making sure that it wasn’t going to fall off and to be absolutely sure it wasn’t going to crush my toes.
 Now for the big surprise, when I looked inside, the front passenger’s seat was an apple crate turned upside down with a burlap sack thrown over it. I couldn’t say anything. I was in complete shock.
You learn early as a nurse, not to say anything that might insult a patient. I managed to keep my mouth shut and help the woman from the wheel chair onto her “seat”. I pulled the wheelchair away from the car and slowly inched the car door shut. When I reached about the last two inches, I lifted on the door handle a bit and pushed the car door shut. I was afraid to slam it. I didn’t want to have it fall off, jam, or have window fall out.
As the car pulled away and I turned to go back into the emergency room with the wheelchair, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eyes. I turned to look. The tail light had fallen out of the back end of the car’s fender and was resting on the rear bumper. The wires were still attached and the tail light was still burning. I just shook my head not believing what I had just witnessed and went back inside.
Once I had stowed the wheelchair, I told the other nurses in the emergency room what had just happened. One of the nurses asked, as she began to laugh “Did you fasten her seatbelt?”
I turned and said to her, “You know, I tied that binder twine as tight as I could!”
Later, that evening I was talking to one of the guards and when I mentioned the car. He told me, “I was talking to the driver while he was in the waiting area. He said ‘I know I shouldn’t be driving that car. It is in really bad shape, but my wife was sick and didn’t have anything else to drive.’”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Halloween Hands
One Halloween, Dr. Vandyk was on duty in the emergency room when a young man came in with both of his hands injured. It was one of the Flinn boys. For some reason Dr. Vandyke had always called the brothers “The Flying Flinns.”
We quite frequently saw the Flinn boys for various injuries. It wasn’t that they were abused, but accidents just seemed to seek them out and find them. They looked a lot like peas in a pod, except they weren’t green. Each one had sandy, red hair and a wide scattering of freckles spread over their cheeks.
When we looked at the Flinn boy’s hands and they were abraded, bruised, and generally mutilated. The doctor ordered x-rays. While we were cleaning both of his hands and waiting for the x-ray tech, he began to share his tale.
“I was working at a haunted house tonight. I had huge rubber feet, rubber hands and a big, bushy wig that partially covered my face.”
We could see that the clothing he was wearing were old and tattered with red paint smeared on them to simulate blood.
“Two gay guys came into the maze of the house. All of us tried our hardest to really scare them.  I could hear them coming closer down the darkened hallway. The one was saying, ‘Oh, Frankie! I’m so scared! Frankie, hold me, I’m so scared!’ and I thought, ‘Here’s where I get them.’ Just as they reached the doorway to come into my room, I slapped both of my hands on the door frame and howled as loud as I could. I heard an ‘OH, FRANKIE!!and the guy slammed the door on my fingers. Now, I really did scream. I had a reason to yell. My hollering must have scared them, because they ran through my room and disappeared into the darkness beyond. Now, I’m here to see whether or not they broke my fingers.
When the x-ray films came back, He only had a small non-displaced fracture that we dressed his wounds, splinted the finger, and sent him home. It took all we could do to keep from laughing while we were treating him. The Flinn kid was obviously in pain, but what a story he can tell his grandkids.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Christmas Candies

He smiled as he lifted the old candy box down from the top closet shelf. It was worn from many years of being handled. He remembered the year when he and his wife had gotten the box of assorted chocolates as a Christmas gift. The candy was long gone, but the box had gained a second purpose of collecting buttons, thread, needles, and a variety of other accumulated odds and ends.
I flipped open its broad yellow and white hinged top. A faint aroma of the chocolate wafted up and stirred the memories lodged in my nostrils. It took me back to an almost embarrassing incident that makes me smile now. My wife was still alive and our three children’s ages ranged from four or five years old to twelve years old.
My wife had invited some of our old friends over for a post-Christmas celebration. It was to be a time for talking, snacking, and exchanging of gifts. Those friends had three children of their own and it made a perfect fit for our friendship and for exchanging of gifts.
My wife had prepared a tray of vegetables and dip, a tray of crackers with a cheese ball, and a tray of assorted cookies to serve our guests. As she showered and got dressed, I set the trays of goodies out on the dining room table. It looked festive, but I thought the cookie tray looked a little plain and would look more celebratory with a few of the chocolates scattered on the tray. I pulled the candy box from its spot under the Christmas tree. I opened it up and lifted the first piece of chocolate from its resting place inside. It was still cradled in its crinkled brown paper cup.
The aroma and the sight of the confection made my mouth water. I hadn’t eaten one of the chocolates yet and it tempted me. I was feeling a bit hungry and seeing all of the food on the table and thought I would try a piece now. As I took the candy out of its paper wrapper, I thought that it felt a bit odd. Turning it over, I had a surprise. I could see that one of our kids had picked the chocolate coating off the underside. Apparently the child hadn’t liked the crème that had been hidden inside and returned it to its brown crinkled paper cup and then slipped it back into box, making it look as if it had never been disturbed.
I ate the disfigured piece of chocolate even though I could see that the crème inside wasn’t my one of my favorites. The frugal nature in me rejected the other option of throwing it away. The waste of food would have grated on my upbringing.
I picked out a second piece of candy nestled in its paper nest to put onto the tray. This one felt odd too. When I turned it over, it had the bottom coating of sweets scraped off as well. The chocolate layer was gone and the creamy filling was exposed.
I looked through the candies. All of the chocolates had been mutilated, rendered bottomless, and returned to their candy box homes. That evening none of the sweet confections ever made it onto the cookie tray. Completely by accident, I had discovered and avoided an embarrassing situation.
Even if I hadn’t caught the mutilated bonbon, our friends would have understood. They had three children too. It has become an amusing story in our family and someone will ask, “Anyone want a piece of chocolate?”

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Christmas Pie

Between the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas falls the deer hunting season in our state of Pennsylvania. The first day of buck hunting is a holiday for the school kids who want to join in the hunt. My mother-in-law had always relied on someone in the family to harvest a deer so she could claim some of the fat, tallow, and bits of the venison flesh to make the filling for her mince meat pies. She would bake the meat pies for the Christmas holiday meals. She would occasionally use beef products to make the filling for her pies if there wasn’t any venison available, but that was something she would do only reluctantly.
Usually my brother or I would get either a buck or a doe or both. We frequently hunted together with our father and usually managed to bring down at least one deer and quite often more than one among the three of us. We didn’t allow any of the deer meat to go to waste and we would harvest as many deer as we had licenses. We liked the flavor of venison.
After we would spend hours in the outdoors hunting in all kinds of weather to find and to kill a deer, we didn’t really want to turn our hard-earned prize over to a butcher who might or might not salvage all of the meat from the carcass for us. We had heard stories about unscrupulous butchers and we were worried that all of the meat from our deer might not be returned, the meat might not be handled properly, or we might not get the meat from the deer that we had turned in to the butcher to be returned to us. We also did not like the fact that butchers used band saws to cut through the brittle deer bones splintering them and leaving slivers of bone in the meat.
When we were younger, we helped our uncles and our grandfather to butcher several hogs and a young bull at granddad’s farm every year. We had learned the basic skills for cutting up meat and it was only a small step from that to actually doing the butchering for ourselves. Our father had a garage/ shed at the back of his property. We would skin the deer and allow it to hang inside to cool before quartering the deer and eventually dividing and slicing the meat into the desired cuts.
If we found a stray hair we knew who to blame. Our cuts of meat may not have been as fancy or as perfect as those that a professional butcher could do, but we would first cut around the bones and remove them before slicing the meat. What was left for us to cut was all meat.
My brother liked to divide his deer to make steaks, deer sausage, and cold pack the smaller non-descript pieces of venison. I liked to cut my deer into steaks, cold pack the smaller pieces, and make deer jerky. Usually I could collect enough meat and fat from the rib cages to give my mother-in-law enough meat to make at least two mince meat pies and often more.
Following a recipe that she had used for years she would mix the raisins, currants, apples, citrus products, and spices together. Once they had cooked, she would put the mixture into glass jars and store them in the refrigerator until the filling was needed for the making of her pies.
It would be only one of the flavors of pie that she would bake for Christmas.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Plop, Plop, Fizz. Fizz, Oh What a Relief It Is
It was an unusually busy three to eleven shift on our med/ surg. floor. Everyone was “flying solo.” As long as they could do a task without asking for help, they did it. Everyone was trying to get “their own work” done, without pulling someone else away another from their assignments.
The call bell rang out and one of our R. N. s, Barb was at the desk and answered the call light. It was that old man who said “I really need to go bad!”
It’s almost always a better choice to help a patient to the bathroom than to change the bed linens, although there are always exceptions.

Barb was wearing a brand new pant uniform and shoes. She almost glowed like an angel under the fluorescent lights. She was the only nurse at the station. She stopped taking off the doctors’ orders and hurried into the patient’s room.

The man was thin, with wispy white hair, and unsteady on his feet. Barb helped him to stand. She then stepped behind him to help him keep balanced. She placed a hand beneath each of his armpits, to support him as he walked to the bathroom. After a few steps, Barb found herself in a dilemma. The old man began to move his bowels. Like a cow, his feces was loose and it dropped, “PLOP! PLOP!” on the floor, splattering Barb’s new shoes and pant legs.
Barb couldn’t allow the unsteady, elderly patient to walk unaided, but she didn’t want the poop to continue splashing onto her new clothing. All she could do was to hold onto him and keep going. She kept spreading her legs wider and wider to try to avoid stepping in the feces and to keep her uniform from being splattered.
By the time she made it to the bathroom entrance, her stance was almost too wide to go through the bathroom door. She eased the man through the doorway and sat him on the commode. Leaving him with the call bell cord, she exited the bathroom, cleaned the mess on the floor, and went to the nurse’s lounge to wipe off the worst of the feces from her shoes and pants. She couldn’t remove enough of the feces from her new pants and had to wear a pairs of operating room scrub pants and soak her pants in cold water.
For most of the evening, she was upset, but after a few of us moving past her with our arms out in front of us and walking with our legs spread wide, she did see the humor of the whole incident and managed to smile before the end of her shift.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town
A middle aged woman, who looked much older, had her eye on Kurt. She was enamored with him. When he was on duty, she would ring her call bell more frequently than usual to get him to come into her room. When she would hear his footsteps, she would throw back her sheets and pull up her patient gown, exposing her private parts for him to see.
Kurt would walk to the bedside and pull the gown back into place and the sheets back over her, then ask. “Ruby, what do you need?”

It was always some small thing that she wanted. Like “Can you move my table closer?” “Can you get me fresh water?” “Would you empty my bedpan?” or “Would you move my telephone closer.”
Kurt managed to keep his composure and be polite for quite some time. He ignored her obvious sexual advances. Kurt was married. For awhile Kurt was actually behaving himself. He tried to ignore the problem until it became obvious he needed to do something before a sexual accusation actually occurred.
One evening he came into her room more quickly than she expected. He caught Ruby flipping off the sheets and pulling up the hem of her patient gown above her waist. This was the final straw. Kurt stopped, bent over and looked across the bottom of the bed, and up between her legs. He announced, “Ruby, you have scabs!”
It shocked her so much that she jerked the sheets over her exposed body and covering herself. She said to Karl, “Never mind.”
Kurt left the room with a smile on his face and Ruby’s calls for assistance became less and less frequent.