Monday, November 4, 2013

It is getting too much to post every day. I am starting to post three times per week.
Dressed For Success
One night an elderly man dressed in tattered and filthy clothing was admitted to our med/ surg. floor. His wardrobe was a series of rips and tears held together by safety pins. The newest item that he owned which was still fairly intact was a suit coat that was about two sizes too big for him, but it was covered in grime as well.  All of his clothing was crusty and filthy. It looked as though he hadn’t had a bath or removed his clothing in months.
We placed each item in a bag as we removed it. Most of the clothing seemed to disintegrate in our hands as we undressed him, but the clothes were his belongings and I made sure each piece was logged as we placed it in the bag. When we had the old man completely naked, we started to bathe him. Dirt was crusted on him in layers. Several times we had to place wet cloths on the most thickened, dirty areas to loosen the grime. It took about an hour to wash him. He still wasn’t thoroughly clean, but could now see patches of bare skin.
One of the newer nurses wanted to toss the man’s clothing. “It’s so disgusting and smelly. It will stink up the room.”

I explained to her, “No matter what you think, these are his belongings and only he or his family has the right to tell us what they want us to do with them. Put the clothes in his closet for now.”
Later, when we were finally able to talk with the family on the telephone, I finished asking questions about the old man’s health history from the daughter. Just before we hung up, she asked, “Did you see how much money he had with him?”
I replied, “We didn’t find any money on him. We just removed his clothing and bagged them.” We hadn’t actually been searching pockets for money.
She explained, “He always had money tucked away in the linings of his jacket.”
“We can check it out and whatever money we find will be locked in the hospital’s safe for the night. You can check on his money when you come to visit.”
The new nurse and I gloved up and hoping that the smell had dissipated somewhat since it was no longer on the man and began the search. We had no such luck!
I’d gone through other patient’s belongings before and decided it was time for the new nurse to get a taste of reality or should I say smell and allowed her to do much of the searching.
Pulling the jacket from the tattered remnants of clothing in the bag, she began the search for holes in the lining. The smell hadn’t lessened. Perhaps because it had been enclosed in the bag, the odor seemed to have intensified.
Once we found the openings under each arm pit, we fished around inside the lining of the coat. The money began to tumble out; ten dollar bills, twenty dollar bills, several fifty dollar bills, a few five dollar bills and several one dollar bills. We sorted and stacked them on the over-the-bed table. The total was just a few dollars short of fifteen hundred dollars.
I turned to the new nurse and said, “Now you can see why we never throw the patient’s belongings away.”


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