Tuesday, May 23, 2006


How the nursing student got nursed.

Yesterday I started the summer-session of my nursing degree. For the next 6 weeks I am bound to the 8th floor of the largest hospital in this area. Monday through Thursday I will be working on my vericose veins in a Med/Surg unit for close to 9 hours a day -- and still come back for a Friday class.

But it's summer. I just finished my exams. Total bummer.

This morning it was hard to get up and be perky in the hospital lobby at O'Dark Thirty. It was hard to stick it out during the tour and even listening to the younger portion of my group have their little side conversations about the shocking OC twist. I know nursing is for me, truly, but I felt that given a few more days of vacation and maybe a few more hours of sleep and I'd really love that sentiment a bit more.

In the past I've had these moments. Moments when I don't want to talk about tubes, syringes, pathophysiologies, symptoms and Beta Blockers. Times when inserting something into someone just isn't as appealing as letting my mind rot watching the MTV "True Life" Marathons. I know, hard to believe, huh?! These moments flit through my mind -- more frequently when I'm tired, frustrated and mentally exhausted. I'd just toughed out a very long semester with some very trying people while taking some pretty rigorous courses. And this morning, well, it was a perfect time for one of those doubtful moments.

It was during our "scavenger hunt" of the unit when I first had the tinges of "Good God, this is lame." Sure, it's important to know where they keep the KY and the TED hose. Yeah, I should probably find the foley kits and know the codes to the med rooms. But you don't know how it feels to be clumped in a group with 7 other people wearing the same uniform as you, wandering around a hospital unit like you're playing Blob Tag, scribbling furiously, checking items off your pre-printed lists and trying desperately to not be in the way of anyone trying to do actual, real, people-saving stuff. (I imagine the staff can't wait until the students show up that first day.)

My hospital-partner-in-crime and I managed to break away from the herd and started down the hall away from them (intentionally.. ). As we made sure we had most of our lists and that we'd exhausted all muttered complaints about the hunt to eachother, a nurse came out of a patient room and came right up to me.

Nurse: "You. Who are you?"
Me: "Um, I'm a Mason nursing student..... "
Nurse: " I need your help in here."
Partner in Crime: "Yeah, uh, we've got to do this scavenger hunt."
Nurse: "I just need someone to help me move a patient."
Me: "Yeah, ok, I can help you with that." (beats the scavenger hunt, right?)

Still in my sour mood, I went with her into the patient's room. The elderly man in the bed looked nothing short of helpless. I rounded the other side of the bed and evaluated the situation. He had several IVs and a naso-gastric tube inserted (Read: tube up his nose to his stomach for feeding) and naturally couldn't speak. He looked so terribly uncomfortable and tired. As we shifted the man around in bed, he held onto me. But he didn't grip me like a man holding onto a stranger, he almost embraced me -- as someone who trusted me to help him. I felt fuzzy all over.

Once we had him comfortable in bed, the nurse left. I started to make his bed for him and straighten his sheets. I chattered on while I tucked him in and he kept his eyes locked on me as I worked around his bed. Just as I was about to leave, the man grabbed my gloved hand. I turned back towards him and covered his hand with mine and smiled at him. He squeezed my hand firmly and mouthed to me "Thank you". The look in his eyes told me that not only did he really mean it, but that my few moments of kindness and time to take care of his comfort had made a difference to him.

A blog cannot do justice to the feeling I had and continue to have this evening. THIS is why I'm in nursing. It's moments like these that seem to come just when I'm tired or frustrated enough to give less-than-the-best nursing care. Clearly, I am meant to be here. The experience gave me the push I needed for the rest of the day -- and frankly, right into the middle of next week. What other profession could possibly provide a feeling like this? I swear, if I nurse for a lifetime, no amount of money or career advancements could be worth the remarkable moments like these that come in small bubbles of personal interaction when you really connect with someone.

It's addictive. And I can't wait for my next fix. And I only get 6 more weeks of it before I have to wait all summer for my next rotation. Total bummer.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Running on empty

I received a bit of bad news this evening. From my pedometer.

The Sunday rain moved my thrice-weekly run indoors today. I happily laced up to catch up on my little Tivo surprises AND put the treadmill to good use. I also figured this would be a good time to just go ahead and check the ol' trusty pedometer against the treadmill's fancy display.

I have been deceived. I am living a lie. My running career, albeit a short one, has been a fraud. After 2.5 miles, I was .25 off, according to my little red waist-banded buddy. And off .25 in a BAD way. So my running victories -- namely, my 3 mile mark in Tucson -- were all for naught. Now, granted, I can still say -- well, hell, I ran 2.75 miles in Tucson -- and that's still going to be my all time high. But I feel as though my little digital friend has let me down. It's broken my heart a little bit and I don't know if I can ever feel the same about its little red face or the little clicky noise it makes when I run.

For about an hour I was moping around and wallowing in the self-pity of my setback. I couldn't even LOOK at my pedometer sitting there all remorseful on the table. I'm sure if my pedometer had more than a watch battery rattling around inside it might have pointed out that I completely misjudged/mismeasured my stride to begin with. Upon opening the package and meeting your pedo-friend for the first time, you're to walk or run 10 normal steps and then measure the distance and divide by 10. Voila -- your stride in inches. I clearly must have been long jumping at the time and entered my stride a whopping 4 inches more than it truly is. Which, after the innumerable steps of a two mile run -- is quite a miscalcuation.

Ah, but I've got to keep on trucking. I've got to accept that my whole business of my near 10 minute mile was all a big lie. A lie my pedometer told me. Cause the treadmill told me pretty straight-up, "Sister, it's more like 12:15/mile".

The important thing here is that I can handle the truth. I picked myself up, gave the pedometer a wry smile and will forge on with the plan -- October, Army 10-miler. Bring it.

And a damn fine thing I keep a W&M physics/comp sci double-major-double-masochist around this joint. That way I didn't have to do any of the math to figure out what my REAL stride was. He made it a "solve for x" problem. Genius. And that's pretty much all I can tell you about it. Clearly, because I did little more than make a sad face about the unmendable rift between my pedometer and I -- and hand him the little red beast.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Lend me your ears

Living in Washington, DC proves to be an experiment in culture shock most of the time. Some of us newbies like to think we're numb to the new experiences we have in this perfect little 202/703 melting pot -- and just when we think we've seen it all, something unexpected and, indeed, shocking happens.

When I first decided to move to the area, I did what I thought was the unthinkable. I posted ads for a roommate on Craigslist. Sure, I had a boyfriend and swarms of NoVa friends; I just wanted to reach outside of my comfort zone. After sifting through the freaks, I came to her. She was from Chicago, bachelors from Iowa and living/working in Korea -- to familiarize herself with her family culture. What more could one want in a roommate? She was coming to DC to finish her graduate education, didn't mind cats, did the apartment hunt from overseas and trusted me enough to send me her blank checks to cover her half of the expenses. We met moving in and we've been friends ever since.

She was coming back to the area to finish a program she had started at Gallaudet University in DC. The school is renowned for being the only school in the world for the deaf and hard of hearing. While she's not deaf, she was working on a master’s degree in deaf education. Speaking (gesturing?) fluent sign language, she would teach not only deaf elementary students, but work with the hearing parents who had a deaf child -- or conversely, work with the hearing child of deaf parents. She came home once with a story about a class full of hearing children with deaf parents who were taking turns answering her cell phone because they had never had the opportunity. She babysat for a deaf couple that, at first, blared the radio for their hearing baby. She had a gift with children and a real knack for bridging the gap between the hearing and deaf community. Yeah, I had no idea there was a gap.

She told me of deaf groups that felt cochlear implants (devices surgically implanted in the head to create an artificial cochlea (that's the curly, tuby thing in your ear that you interpret sound with -- anything more than that, enroll in nursing school with me -- or google it)) were an insult to deaf pride. While a number of people in her program here hearing, there were deaf people, even at the school, who thought it inappropriate that they be 'hearing' and still work with the deaf. Much like an exit exam, all of the students in her program had to pass a proficiency "sign language" exam before they graduated. From what I understand, a very grueling day of pushing your sign language to the max.

When she first moved in, I was completely entertained by her school-stories. Not so much for their content, but more for the parts when she would become either agitated or very much involved in the retelling -- and her hands would slowly creep up to chest level. At first the little finger movements were lazy and intermittent. Then, once they got revved up, she'd be spitting out the story verbally and physically. Sadly, the most I gleaned from this relationship was learning how to say "farting" and "transsexual" in sign language. VERY useful phrases when my repertoire includes "cat, sea turtle, beautiful, Ireland and Christmas". I once came home to find a second set of shoes at the door, someone's coat but the entire apartment was dead silent and her door was closed. I thought the obvious. Little did I know she was in the middle of catching up -- deaf style -- with a good friend. Imagine my surprise.

But admit it -- when you go to a concert that has the woman down front signing the whole thing -- you're watching her, too. Trying to decipher the words being said with the gestures being made. I'm amazed. I'm amazed at the language itself. And when we'd go out with her friends, it was so unbelievable to watch them sign at each other while still verbally speaking out loud. Sometimes they'd stop talking in favor of signing and I'd have to start waving my hands around to make them speak again. Then again, there were benefits of signing -- taking bar orders from across a room. Talking about cute dudes while dancing. Of course, I appreciated all these benefits from the outside. Again, if the dude were a tooting transsexual from Ireland on Christmas, I'd be set for conversation. Er, at least the opening sentence. (I always make it a point to learn the really CRUCIAL aspects of any language...)

In any case -- each and every one of them graduated on Friday. Gallaudet not only has a bachelors and graduate program, they also have elementary and high school programs, too. Graduates of all ages were being celebrated on Friday. And I was there. And I might as well have been in downtown Sai Pan because I don't speak the language there either. I have never been in a room so full of people and have it be SO quiet. Sure, there was a quiet hum of chatter -- but from the sound of it, you'd think there were maybe 100 people there -- not thousands. Most people were signing to each other. I couldn't start up a witty conversation with the people around me. I couldn't even chuckle along with them -- since I didn't hear, er, see the joke being told. The few people who did speak to me also signed to me simultaneously: "Is that seat taken?" etc. But by and large, I was alone and unsocial in a crowd of people which was the strangest experience for me.

For those of you not very familiar with deaf culture, a few important items to note for your next deaf/HOH engagement:

* Deaf/Hard of Hearing (HOH) people don't clap. Few do, but not with gusto. The preferred method of "applause" is to hold up your hands and shake them (not at all unlike the hokey-pokey shake, for a visual). You know how you hate to be the first/last one to clap at something -- it was like hours of that for me. Out of thousands, maybe a hundred of us were clapping, the rest were waving/shaking. Which makes visual sense to the deaf speakers, er, signers, er, keynote people. (On the other hand, their main commencement speaker was this hysterical cowboy of a man from Colorado who was not deaf. He is the "father of the Leadville 100" (google it). When he cracked a joke, the group laughed about 2 seconds after I had started my snicker because of their signing/closed captioning delay.)

* Deaf people don't realize how loud they really are. I speak in generalizing terms and by no means to offend. They stomp when they walk. The cough and clear their throats and snortle loudly -- not ever knowing how it must sound to the hearing community. And no one "blessed me" when I sneezed (I got over it).

* Deaf people don't say "excuse me". Again, a broad generalization. Being deaf appears to be very physical. While most of us keep a pretty large personal bubble about us -- and shudder about its breech on the Metro -- deaf people rely on touch to communicate. If they are attempting to get your attention, they'll touch your arm. They stand and sit close to one another to see lips and to perhaps have a private signed conversation. So it stands to reason that when walking through a group of people, they aren't likely to mutter "excuse me" when they bump into you. Again, perhaps they can't "mutter" at all. And I'm ok with that.

* Signing is distracting. As seen above -- when the room goes quiet in a large place, like a graduation, for a speech or whatnot, the slightest noises are distracting to the hearing. However, a quiet signed conversation can still rage on next to you. And it did. And I couldn't stop staring out of the corner of my eye. And across the room, you could see most people engaged in a two or three person signed conversation. Even the grads on the main floor were signing to each other throughout.

It was quite an experience. I was so proud of my old roommate. She's going to make a big difference in a lot of people's lives -- hearing or deaf. And it was really a very revealing and amazing peak into the world of a deaf or hard of hearing person.

But, truth be told, when I left that graduation, I was so glad to hear the nonsense chatter on the radio and call my BFF on the cell phone and talk. Maybe we are over stimulated as a society. And I wouldn't last a day in solitary confinement.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Arizona. (Subtitled: My weekend, by the numbers)

I visited lovely Tucson, Arizona this weekend to celebrate the nuptials of an old college friend. I found it to be too short of a visit -- of course -- and wished very much I had more time to explore the area. I haven't been to Arizona since I was a very small child -- and barring that trip -- I have never seen such amazing scenery. Don't get me wrong, Virginia is a great state with diverse scenery. If I have my way, I'll say goodbye to my nomadic ways and settle right here. But as much as Virginia is green and grassy, Arizona is brown and prickly.

Here is my weekend -- in short:

11 -- hours of sleep I had in the 72 hours I was in Tucson. Believe me, I'm still recovering.

7 -- number of old college friends (coincidentally also Gamma Phis) I hadn't seen in years and was so delighted to see again.

4 -- Arizona historical land marks I visited: 1) Mysterious "Mexican White Sands" that the pilot pointed out on the way there. Because I was snoozing on the plane, there's a solid chance I completely misunderstood what he said. I'm still counting it, though, so bite me. 2) Sabino Canyon. A lovely 45 minute tram tour up the canyon admiring the vegetation and hoping all the mountain lions they had warned us about in the tour map were all sleeping. Fun Fact: Part of "Three Amigos" was filmed here. Be confident that I searched long and hard from my tram seat for the singing bush. 3) El Charro -- apparently the oldest Mexican eatery in the United States. They made a hell of a margarita. 4) The "Z" Mansion. Scene of said nuptials. Because I arrived early I had a chance to nerd-it-up and read all of their literature.

3 -- All-time high mileage run while I was in Tucson. (Hooray!)

2 -- Incidences of my wry sarcasm confusing waitstaff at local eateries.

1 -- Run-in with a roadrunner at 3AM while driving to the airport. We're both lucky I noticed him in my extremely drowsy state. Sadly, no coyote or acme ton-weights.

0.25 -- Tacos eaten. Sadly, they were too spicy -- and by too spicy I mean a smidge above regular Doritos-spicy. Though in the southwest, I clearly brought my bland, Virginian stomach with me. Never leave home without it.

0 -- Arizona Iced Teas. Though plenty of Crystal Light (thanks, N!)

0 -- Mountain lion attacks. Though fully warned by the devoted rangers of Coronado National Forest, I managed to escape with all my limbs still attached.

Monday, May 01, 2006


The Becoming

I hate being in my twenties. I'm not close enough to the comfortable thirties where I can be legitimately accepted as an adult in every capacity without me physically having to prove it to you, and indeed, I am not considered far from a keg-standing, baked college sophomore who is more interested in their next beer than the state of the global human rights issues. December, 2008 can arrive at any time and I will greet it with open arms.

That being said, I found myself engulfed in quite the predicament this weekend which required my adult know-how but sadly was cock-blocked by my "Like, oh my god, I was, like, totally hammered at my 8am psych exam" youthful looks.

The game plan was to travel to Galveston, Texas this weekend to join all of the betrothed's cousins for a fun, beachy weekend at the family beach house. Six of us endeavored to leave from Dulles Airport on Friday evening on the same flight -- direct non-stop service to Houston. United Airlines and other conspirators at Dulles Airport, however, felt differently about us being on that flight. For those of you not quite so blessed as to have flown from Dulles, you will take a tram or shuttle from the main concourse to either the C, D or G concourses which are completely isolated islands afloat in the tarmac of the airport. Without these trams, you are beached at the main terminal. We six plus about 15 other Houston-bound passengers (hereafter known as "the herd") were patiently waiting in the main terminal for said G-concourse shuttle to come.

Long story short and with 10 minutes to take off, it was never in the cards for that shuttle to come. Airport blames United, United blames the airport. And in either case, we, the herd, are meant to tram-it to C, run 15 gates to C's shuttle waiting area and catch their bus to G. We arrive to G and swarm towards the ticket counter like a scene from the Amazing Race to find that though our tiny plane is still at the gate, the flight is closed and we will not be permitted to board. This clearly did not go over as well as the desk clerks may have hoped it would. They practically had a riot on their hands. Two older men from our herd began shouting and cursing -- and the clerks were surprisingly unmoved by this. After about 2 minutes of watching our plane stare at us from the gate, we sadly watched it leave. Our beachy weekend was taking off without us.

I was pissed. I had spoken to the United counter shortly before our impromptu marathon and made them aware of our plight. And now these counter clerks are shaking their heads and literally saying, "This is not our problem." Having worked for 3 years in Human Resource customer service, I know this to be bullshit. If you wear a nametag with a company seal on it, it's automatically your problem. I watched as these 3 United counter clerks (clearly with no future in the hostage negotiations field, and hell, no experience in any customer service) refused to even visually acknowledge the herd in front of them -- growing angrier and more unruly by the second. And then it happened. Short of ripping my shirt off and turning green, I had a becoming.

Up until this point I had been thinking that I should involve myself in this mix. Nah, they won't take me seriously, I thought. I look more than half the age of the two dudes there making zero progress with their explicit complaints. And I still say things like "dude". Frequently.

But the more I thought about it, I realized that I had every right to be up there fighting. The charge sure had no problems showing up on my adult credit-card statement. And before I knew it was happening, it happened. I turned into my mother. As if possessed, I sternly walked over to the ticket counter and used Mom phrases like, "This is an OUTRAGE!" and "We demand SATISFACTION!" Four letter words like "dude" and "fuck" were gone. In fact, I'm pretty sure Cathy was gone too -- mentally at the G-concourse bar with the rest of my group. I stared down the gate agent and told her that she needed to provide the group with information -- even if that information was that she had no information, but that it was "completely unacceptable" (<-- mom again) for her to hide behind this desk and not even make eye contact. We were paying customers, and we expected some service. The spirit of mom was clearly not finished: We demanded to speak to a manager -- (teeth clenched, eyes squinted and with all the school-teacher seriousness I could muster) immediately.

Amazingly, the manager appeared. He escorted me to his computer-desky area and while I kept my crusty-evil-glare handy if I needed it suddenly, he had the entirety of my group booked on the last six seats of another airline's flight to Houston that night. (P.S. Delta rules. United drools.)

We made it to Galveston and had a wonderful weekend. United jacked us slightly on the way back, but I found my inner-mom was too weak to combat it. We managed to make it back to the original scene of the crime, Dulles, unscathed -- save for another impromptu sprint through Chicago O'Hare last night.

Maybe this inner-mom is meant to supplement in the needed adult-moments until I can be legitimately accepted as an adult in two and a half years. Or perhaps this is something far more terrifying. As I blossom into a functional adult, the dormant mom-ness is emerging from my adolescent shell. And maybe it isn't all bad. Though the betrothed might disagree, I enjoy my inherited bionic hearing -- the ability to hear strange noises in a dead sleep that must immediately be investigated. I make her Thanksgiving pumpkin rolls better than she does now.

So here's to my mom. I could hear her wide knowing smile over the phone when I called to tell her that I had channeled her earlier.

The betrothed will be delighted to know who he's really marrying.

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