Thursday, April 26, 2007


'Allo guvnah!

So I hear that Her Royal Maj is heading to the beloved Alma Mater next week. I really would love to be there, but yup, you guessed it, I'm caring for the infirmed....AGAIN. Man, if only those sick people would get better it would really free up my schedule. I mean, GEEZ. I've been practicing my Queen-wave for years and have nearly perfected the "elbow-elbow-wrist-wrist-touch the pearls" movement of it all.

In any case, it would seem that Queenie isn't the only one making grand speeches this time of year. Yours truly was recently selected to be the student speaker at her nursing school graduation. Which, when you break it down, only means that my mom will have a FAR easier time locating me in the arena during the ceremony. Oh, and I suppose it means I might also have the rapt attention of an entire sportsplex full of people. Hm, maybe "rapt" is a strong word. I'll have their polite attention. And much like there is no such thing as "bad" publicity, any attention at all suits me just fine. Of course, it tempts the inner entertainer in me to give the people more than what they bargained for on some Virginia-hot May graduation day. It will take a great deal of personal restraint to not crack jokes or worse -- laugh at my own jokes.

I wrote this little speech of sorts and submitted it for consideration for this little shin dig -- maybe to convey a small message of importance, but also maybe decidedly to keep myself (and others.. I'm very considerate) from having to give my polite attention, even a second longer than 5 semesters, to certain windbag classmates, I have already had to listen to for far too long, who may also have submitted speeches. I can say with great certainty that no one loves the sound of my voice more than moi (and surely, the Betrothed, who finds it to be like sweet, sweet music... somewhere he's inexplicably groaning and holding his belly as if in great pain), so why not throw my hat into the competition? Much to my (and my mother's) delight, and probably to the chagrin of others, I was chosen.

I wouldn't even dare dream of posting that speech here. It is fluffly, sappy, altruistic, hopeful and worst of all, truly meant from my heart. It would totally ruin my rep. It's one thing to have a room full of strangers hear it and think that I'm a charming, thoughtful girl about to make my mark on healthcare -- but it is quite another to let you all, having seen me at my finest moments of jaded sarcasm, think me, even for a second, a softie.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


It was the best of times, it was the not-so best of times.

While I don't have enough "real" material with which to compose a decent, attention holding post, I am hoping to string together elements of the last few weeks into some respectable slathering of words and funnies so that we'll still be friends.

Call it stream of consciousness. Potpourri. Factual events. Lingering impressions. I give you the most recent, haphazard chapter of my life in no particular order.
There. Consider us caught up. What's new with you?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


It's late. And it takes so little to entertain me at this hour.

A certain YouTube-ing was brought to my attention and I feel it only right to share it with you all. Chances are, actually, you saw it weeks ago, chuckled, rolled your eyes and will judge me for being so behind the hip-culture times and posting this like it's new-news.

Judge on. It only affirms my love for the film, my breath holding until I can own my very own copy and my longing for semi-appropriate occasions for which to purchase it for other people under the guise of a gift so as not to seem like I'm strangely forcing it on you. Which I would otherwise.

I urge you. Visit here. Turn up the sound and go ahead, let the goodness wash over you (even if you all already saw it last week when it circulated your offices. I remember when I had an office once...).


Living Upside-Down

Like a bat. A vampire bat.

Surely I'm not the first person to ever work a night shift. I realize that. But it's the first time I have ever worked a night shift and truth be told, it screws with you.

I worked my first shift from 7pm Sunday night to 7am Monday morning. To prepare, I was told, I ought to stay up as late as I could Friday night -- through the night, if I could -- and then sleep like the damned dickens all day Saturday and stay up that night, sleep Sunday and then get up and be ready for my first night shift. I did just that.

Friday night the BFF (who was coincidentally celebrating her birthday) came over for cake, presents and a good, old fashioned slumber party minus the slumber. She, Lord freaking love her, made it to about 2AM before passing out on the couch. Thankfully, and if by providence, there was an "Intervention" marathon after that on A&E and it kept my solid, if not a little droopy eyed, attention until 5AM. I love docudramas about squalor. Saturday night was much of the same, save no BFF. My dear, dear specially-special cat stayed close to me - often throwing me loving but, "Seriously, we aren't going to bed now?" looks until about 6AM. I thank MTV for their "True Life" marathon that kept me up that long. {That being said, MTV is sinking very low when they are "True Life"ing kids who like to surf. Where are their meth addicts and teen aged prostitutes? Please. It's the bottom of the squalor barrel to have a 1 hour show about melanoma-bound, tragically bottle bleached headed teens complaining about wanna-be tourists who attempt to steal their waves. They are lucky nothing else was on. }

Staying up all night used to be the norm -- remember? Of course you do. I remember in college thinking that if I saw even a peep of sunrise I was doomed to be a waste-of-space the whole rest of the next day. If I could sneak into bed, eyes averted without seeing the light, however, I somehow tricked my body into thinking it was just another late night. I am trying to function by similar theories now. Though it's usually close to 6AM when I do make it to bed now, I don't look outside at the horizon. It's still easier to pretend it's just another late night.

I will say this, however. Staying up all night is lonely. Very lonely. I can't blame the Betrothed. He's pushed his bedtime as late as he can manage to keep me company. On an up-side, however, I utilized a late-night trip to Wal-Mart to purchase a craft kit whereby I have taught myself how to knit. I'm a few inches into, what appears to be, a scarf. It appeals to my artsy side, keeps my fidgety hands busy and more importantly, functionally keeps me awake.

Staying up is one thing. Driving TO work at night is another. First of all, showing up to work at 7PM is weird. Traffic is weirdly nonexistent. Watching it get dark outside while you putter away inside is weird. Physically it feels like jet-lag and that's weird. The lost bustle of the place, the lack of bodies, chatter and general goings-on is weird. My main concerns were: 1) What meal am I eating when I go on my break? Lunch? Dinner? Some strange combination? (answer: unknown. Eating breakfast-light on one of my weekend-training sessions left me hungry. Eating dinner-heavy last night made me feel ill around 3AM. Lunch at 1AM is just ridiculous.) 2) Is the hospital cafeteria even open in the middle of the night? (answer: yes. Though limited in your selections, you still have access to some hot, cafeteria-tasting food at 1AM. Phew.).

From what I know of night shift nurses, a patient - any patient, is statistically most like to code/crash and die between 2-5AM -- more so than any other time of the day (and strangely more so during a full moon...pregnant women are most like to start labor during a full moon, as well. Weird.) That being said, it sucks for that patient, but serves as a good learning experience for me. And let's all remember that I'm trying to sink my student teeth into as many good learning experiences as I can before I'm expected to do anything nurse-y for a paycheck. My time is running out for that. Last night -- no dice. Everyone lived to see another day. Good for them.

My training sessions appeared to work for the most part. The "clock-watching" started around 4AM and I started to make quick walking laps of the unit to keep myself alert. Towards 7AM sitting down became dangerously risky for sleeping.

I made it home this morning around 8:15AM and promptly fell asleep -- probably literally before my head hit the pillow. I cannot remember a time, seriously, when I had ever felt so tired. I slept until mid afternoon when I resumed life as a normal person -- at least for a few hours, and at least until the Betrothed had to head to bed. I'm set for night shifts for the majority of my semester (which is a mere and blessed 4 more weeks) and so I must assume the position and live upside down for a few more weeks.

In the meantime and in addition to my new knitting habit, I think I might be putting the Betrothed and I into the poor house with the way I'm pay-per-viewing movies to watch in the middle of the night. Thankfully, we recently obtained Showtime (solely, and I mean solely, to watch The Tudors) and I have been able to set-to-record some movies I haven't seen in a while and will surely utilize to entertain me in the wee hours. On the otherhand, I have no idea what or how much I have been eating lately. I don't know when one day ends and another starts anymore. My workout schedule (and more importantly, my training for the upcoming Saint Louis Half Marathon I'm slated to run this weekend) has been upturned entirely. If I can see the finish line in the faint distance before I pass out, it will have been a success.

So don't mind me. It's 2:45AM and I have to get back to my shows before I head to bed in a few hours.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Heaven knows we need them here.

So this whole "nursing" thing seems to be working out really well, I must say. Phew. I'd really hate to be 43 days from graduation and think, "Smooth move, exlaxx.. Going back to school.. What were you THINKING?" Several very long shifts into it and I'm feeling more "in the groove".

The ICU is a busy place and everyone talks fast and in abbreviated code. I don't have to fake my, "Oh, yeah, totally. I get what you're saying. Oo, that sounds SERIOUS" face anymore. I'm getting it. I'm making connections. I know where the bathroom is and which chairs at the nurse's station to avoid because the doctors like to sit those and I hate getting "the look". The awesome experiences (not always for THEM, persay, but for me, they were totally awesome..) happen everyday and I'm learning new ways of disguising gross things so I can tell the Betrothed when I arrive home without him looking piqued. Bonus.

I had another one of those "Yes, THIS is why I'm in nursing" moments yesterday when my little man with either TB or Necrotizing Pneumonia (neither of which are a good thing.. but thankfully TB was ruled out meaning *I* don't have TB after hanging out with him..). Heavily sedated and Spanish speaking (the patient, that is) I would putter around his room in my whole outbreak getup (I swear to you I couldn't make this up if I tried..I had to wear the hood part. ) speaking what little Spanish I did know to his sedated self. When he woke up yesterday, ready to make a full recovery, I'm happy to say, he was kissing my hand and telling me in Spanish that he appreciated me being so nice to him while he was asleep and he thanked me for all of my kindness by trying to speak Spanish to him. He heard. Senora Via of my highschool years would be SO proud. {Little known, but heavily researched fact that hearing is the last thing to "go". Dying, sedated, comatose -- they can almost always hear and process the sounds. So talk on with your bad self.}

But what I really wanted to get up on my soap box about (and I seem to be doing that here a lot more, forgive me..) has to do with a patient experience I had last week. A young woman in her early 50s (yes, that is young considering what the mean age we usually see is..) died very, very suddenly of a bacterial infection that had not been caught by her regular doctor. It was terribly tragic. I stood across the ICU watching her devastated family come in, 2-by-2, to weep uncontrollably in each other's arms at her bedside. Out of all of this grief, however, they decided to donate her organs, which were young, healthy and still very much viable -- and very, very wanted. I loomed around the transplant coordinator as she called her contacts to tell them that they had a liver, lungs and kidneys for their patients. You could almost hear the elation and joy on the other end. 4 people were going to get a chance to live out of this tragic death. And that joy counteracted all the sadness a few feet away.

In my sly, sneaky, slithery way I managed to secure myself a spot in the OR during the organ harvest later that day. I will miss playing "the student" card in 43 days. In all honesty, they were happy to have me be there. Showing a future-nurse the benefits of organ donation only makes me one of their army when I'm on the floor -- I might be their first line of information with families.

Her bedside nurse and I brought her lifeless, but alive thanks to the ventilators et al that kept her oxygenated and perfused, body to the OR together. We helped to move her onto the operating table. Her left arm fell loose and I noticed she had something in her hand. Her nurse put her arm in front of me as I moved towards it. "It's a note from her daughter. She asked that we tape it to her hand so that she can have it with her during all of this." I looked closer and the only word I could make out on the folded paper was "Lucky". Truly, I had to turn away and blink hard to keep the tears from rolling down my face. What a word. "Lucky". She was lucky to have had this mother and their relationship? I don't know. But I know that her being here meant it was lucky to those other families rejoicing at their new chance at life. Lucky, indeed.

The whole process took over five hours (oh, my aching back and feet, let me tell you. Students don't sit in the OR.) . They flew in the transplant teams from all over the Eastern Seaboard to harvest, collect and return home to transplant. These scapel-slinging cowboys mosied into the OR like they owned it. Introduced themselves around and began their work.

The room was respectful -- all the while appreciating that this was still a person and not just a cavity of organs. It was an amazing procedure. "Amazing" hardly begins to cover it, really. Physicians from all over were on speaker phone in the OR as the surgeon measured and verified each organ. Collective breaths of relief were expelled when the voice on the other end would say, "That's perfect. Our recipient needs that size. We'll have them ready in 2:45." Each organ was removed in turn and the respective surgeon clutched it to himself lovingly as he walked to place it in the preservation fluids. He packed it up himself, said his goodbyes and left. Our patient was lovingly and respectfully put back together and prepared to go to the funeral home.

The transplant coordinator told me that often times they will have the donor family meet the organ recipient. It provides an element of closure for the family. She told me about a wife whose husband had passed very suddenly and donated his heart. The wife later met the recipient and wanted nothing more than to listen to her husband's heart beat in its new chest.

What kept me from bursting into tears over this tragic sadness was the thought of the families on the other side. Their joy. To have received "that call" today that they had the liver or the lungs or the kidney. See? And then the loss of this young woman wasn't all in vain.

So my soapbox moment today is to urge you to consider being an organ donor. Heaven forbid that anything happen to you when your organs are prime, but should it... Whatever you have or don't have on your driver's license doesn't matter. When the time comes, your family can override whatever you've elected -- you won't be able to argue. So make sure your family knows what your wishes are. Yes, even now. Last week I urged you to all make out your Advance Directives -- which, on some -- depending on the state -- indicates your wishes for organ donation.

I know. When did Cathy get so grim? It's all death, necrotizing-whatever, poopers and organ harvests to me now. I promise, when I'm a for-real nurse, this will all taper off. The funnies are still happening, really. I just felt this was more important to impart to you all.

But for a closing funny -- as a nursing student, we make boneheaded mistakes. They're not life threatening or dangerous, just boneheaded. For example. I keep forgetting to take the cap off of things. So I'm pushing and pushing and nothing's happening -- I start to worry -- and then I see the cap. Awesome. I was taking care of a dude last week who was receiving his medications down his feeding tube. So, you crush up things, mix it up, draw it up in this big plastic tipped plunger and push it down the feeding tube. No problem. Well, left in there by myself to manage this, I was mixing it all when I somehow ended up squirting his stool softener all over my face. Thankfully it wasn't his stool-stool, just the softener. So I stepped back. Took a breath, wiped off my face and resolved to try not to be such a bonehead anymore.

Don't be a bonehead. Donate your organs when you aren't using them anymore. (<-- did you like that? it was all smooth and unexpected..)

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