Monday, March 2, 2009

An Ah-Hah Moment

This is another long one... Are you ready?!?
One of my patients is a 44 year old man who is very protective and possesive of me. I've been taking care of him as long as I have been working at this facility. He had a couple of visitors yesterday and supposedly one of them was asking questions about me and telling my patient that I was a sexy nurse and wanted to know if I was taken. So my patient told me (in front of this guy) that he isn't going to tolerate ANYBODY stepping up on HIS nurse. he told the guy that I am HIS NURSE and he better back off. The poor guys face turned a few shades of red before he responded, "Looks like I need to get in an accident and need some healing before I can call you MY nurse." Hehehehehe! I thought that was funny and flattering all at once!!
And then I started thinking..........
I worked so hard to get where I am and I'm only now realizing how much I impact peoples lives. I have come so far and THIS PATIENT finally drove it home that I achieved what I've wanted since I was about 4 or 5 years old... To become a nurse and help those in need. I don't think it is possible for ANYONE to love their job as much as I do. (I'm sure there are many who would make that same statement but, damn it, I really feel like its true at this very moment!)

My mind went back to a time in my life when I really became sure that there was nothing else in the world that I wanted to be other than a nurse. I was 11 years old and it was a Friday morning. I woke up and my stomache was hurting really really bad. My mother kept me out of school that day and took me to the doctor. My regular doctor wasn't there so I saw his associate. He took a blood sample and decided that I had gastroenteritis... That is a very vague term meaning that the inner lining of my intestinal tract was inflammed for some reason that he just couldn't fathom. He sent me home on about 4 different medications.

Friday passed... Saturday passed... Sunday arrived and I was in so much pain by this point that I stopped sleeping in my bed because I couldn't get up there and was sleeping on the sofa and I couldn't lift my own feet. My mother was lifting them for me and putting them on the sofa. I couldn't stand up straight. It was as if a band was drawn between my shoulders and my knees, drawing me down. I couldn't even straighten myself out while laying down. My mother called the doctors office (in the south, our family doctors would actually have the phones forwarded to their home on the weekends) and got ahold of my regular doctor who was back in town. He told us to meet him at his office right away. We get there and he tells me to lay down on the exam table. I got up there but I couldn't straighten myself out to lay down. The doctor says, "WAIT! Mom, I need you to take her straight to the hospital, and I don't mean go home and get her gown and toothbrush. I mean get her there now and I will meet you there. She has an infection and I think her appendix has ruptured!"

We get to the hospital and they admit me and take me straight back to a room. In the room, I am laying there in so much pain that I am crying and I can't be still. My mother calls the nurse who gives me a shot in my thigh and then the world became a beautiful place free of pain!! I was feeling NO PAIN WHATSOEVER! I sat up and took my mothers purse off the bedside table and started rummaging through it. I found her sunglasses and took then out and put them on. These were the kind of sunglasses that were sooooo big that they covered your cheeks and eyebrows. I said, "Look mamma! I am Stevie Wonder!" as I swung my head back and forth in his signature way. My mother sat there staring at me with tears rolling out of her eyes. The doctor arrives (my doctor) and informs my mother that I have to go back for surgery immediately. I couldn't care less at this point!

A nurse comes in the room after the doctor leaves and gives me some medication in an IV port that I don't remember getting and they transfer me to a gurney and start rolling me down the hall. As they are rolling me out of the room, and I pass by my mother, they nurse leans down and says, "Wow, Honey! You should be dead by now!" My mothers face went white and the tears became a fresh flood. I was now scared out of my mind. Oh my God!!! This nurse said I should be dead!! Oh my God!! What if I do die before I get to see my momma again?? Oh my God!! I'm dying!! (The medication that was put into my IV was starting to take effect and I felt myself sliding backwards into nothingness) We arrive in the OR and they transfer me to the operating table. I am still awake somewhat and they start clipping something to my fingertip (a pulse oximeter: I had no idea what it was at that time) and they started strapping my arms down (fear was renewed and panic set in because I couldn't stop them). The nurse looks at my face and says, "I need you to start counting backwards from 10." "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Now what?" "Oh! Count again dear." "10, 9, 8..., 7......, 6........." Thats the last thing I remember before I went under.

The next thing I remember is waking up and the air was too cold and burning my nose (it wasn't the air that was burning my nose. I had been intubated but I didn't know that). I looked up and they had this big silver lamp shinning into my face and I saw a pink elephant with purple polkadots in front of the lamp just staring at me! (of course it wasn't there, I was seeing things) I don't remember much about that room and I don't remember leaving it. I remember waking up back in my hospital room and my mother was there at my side and I told her "Hey, I didn't die?" Then I looked down at my aching tummy. It was all bandaged up but I was so high that I didn't care.

That first day was a little blurry for me. The next day was a little more interesting. The nurse came in to change the dressing. She pulled the bandage off and I was amazed at what I saw. My belly was laying open with bloody gauze sticking out of it and I had a tube coming out of my lower belly (beyond the incision) attached to a bulb full of some nasty stuff. The nurse soaked the guaze with normal saline so that it wouldn't stick to my innards and started pulling it out. I remember saying, "Ewwww... That looks like raw bacon!" I had to have been out of my mind with some pain medication because I don't remember it hurting! The nurse explained that I had what they called an exploratory surgery because when they made the small incision that is typical for an appendectomy, there was no appendix there. The slit me open from sternum to pelvic bone and literally hand to start taking things out and laying them aside to find my appendix. It was behind my colon and was enveloped in a mass of infection about the size of a cantalope which is why they had to leave me open. They had to make sure the infection drained out properly.

I was in the hospital for 2 weeks and I had some amazing nurses (minus the genious who told me I should be dead). I still remember their names. I had Wilma, Jean, Jennifer, Kim, and John (who was actually my respiratory therapist). I stayed SO high while I was there that I was climbing up on the chair in my room to get something off a shelf... WITH MY STOMACH HANGING OPEN!!!! I think back on it now and say, WOW! I am sure that I would be laying in bed and asking for everyone to do everything FOR me if it were to happen to me today.

On the day before I was to be discharged, the attending physician came in and told me that he would be closing my incision up. Without preparing me for what was to come, he removes the bandage, runs some sutures into my stomach and with his hands, pulled them tight to close me. When he did this, the sutures ripped through my skin, leaving cuts about 2 inches long on either side. One after another after another, he did this while I lay there screaming and crying. OH MY GOD IT HURT!!! NO LIDOCAINE!!! NOTHING!!! I bled all over the bed and was shaking when it was over because my body was in shock. He cleaned the incision with some normal saline and had the nurse stick some of those little butterfly bandages over the ripped areas on my belly to hold them closed. They sent me home the next day and I was BACK in my doctors office within a week with an infection in one of the RIPS which caused it to SPLIT BACK OPEN!!!

I was out of school for a month with a tutor coming to my house to keep me up to date with my studies. When I went back, another student (my best friend to this day) was assigned to carry my books for me between classes and help me walk to and from the classes. We had a permanent hall pass because we were late to class on a regular basis. I had lost 30 pounds during the course of things and was still weak at this point.

So here is a little background on what actually happened. On that Friday, my appendix actually ruptured without every having showed signs of being inflammed. I went Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday with it ruptured and infection set in. I went into septic shock which is why I couldn't straighten myself out and I was hurting so back and throwing up. My body was locking down on me and the infection had gotten into my blood stream and was travelling. In all honesty, I should have been dead by that point. God blessed me with an extention on life and with some really great nurses who I will never forget. I decided that I wanted to become a nurse and make a difference to the life of someone who was sick and scared. I wanted to be the nurse who held her patients hand and told her, "Never lose faith. God knows what He is doing and He is holding your hand and is guiding you through to wherever it is that you are headed." I will NEVER be the nurse who scares her patients before they are even put under the knife by saying something careless and stupid. I'm a caring nurse and I am so proud to be able to say it!