MURPHYS LAW STRIKES AGAIN

Pain is something I’m used to. I have to be careful when I sit Indian style, or to be politically correct “criss cross apple sauce”. Which by the way makes no sense because apple sauce can never criss cross. The cold hurts my bones and turns me into a hobbled old lady. I look like I’m auditioning for a role in the walking dead as a zombie. I’ve tried to get it fixed, ortho consults, injections, anti inflammatories, the works. I’ve given up on the dream of being pain free and walking like a runway model, besides I think the gangsta walk suits me better anyhow.

This passed weekend I watched too many hallmark movies and got inspired to clean my attic out, pull my Christmas decor down, and bake a pie. The pie part was challenging, I had to watch a YouTube video with my daughter on how to beat an egg and then we didn’t know what to do with it… the can didn’t say if we should mix it in the filling or where to put it so I had to contact an expert. My older brother Jo Jo. He has always been the baker/cook of the family and for Christmas one year he surprised me with a ton of cooking stuff I’ve never used until now.

A little too late, might I add. We already screwed up the pie and racked it up on our list of Pinterest fails. We like failure around here, it’s educational. The kiddos went off to their dads as usual on the weekend and I decided I’d get in the attic to try part 2 of my hallmark inspired weekend plans. I forgot my sister had a ton of stuff piled away since she is in the army and needs a place to keep her memories safe. Naturally I went through all her things like any good sister would.

Why are you saving this dinosaur?

After neatly organizing everything into clear totes, I started my ascend to the attic with the remains of my sisters youth. It was heavy. Too heavy. I got halfway up the ladder and gave the big tote a big push and whoosh, my shoulder felt like the devil being soaked in holy water! I dropped the nonsense memorabilia and laid against the wall pretending I didn’t just screw my shoulder up. The pain didn’t stopped, not after ice, not after nsaids and rest and praying. Crikey. Now I’m really in trouble with myself. I am a worker. I don’t simply watch a movie, or sit still for anything. I always have my hands going, knitting, crafting, writing, ect.

My new worst enemy

I decided to show my wound some attention when I realized I couldn’t hold my coffee mug and brush my hair without a stabbing pain. So I went to the dreaded doctor, actually I love my doctor but I hate going. It’s only torn, no break 🙌🏼 ! They said to take the rest of the week off and no lifting but that’s just a guideline… like stuff they have to say when you’re a patient so, I hid the note and went back to work the next day looking like the hunchback of notre dame with ice packs shoved in my scrub top. I’ve mastered the art of looking fine when I’m in pain for years so the next couple or weeks should be cake, fingers crossed.

Being home from work was too boring. I didn’t have anything to do while the girls were in school and I imagined spending sick days being productive, like laying on the couch with the flu while crocheting a blanket and folding laundry here and there but none of that happened. I grazed through the things I pulled down from the attic, reminiscing through memories of my dad. He’d probably make me a peanut butter sandwich if he were here. He always did that when I was out of commission. I remember crying in front of the fridge once in my wheelchair days because I couldn’t reach the milk and felt helpless. He saw me from his office and came to the rescue as always. I miss that old man. I was able to visit a piece of his life over the weekend.

He had great taste in books hahaha

I’ll be revisiting most of his treasures for the next few weeks as I’m not able to get them back in the attic so if I seem suspicious for the next little while it’s because I’m learning secret trades from an old crook hahaha. Talley ho!

The Veils of Morality

I’ve heard that death is as easy as walking into another room. That there is a veil between this mortality and immortality. There is a sacred symbolic meaning behind the veil, it can mean obedience, modesty, concealing, humility or all of the above. I want to share the oddest dream I had the other night that changed the way I viewed the veils of our mortality.

I dreamt I was walking into work. It was quiet which is unusual for a nursing facility, there were no other employees, no call lights ringing off, and every patients room had a white veil hanging on the entrance to the doorway. In most of my dreams I can not talk, rather I feel what’s happening. I felt at peace in this one and continued to prepare myself to treat my patients. I approached a doorway and felt a voice ask me who I was. I’d describe it as a telepathic conversation as my mouth never opened but I answered with, “I am Annabelle”. The voice responded with the same question, “Who are you?” After a revolving Q&A with the same results I finally took a step back and thought there is a patient in there who needs my help and I am a nurse. The mystery voice said, “You May enter”. I stepped through the veil and only found the patient inside, no security guard at the door… it was odd but I didn’t question it. The patient was angry at me, he was asking why I took so long and why I hadn’t come to see him sooner. I wanted to respond with, “my child was sick and I’ve had a stomach ulcer so I’ve been out of work” but the voice in my head said again, even louder this time, “WHO ARE YOU?!”. I answered silently, “I am a nurse”. I felt a change internally, the stressors that control my time outside of that room quickly dissipated. I was no longer a woman who had only 4 hours of sleep, a sick child, a crippling stomach ulcer, or a single mom with bills racking up. That woman was not permitted into this room, only the nurse in me was extended an invitation. My response to the patient changed to, “I apologize for my absence but I am here now, how can I help?” The angry mood shifted as the patient allowed me to treat his wounds. I finished up and stepped back through the veil. As I entered the hallway I was Annabelle again, I was a mom, a painter, an adventurer, and a nurse all in one. But each time I approached the door to another room the same question was asked before entry was granted, “Who are you?”.

As I woke up I started pondering the dream with the veils. I thought about all the doors I walk through each day and the person in me who was permitted on the other side. When I come home am I bringing the stressors of work with me? Or am I stopping at the door and asking myself who am I with the response, “I am a mom”? Am I doing the same at work? It’s an interesting concept when I sit back and think about all the mortal doorways we each have in our own lives, with that invisible veil that only allows a part of us to enter. What have you come to that doorway to do? If it’s to give excuses when you get to the other side then take a step back and remind yourself who you are before you cross.

When I walked into work yesterday I couldn’t get the image of the veils out of my head. I believe the dream came about to remind me of who I needed to be in that room, and who I needed to be at home because I couldn’t be both. The hard days I have at work do not belong in my home with my children and the hard days I have with my family at home do not belong in the room with my patients. I thought to myself yesterday before I entered each room, “Who are you?” and that changed my entire day.

‘The living still need you’

If you’ve ever seen the vampire diaries you know these vampires have an extreme heighten sense of emotions, they feel everything on another spectrum. They also have the ability to shut that off. It’s like a switch they hit and it’s incredibly hard to turn that back on. People in the medical field do something similar. They call it compartmentalizing.

Have you ever witnessed something so traumatic that it breaks you? Maybe you’ve watched a loved one die, found yourself at the scene of a car crash, saw an accident happen before your very eyes… the emotional claim it has on you breaks your soul in two. Nurses experience these kind of things regularly. You don’t see it on their face at the time because we compartmentalize these things so that we can continue to care for those still living.

I was rude to someone this weekend after they had experienced an unexpected trauma. I wasn’t very empathetic because I have been doing this for so long and have forgotten what that fresh nursing experience is like. You know the old saying, ‘nurses eat their young’? I vowed when I became a nurse not to be like that. I wanted to be someone you could come to and learn from without the bite that comes with it. Whether you are new or old to the medical profession, you are going to experience shock, pain, and heartbreak. We become conditioned to these things and shut it off. We flip our switches and continue to care for the next one.

To the newbies we may seem heartless after a failed code. I know that look you just gave us as we continue to eat our lunch and check in meds… all while you sit in silence with your heated cheeks and flooded eyes. I know what you are thinking… that we are all stone faced with paralyzed hearts. I promise you we feel it. We feel it when we go to lay our heads on our pillows at night, replaying the entire code in slow motion, second guessing every move we made, retracing the steps back and wondering if there was anything different we could have done. We feel it in our dreams as the nightmares fill our minds with the last agonizing breath that was let out. We feel it as we shower in the morning, we feel it every time we hear the tone of the overhead page, every time someone says our name a certain way, every time we slip our scrubs on. We feel it. But right now, right this minute, as we work we cannot feel it. You HAVE to learn to shut that switch off. You cannot freeze up and cry in that room, they need you. Everything you have ever learned, this is it. Shut that switch off and act fast now, cry later. We cannot carry the weight around with us as we continue to work and care for the living. Right now we have to put on a smile and walk to the next room and continue on. They need us.

The dream team

You can always tell the old from the new in this way. You come to trust each other and have unspoken communication. The trauma is not held on their face but you can see it in their eyes. We almost become telepathic. We could be in the same room as another nurse and say something without saying it at all. It’s like a superpower.

Our CNAs are one of the most important parts of what we do. There is one in particular that I would trust with my own life. She works the night shift, her name is Haley. Now Haley is soft spoken, at least to me. I nominate her every year for CNA of the year (probably not supposed to say that aloud but it’s my blog so I’ll do what I want). Haley has this gift I was just speaking about. She does her job without complaining, she shows up and works hard. I could tell her there’s a disaster in a room that needs attention and she doesn’t let out a groan, she just smiles and says, ‘I’ll take care of it’. Now I know I’m the wound care nurse but more often than I’d like I get put on a med cart. One morning I was coming in to start my shift and Haley comes out of a room with this face that we all recognize as the stone face (means she a veteran) and says the words no nurse wants to hear, ‘there’s something wrong with this patient but I can’t put my finger on it’. That one phrase can make any nurse cringe, it’s a enchantment for disaster… almost as if speaking the words “quiet” or “good day”. I may not speak to Haley on a regular basis or anything but I trust her, I have seen her work and she has earned that trust. Within 2 minutes we are calling a code blue for said patient, Haley saved this patients life. And afterwards, through the chaos and paperwork, I looked to check in on her and she was tending to the next patient. Continuing onward with a smile on her face. That is what these patients need. They need people who can continue to care for them even after the trauma next door.

So I know that I may seem like I wear the name badge ‘Tinman’, but I feel it too. And I’m sorry for not being more empathetic, I sometimes forget I was new once as well. I hope you continue on and create your own coping mechanisms so that you can continue to care for those that live on.

Death becomes him

img_3649Last night I watched my dad die again.  I relive the same event several times a month via dreams.  I see him laying on the floor in his office, my mom panicked over the top of him and my brother struggling to get to him.  I’m at the end of the long hallway and I’m screaming dad, as I run but I can never seem to reach him.  It always ends the same.  He dies, and then he comes back to tell me to stop watching him die.  I can’t.  I don’t know how.  It’s carved into my memory.  It’s hard to go to sleep at night, out of fear of how I’ll awake.  My dad was stronger than the Incredible Hulk, smarter than Iron Man, and he could beat Chuck Norris up all while painting his toe nails with me as we listened to Britney Spears.  The trauma of finding my hero wounded and dying has not left me even after 6 years.  My dreams have become the only place I can meet him, where I seek counsel and guidance….  If only that sweet reunion would end in a peaceful goodbye.