A TRIP TO THE HOSPITAL |
January 19, 2007
A TRIP TO THE HOSPITAL
Name: A Nurse
Posting date: 1/19/07
Stationed in: a military hospital
I had to make a trip to the hospital today. I was called by CPO (civilian personnel office) and informed I needed to come in person and fill out a DD75. Huh? Leave it to the military to number their forms. Everywhere else a form has a name. If a patient or family member has an "incident", i.e. a fall, the form you fill out is called an incident report. In the Army it's a 2218. If a healthcare worker is unfortunate enough to get a needle stick, everywhere else you get out the needle stick protocol with the needle stick form. In the Army it is a trip to room 3H45 to complete the 1588. When you resign, instead of getting an exit interview and final evaluation, with the Army you "out process" and are handed a DD5.
As I was wandering the hallways trying to get the proper signatures on the DD75, which would allow me to continue my leave of absence, I saw a soldier rolling towards me in a wheelchair. Not an unusual sight, and I glanced up, smiled and kept walking. As I drew abreast of him and his family he called out to me, "Where have you been?!"
I stopped and stared, recognizing the voice but not this handsome man sitting up tall, dressed in jeans and sweatshirt. Recognition slowly dawned, and I suddenly broke out into a huge grin and exclaimed, "Look at you! You look awesome!" He was one of my soldiers, bedridden after an IED explosion sent shrapnel into his abdomen and legs. I had never seen him any other way than lying down, in a hospital gown.
Not to be dissuaded, he looked angrily at me and said again, accusingly, "Where have you been?"
As I looked at him I felt a hollowness in the pit of my stomach and replied, "I've taken some time off."
"Well, you didn't tell me you where going anywhere!" he accused. "I've been looking for you when I come out of surgery and you're not there!...I was worried something had happened to you." I stood there, feeling the hollowness in my stomach grow, unsure how to tell this patient of mine I would not be back anytime soon, and maybe not ever. I didn't have to, as he introduced me to his family and began telling me about his recovery and future plans. We stood and chatted for a bit, and then he decided he needed to head back to his room and get his meds; the pain had returned. Before he left he looked at me and said "You need to clear all your time off with me," then laughed, said goodbye, and headed down the hall. As I watched him go I felt the tears well in my eyes and quickly turned away, wondering for the millionth time if I had made the right decision.
I continued on my signature-obtaining journey and eventually ended up in the recovery room. A friend of mine, an Army nurse, pulled me aside and said, "Your patients miss you." She began to tell me how she noticed that once the anesthesia wore off, many of the wounded soldiers' heads would pop up off the stretcher and they would start to look around. When she'd walk over to find out what they needed, they all replied they were fine, and told her they were looking for someone. After the fourth or fifth time this happened she started asking them who they were looking for. They all said the same thing, describing me with vivid detail and asking her where I was.
As I stood in front of her I again felt the tears well in my eyes. When she asked me what she should tell them I felt the tears start to stream down my face. My friend led me into the staff lounge sat me in a chair and told me, "No matter how much this hurts you now, you can not take care of these soldiers unless you are healthy: physically, emotionally and mentally healthy." With my head down I nodded. I knew she was right. She continued, "This is what we will do. We'll tell them you had leave you needed to use or lose, and if they want to talk with you we will give them your email address, and you can take it from there."
Once I agreed to the plan she hugged me and insisted I get the heck out of Dodge.
As I forged on with my signature-obtaining journey I thought about my soldier who, when I snuck him a donut after surgery, looked at me as if I had given him the most precious gift and said, "Thank you so much, ma'am! I haven't had real food in three weeks." He told me he had been at an outpost with only MREs before he was hurt. I thought about my young soldier and his wife who had invited me to their wedding, and who send me a birthday card every year. I thought about the soldier who told me he was going to spend his 21st birthday in the hospital. After a little chat with some of my coworkers, we converged on his room that day and had a party, complete with gifts, a cake, and the steak and baked potato dinner he had been talking about. I thought about the huge grin on his face as we all sang "Happy Birthday" to him. So many thoughts ran around in my head as I wandered through the hallways and buildings where I spent the last four years.
After returning the properly signed paperwork to the proper people I walked out the door of the hospital and over to the parking garage. As I sat in my car the tears flowed, and I again thought about all the ones I had seen and cared for, hugged and encouraged, cried for and with, and then I thought about all the ones whose hands I would not hold. The waterworks finally ended and I was able to head home. As I drove through the Post gates I sent a prayer heaven-bound, that someone, somewhere, would do what I could do no longer.