MORNING REFLECTIONS |
August 09, 2007
Name: RN Clara Hart
Posting date: 8/9/07
Stationed in: a military hospital in the U.S.
I rolled out of bed this morning, tied on my running shoes, and headed out the door determined to get a little Army 10-miler training in. Saturdays are usually my days to complete a long run, and although I relish my time to sleep in, too many thoughts were racing around in my head for me to stay under the covers. Finishing my stretches I started down the trail I love to run, letting my mind wander.
My thoughts turned to the past week at work and to my patients. Up on the floor I poked my head in on one of my OIFs in time to hear him talking to the nurse, giving her 101 reasons he did not want a roommate. When she left the room I asked him, “What’s the real reason you don’t want a roommate?” He stared at me for a minute.
“Because I see them get better and then go home. Not only do I not get to go home, I can’t even get out of bed. It really bothers me, and I think makes me more depressed”.
OK then. That makes much more sense than, “I can’t have my friends visit and I can’t play my music too loud”. We chatted a bit more, then I left to head back to the OR.
As I walked down the hall I saw his nurse, and pulling her aside I explained the true reason he didn’t want to share his room. She took in all the information and then sharply asked, “Who are you?”
“Uh, I’m one of the PACU nurses," I stammered, feelings hurt from being spoken to so defensively.
“No, I know who you are,” she exclaimed, “I just want to know how you do the things you do! How you get them to talk to you and tell you things they won’t tell us?”
Surprised, I said, “Maybe because I’m a civilian they feel more comfortable with me. Maybe because I try and check up on them when they’re not having surgery. Maybe it’s simply because I listen to what they have to say. I really don’t know."
“Well, whatever it is you do, thank you,” came her salutation. Shocked, I could only nod my head and hurry off.
As I continued to run, my thoughts floated to another patient. OIF injured almost two years ago, he was now back for additional surgery. As anesthesia rolled him to a stop near me I was briefed on his condition and then, based on his past history, cautioned that he could be a pain management challenge. Calling one of my coworkers over, I asked her to review his orders and help get the meds needed for pain control.
As we worked I looked up to see him, body arched, head thrown back, mouth open in a silent scream. Quickly I drew up and pushed pain medications into his IV, assuring him he should feel better soon. Eyes wide, he looked at me. “Ma’am, I’m in so much pain,” he whispered.
“I know, I’m giving you pain meds now," I repeated.
“Please, ma’am, I’m hurting,” came the mantra from my young guy. Again and again I would watch his face relax and body slacken only to be replaced minutes later with contorted expressions and silent screams. Military politeness melded with agony as his eyes frantically searched for me around his bedside.
“Ma’am, the pain is so bad, can I please get some more meds, ma’am?”
Hours passed, and we continued our repetitive dance, pain under control, patient sleeping, pain not under control, patient screaming. At 1700, with the end of my shift, I gave my report to another nurse and passed his care to her. I walked out the door feeling I had failed, failed in my job to take away his pain and ease his suffering.
Running on, my mind continued its unfocused drift, and at that particular thought of my patient’s pain it went to my own. Having been offered and accepted a job in a medical clinic in the Green Zone in Baghdad, I was in the process of completing the required security and medical clearances. After half a liter of bloodletting and a gazillion exams I was informed that something abnormal had been found in one of my tests. Currently scheduled for outpatient surgery, my brain pings as only a medical professional's can, filled with worst-case scenarios. Uncertainly and anxiety have now become my foes.
Five miles into my run, lungs burning, I increased my pace as I thought of the day last week when my significant other announced he was seeing someone else. “What’s wrong with ME??” I wanted to scream at him. Instead I opened the front door and asked him to leave. Pain and devastation coursed through my body as I tried to pound out my angst with each step. Fear and sorrow weighed on me, and I wondered who would support me, encourage me and keep me strong when I felt so weak and ineffective.
As I entered my sixth and final mile, steps slowing, I asked God for His help, and I thought about my blinded patient Joe. My running partner for the Army 10-miler would be happy to know that at 41 years old I was running 8-minute miles.