The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

MORNING REFLECTIONS |

August 09, 2007

MORNING REFLECTIONS
Name: RN Clara Hart
Posting date: 8/9/07
Stationed in: a military hospital in the U.S.
Email: clarahart2@yahoo.com

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.

Comments

I've always enjoyed reading your blogs. Its good to know that someone is taking genuine care for our wounded.

Your second to last paragraph surprised me though. From what you share on here, there seems to be nothing wrong with you. I would say there is probably a long line of service members who would be there for you to offer support and encouragement to you.

Wish I could keep a steady 8-minute mile!

You're the best. Just ... the best. Good luck on your 10 miler.

Ah, well, you do know that there are a world of men ready to take out that insignificant other for you - but then that isn't a worthy thought, so getting back to the run, way to go, makes me think I can stop babying my foot and at least start on the treadmill again. Where ever you nurse the needing will be better for your care, and do keep telling us how it looks from your point of view... Thanks for being you.

I enjoy reading your posts. Remember you are not alone, we who read your blogs here will keep you in our thoughts a prayers. And I am sure there will be lots of people helping to get you well, those boys & girls in the military need someone just like you . If I was sick I would want you for a nurse.

I will be thinking of you during your recovery.

Lynne

You have made many friends through your blog. You have earned your place in our hearts.

You and the many men and women whom you have touched through your selfless work and through your writings. Many of us, you will never meet, but you are with us in our thoughts. We stand with you, to silently give back strength and compassion as you have given to so many others.

Know this, and take comfort from it in your most difficult moments. We are here for you, Clara Hart.

Clara,

you have given so much of yourself to so many. You have more nerve, and courage than most people I know.
However glum the outlook may seem, know that there are many who are here thinking of you.
Whenever you feel the weight of burden do what you do best share your heart we will be here to answer.

Thank-you so much for all the great work you do

Lina Beers

Clara,
There is nothing wrong with you, you are a beautiful person. The way you care for others is the same way God will care for you in times of weakness. Keep your faith, stay your course, follow your heart...

Thank you for caring in the way that only you can....

Clara,
You haven't become jaded and angry. You still have compassion when others in your profession may choose to just not "feel" anymore, because it's too painful for them. You're an angel, and may there be those willing to do for you what you have done for others.

Are uncertainty and anxiety still there? We will support you and encourage you. YOU are a wonderful women who will be strong again. Yes, tell us what you need...a hug ,
a smile. Time to listen... we are here.

Reading this put the biggest smile on my face and a breath on comfort to know that there is someone out there like you. You are very compassionate and genuinely care about people. I have met very few people like that.

I can relate to you very much so. I recently got a job at a hospital transporting patients for MRIs. Honestly I can say that my life has completely changed since I started working there. When I looked into the eyes of those who are in pain and suffering, I could not help but to have compassion towards them. Surprising I find less and less people working at the hospital with compassion for these people who are ill.
I often wonder the same thing as you, "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." There are so few people out there with kindness and good will. I am glad that they have someone with that right mind helping those in need. Thank you for serving us and take care!

Clara-
It was the thought of people like you, that gave me the courage to face a year long deployment to Baghdad with a 2 week old son and a four month married wife at home.

It was having people like you taking care of me, when my knee was blown out north of Salman Pak and I busted the back of my head open, that got me through the pain and back on mission.

It is because of you that so many soldiers are truly healing. Physically and mentally.

Just like you are there for all of us, we too will be here for you. Don't ever forget that.

If you're ever near Green Bay, beers on me.

We love you Clara. Hang in there and keep running.

JB2D out.

Thanks for adding the new information, as well as your analysis. This is why your blog is one of the few I read that I also ever bother to comment on. I don't do it to hear myself talk - I do it because I know you actually listen.

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