Help! I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

My husband I are both retired RNs so we frequently spot errors in commercials.  The other evening, one of those frequent “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” commercials came on.

Bud watched the poor woman intently for a moment and said, “I know damn good and well she didn’t fall.  She didn’t piss her pants.”

He knows whereof he speaks, having worked on a physical rehab floor for more than twenty years.

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Mother?

We never stop wanting our mothers. That is probably our first and last longing. When I cared for patients in times of pain and need, they often called out for their mother’s comfort. We want out mothers when we are giving birth, traumatized by pain or events, and at the moment of death. Many times I have held the hand of elderly patients whose mothers had to have been long dead and had the patient call me “Mother.” I never corrected them. Who am I to say it wasn’t their mother they saw as they moved on.

Warm Welcome

The best part of being a nurse was getting to know the patients.  Most days brought a surprise.  Late one afternoon I was hurrying to return a patient to his room after a treatment.  I helped him into his chair, wrapped him in a blanket, and zipped down the hall.  As always, I was in a bit of a hurry to get home to my children. I wheeled him into what I thought was his room only to find the bed already occupied by a little old lady. “Oh excuse me Ma’am. Wrong room!” I apologized.

“Just bring him right on in, Honey. I’ve been here quite a while!” We all got a good laugh out of that.

Hint for anyone in hospital. Always ask that your wheelchair seat be covered and be wrapped in a blanket when you leave your room. Wheel chair seats can be soiled and those halls get cold.

Uh Oh!

I used to moonlight at an urgent care clinic. Mother called me at my regular RN job one day to complain of an earache. Like I always do when people ask advice, I recommended she see a doctor. She decided to go to the urgent care clinic where I sometimes worked. I called to speak to my friend, Judy, who was working that day. I asked her to surprise Mother by telling her she had to have a full internal pelvic exam. She knew Mother, and was delighted to pull a little trick on her. Sure enough, she showed Mother to the OB/GYN exam room, telling her to prepare for a full exam. Naturally, Mother was stunned, protesting she only had an earache. Of course, my friend quickly gave the joke up.

They turned the tables on me. Judy, the nurse called me. “Linda, your mom was so shocked she fell and her head. She’s gonna have to have stitches. You are gonna have to come see about her.”

“Oh my God, I never dreamed that would happen! Let me get someone to cover for me. I’ll be there as soon as I can. At that, They started laughing. The last laugh was on me.

Death by Bed Bath

It’s a good thing people are harder to kill than I thought in my nursing student days.  In my first few weeks, I thought I’d killed several.  My first great scare was in my first day on a clinical unit.  I was assigned to give a bed bath to a poor old lady who’d had a leg amputation.  I did NOT want to give that woman, or any patient for that matter, a bath in the bed or otherwise.  Of course we’d practiced bed baths in the lab till we were sick of it.  I dreaded clinical that day, knowing bed bathing would not be put off any longer.  I gathered my supplies, a bed pad, two sheets, a mattress cover, four bath cloths, four towels and a blanket.  In the room I introduced myself to the patient and bumbled around till I came up with gloves, a basin of warm water, soap, toothbrush, tooth paste, mouthwash, and lotion.  God forbid, I was expected to do mouth care, too.

Done properly, a bed bath and bed change can be accomplished in minutes.  I believe I probably tormented that poor woman the better part of two hours.  I won’t bore you with the details but I slopped water all over the patient, the bed, myself, and the floor before I was finally through.  I left her wet, uncovered, and freezing, I am sure.  Finally I labored long enough to get her in a clean gown and do mouth care.  I was so relieved to be through when she looked at me with sad eyes and said.  “You put my gown on inside out.”

Sure enough, it was.  Hopefully I suggested, “You don’t want me to change it, do you?”

“Yes.” she moaned.

I wanted to argue, but knew I had it to do.  I worked till I got it fixed, but snatched her IV out in the process.  I hadn’t gotten to the point I could start IVs, so my nursing instructor had to do it.  She was not happy.

Not long after I escaped from her room, her family returned.  The doctor made rounds with the head nurse. They all came came out with their heads together.  I was sure they were all discussing the horrible bath I’d given.  I had no idea they’d be able to tell.  I was mortified. Fortunately, that was not the problem, but it was an awful day.

Bring Him on In, Honey!

At the end of a long, long day on my dialysis unit, there were only two of us to finish up the work of cleaning up and setting up for the next day’s treatments.  There was still an elderly gentleman to be returned to his room.  I helped him into his chair, wrapped him in a blanket, and headed back to his room.  As always, I was in a bit of a hurry to get home to my children.  I wheeled him into what I thought was his room only to find the bed already occupied by a little old lady.  “Oh excuse me Ma’am.  Wrong room!” I apologized.

“Just bring him right on in, Honey.  I’ve been here quite a while!”  We all got a good laugh out of that.

 

Hint for anyone in hospital.  Always ask that your wheelchair seat be covered and be wrapped in a blanket when you leave your room.  Wheel chair seats can be soiled and those halls get cold.

If I can ever do that!

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Cartoon on courtesy of all nurses.com

After suffering through numerous brutal experiences at the hands of nurses as a student, I swore I’d do my best to encourage nursing students and ease their path.  I took time to show them procedures and include them at every possible intervention.

I invited an eager nursing student to join me as I prepared to insert needles into a patient’s dialysis access prior to a treatment after getting the patient’s approval.  Dialysis patients were almost invariably willing to help teach.  I meticulously prepared the materials needed, scrubbed the site for needle insertion and tore tape strips to securely anchor the needles in place.  The student was all eyes as I slid the needles in as painlessly as possible and the patient pronounced it a job well done.  I started the treatment so it was a few minutes before we had time for conference.

“Do you have any questions?”  I was prepared to explain precautions and how the needle placement was selected.

“Yes!  How in the world did you learn to tear tape so straight?  If I ever learn to tear tape like that I’ll know I’m a real nurse!”  Her admiration took me down a notch or two.

“It’s no trick.  You can do it right now.”  I pulled out a roll of tape and showed her it was scored for ease in tearing.

“Wow!  Thanks!”

 

The Joy of Nursing

Early in my nursing career, I cared for Betsy Mercer, a young mother of six and seven-year-old boys who had lost her baby when the placenta detached before delivery.  She was catastrophically ill, suffering every complication. I dialyzed her for weeks while she was on the ventilator in ICU as she went from bad to worse to worse.  The only thing in her favor was her previous good health and the fact that she was a mother.  As a mother, I identified with the grief she’d feel at the loss of her little girl when she finally regained consciousness, and regretful that two little boys were likely to lose their loving mother.  I sang to Betsy and talked to her as though we were friends every day.  “Betsy, Your husband brought these pictures of your boys today.  They are so cute.  He said they miss you but Grandma Sweet is getting them to and from school.  Joey made you this bracelet and Kerry drew you a picture of your family.  He drew you the biggest.  He must really love you.”

I put the bracelet in her wrist every day when I was with her and posted the kid’s art where she could see it when she was turned to the left.  Patients who can’t move are repositioned often to keep their skin healthy and to help prevent pneumonia.  Late one Thusday I finished my shift and told Betsy I’d but would see her Tuesday morning after my long weekend, though I had little hope she’d be there.

I went back to the ICU to check on Betsy before my shift Tuesday morning.  My heart fell when I saw someone else in her room.  I felt just awful till I asked her nurse when she’d died.

“Oh, Betsy rallied midday Friday. She didn’t need dialysis and got off the ventilator Saturday night.  By Monday, she was so much better, she moved out to the obstetrical floor.

I was ecstatic at her recovery, and meant to visit her in her room, but didn’t get up there.  About six weeks later, a beautiful young woman stopped off at our unit to visit.  It was Betsy, fully recovered come to pay her caregivers a visit.  I’d never have known her.  It was such a joy to see her returned to health and her family.  It’s days like these that keep nurses coming back.

 

 

Mother?

We never stop wanting our mothers. That is probably our first and last longing. When I cared for patients in times of pain and need, they often called out for their mother’s comfort. We want out mothers when we are giving birth, traumatized by pain or events, and at the moment of death. Many times I have held the hand of elderly patients whose mothers had to have been long dead and had the patient call me “Mother.” I never corrected them. Who am I to say it wasn’t their mother they saw as they moved on.