living with the greatest evil

Saint Augustine once said, The greatest evil is physical pain, and all I can say right now is preach on good saint!

I like to imagine that I can handle pain. I mean I have birthed babies with no pain meds on board. I road a bike from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene and back the next day with my right arm in a cast. I’ve run my fair share of half marathons. Come on, surely I am capable to handle a little pain and survive.

But time, spondylosis, and osteoarthritis is telling me otherwise. Forget an exhilarating 5K run to start the day. The same goes for a slow walk around the park just around the corner from The Big Top. Reach for that salad bowl on the top shelf or bend down to tie my shoes guarantees the constant throbbing to amp up to knives stabbing the spinal column, hips and knees. The 20-30 commute to work just might kill you were it not for the salvation of the heated seat in that fun-sized Dory-car. The pain of swollen fingers,, hands, wrists and elbow promises that sleep will be interrupted numerous times through the night…or day for this night shift nurse. Yes, I tell my ortho doctor, I do take THAT much Naprosyn daily – my stomach is fine, for now. Late at night, as I attempt to console a baby born addicted to opiates because of mother’s addiction, I find myself having a better understanding sometimes what that mother must have been living with and trying to erase with prescription and illicit medicating. I’m still Team Baby, but as my back, neck, shoulder and elbow scream in protest while I hold their baby in comfort from their own withdrawal pain, I can imagine wanting to do just about anything to make this pain stop.

I’m working on it with the help of my ortho and pain specialist doctors; but this chronic suffering did not come about overnight so I imagine that relief or adjusting to a new normal that I can live with, work with and play with will take time too. I tell myself that. I tell myself that a lot – every day, every week.

Today though, today was not a good day because that chronic pain is peaking with no relief. I might have ugly cried at least three times – driving home from work this morning, trying to find a comfortable position to sleep this morning and waking up just an hour or so after falling asleep to that same pain. Days like today, and last night at work can be much too much sometimes.

But hurray for a new ball cap representing the fact that I am just a Steeltown girl and that, in spite of the pain, I woke up like this.

You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and…you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about your business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way. ~ Elizabeth Taylor

2016 festivus is best for us

Something about this year, 2016, makes Festivus the perfect thing to be celebrating right now. Should we begin with the airing of grievances?

Oh dear. We could be here for a very great while.

A. Very. Great. While.

Personally, today I have survived the epic quest that is grocery shopping on December 23. As I began my odyssey, two women were very angry at me because while they waited for a bagger to find them each a shopping cart, because there literally were none to be had, I offered to share my umbrella with a shopper leaving the store and walk with her to her car in exchange for her shopping cart. I must have an honest smile because she gratefully accepted.

Don’t hate angry women.

I dodged carts and shoppers and kids while filling my cart with all the Festivus, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day food supplies…and I might have added just one more bottle of wine because of the dodging carts, shoppers and kids and waiting in line to pay for my very full cart for over an hour.

Why would anyone be surprised that two days before Christmas the friendly, neighborhood Safeway would be so crowded?

To be honest, the wait for the next available checker was actually not bad. We became a community cheering one another on for finding the very last carton of egg nog or box of candy canes and watching each other’s carts because “Shit, I forgot ____ and _____.” It might be crowded, the shelves might be quickly emptying of holiday necessities, one might have to beg and barter for an empty shopping cart, and there might be that one shopper who tries to ignore the line completely, but I have survived and have completed my quest!

I think I got everything.

I hope that I got everything.

Oh well!

All the gifts are wrapped and under the tree, except that one for that one kid, I survived the epic quest that is grocery shopping on December 23. It’s windy, cold and raining right now. I’m cuddled up with my new heating pad for my aching joints and back. I just now opened that one more bottle of wine. I’m going to stay right here.

Happy Festivus to rest of us!

broke

Today I have been suffering through an eye twitchy kind of headache. I’m sure the coffee house barista was concerned as he asked me twice if I wanted decaf.

No, I need my caffeine, dammit!

I am fairly confident that I did not say that out loud. I mean, my latte was just as delicious as ever and barista-guy wished me a wonderful day as he always does.

I’m trying to imagine that the ridiculousness of that rambling stream of consciousness I watched about the saving of Carrier, Mexico, someone’s son and the pride the unseen someone must be feeling, along with walls being built— walls with doors might have brought this on.

Better yet, I am telling myself it is the absurdity of the school calling me AND emailing me in order to inform me that my son’s illness is not an excused absence only to apologize when I questioned their notification because since when is it a bad thing to keep a sick, feverish child home from school?! Short staffing is the reason for marking Daniel’s absence unexcused after receiving my message on the attendance line as to why he would not be in school. What?! That’s the attendance clerk’s story—and perhaps a contributing factor to the eye twitching throbbing.

It could also have been brought on by the sleep deprivation that is night shift nurse life and caring for your sick child.

But then there was this.

This.

A 26 year old treasure gifted to me shortly after I received my RN shattered—and what put me over the edge today.

Gawd I hope that this isn’t a metaphor of what is to come this final month and holiday season.

I’m just going to sit in this quiet corner and focus on the pretty, pretty lights. The lights are good. It’s warm. It’s bright. The light will heal that which is broke and, hopefully, the eye twitchy headache.

when a nurse is handed lemons

A patient’s family handed me lemons the other day.

Literally.

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Big, fat, juicy lemons from the lemon tree in her back yard that I have big, fat, juicy plans for because when you are handed lemons…

It isn’t always making lemonade just as the lemons you are often handed aren’t usually real lemons.

Nurses are more often than not handed A LOT of lemons because when you are caring for individuals on what is often a horrible, no-good, very bad day…if not the worst day of their life…you find yourself dealing with a lot of sh…er…lemons:
patients’ problems, their family’s and friends’ problems, physicians’ and other practitioners’ problems, management problems, lab problems, pharmacy problems, radiology problems, housekeeping problems, security problems, your own family problems, aching feet, bursting bladders, raging hunger, eye-twitching headaches, computer downtime, short staffing, exhaustion…and on and on and on…

We handle it. We deal with it. It’s what we do. It’s part of our skill set; a skill set many of us come by naturally and the rest of us work very hard to cultivate and integrate into our practice. Nurses deal with it.

But nurses, just like everyone else, are human…very human. Nurses complain too. They complain sometimes about all of the above and then some. It might seem that might be all we do…to some who then shout STOP COMPLAINING ALREADY! DO SOMETHING! BE A CHANGE-MAKER! They’re right, of course. We should do something. We almost always are even if they don’t appreciate it.

Out of complaints and frustrations often comes just change as many agents of change find inspiration in their own complaints and the complaints of others. Dr. Hultquist, my Fundamentals in Nursing professor and Dean of the Nursing program I graduated from YEARS ago will be proud to know that I still recall some of the agents of change in nursing that she lectured about, all who were inspired from their own frustrations and complaints:

  • Florence Nightingale- Of course one starts with Flo when talking about change-makers in our profession! Laying down the foundations of what is today our profession, Flo was a driving force in changing the reputation of nursing and nurses.
  • Mary Breckinridge- While training and working as a nurse in post World War I Europe, she was inspired to consider that the model of care she was a part of delivering in France could be implemented in remote rural areas of the United States.  From her work as a midwife and nurse in rural Kentucky, evolved the Frontier Nursing Service.
  • Dorothea Dix- One of the pioneers of American Nurses, she became an activist for the post Civil War mentally ill helping to implement the first generation of mental health care in the United States.
  • Mary Eliza Mahoney- recognized as one of the first African American women to break the color barrier graduating from nursing school. Her work through the years of her practice helped to significantly influence the elimination of racial discrimination in the registered nursing profession.
  • Virginia Avenal Henderson- Where would we be were it not for the “first lady of nursing” who helped to define the role of the modern professional nurse, “the unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge.”…Dr. Hultquist I am certain is beaming warmly that I remember this one! Her work is credited with shifting the focus of nursing research from studying nurses to studying the differences that nurses can make in people’s lives.
  • Walt Whitman- Hurray for murses like Walt Whitman! During the Civil War, Whitman spent almost all of his free time at the military hospitals caring for the wounded and ill soldiers. He tried to provide anything that the soldiers needed, bringing them food, writing letters and attending to their physical needs. Often spending his own money for supplies, he did all he could to bring them comfort. He was with many soldiers as they drew their dying breaths.
  • Florence Guiness Blake- Blake is credited with making significant contributions in pediatric nursing and family centered nursing care highlighting he importance of parent-child relationships and parental involvement in the medical care of children. 
  • Linda Richards- Recognized as the first professionally trained American nurse. Richards established nursing training programs in the United States and Japan as well as created the first system for keeping individualized medical records for hospitalized patients.

All of these individuals were great agents of change in the history of the nursing profession…and they are absolutely, certainly not alone.

Nurses and medical staff in a Colombia hospital in the 1970s, frustrated with the lack of proper, working incubators for their frail, tiny patients, as well as increased infection rates, utilized the babies own mothers providing continuous skin to skin contact which freed up caregivers as well overcrowded incubator space. The added surprising benefit was a marked increase in survival rates, decrease in nosocomial infections and respiratory disease and overall improved breastfeeding success and maternal satisfaction and confidence. From this evolved kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin care, a technique practiced on newborn, usually preterm, infants wherein the infant is held, skin-to-skin, with an adult. Kangaroo care for pre-term infants may be restricted to a few hours per day, but if they are medically stable that time may be extended. Some parents may keep their babies in-arms for many hours per day.

Nurses and practitioners in my own NICU became agents of change asking why can’t we have ZERO babies with CLABSI infections which we have managed to do for an unprecedented six years and counting. We’re mighty proud of being a part of that change that evolved from complaining and questioning.

Yes, nurses complain a lot…so it seems. But so do teachers and cops and firefighters and store clerks and hairdressers and drivers and plumbers and students and grumpy old men and mommies and…we all complain. We are a bunch of complainers. We even complain about other people complaining expecting that they will stop complaining when we complain that they should. We’re handed a bunch of lemons in our lives, in our workplace, our classroom, our homes, everwhere and we often do complain. It’s what we do after is what counts most of all.

As for me and the lemons I was handed the other night…I have this great Lemon Chicken recipe

only ten hours

According to my navigator app, it only takes about 10-11 hours to drive from Manteca to Tempe…weather permitting…probably no stops along the way except for gas. Driving to Tempe from Manteca it is about that…not counting the stops for gas, for coffee, potty breaks, meals, windshield wiper blade replacement…and sometimes traffic.

It also takes ten hours to travel from Manteca to Tempe when one is flying…today.

Driving from Manteca. We left after dropping Daniel off at school which means we were on the road just after 9 AM…after we got coffee.

Windy, rainy and green because it has been rainy…FINALLY!!!

To Mineta International Airport because Southwest had super awesome, cheap flights that fit this SunDevil’s school/work/social/family schedule. I now accept the fact that I am supposed to leave her there on the curb with her luggage. Security waving me to move along helped just a little. I still don’t like that I have to leave her there. Yes, I still blame my darling husband for making me drop her off to kindergarten years ago. I left her at 11 AM,

I got home just before 1 PM which gave me time to do something worthwhile, like a load of laundry, before picking Daniel up from school.

Meanwhile…

Jodie’s flight was delayed three times. Today she learned that when you are a poor college student between paychecks, airport cuisine at Mineta International is too expensive for you.

Finally boarding!

This is her If I smile real big you’ll offer me extra bags of complimentary honey-roasted peanuts because I haven’t eaten since breakfast face.

5:35 PM landed in Burbank. Apparently it wasn’t a direct flight. I could have sworn it was a direct flight. No, Mom. It’s not a direct flight.

Finally at 7:15 PM a text announcing: Landed in Phoenix!

See? Only 10 hours. Yes, I’m ignoring the fact that Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time. 9 hours…might as well be 10 hours.

We miss her already.

Can it be May?

I’m pretty certain this is all her father’s fault…still.