Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Aftermath

Walking through the "hurricane" just two blocks to the hospital was an odd experience yesterday. The day was beginning to brighten through the clouds and wind whipped around me gently. Leaves and branches were scattered about the street and the first cars were beginning to make an appearance on the roads. In front of the hospital, a battered little tree had split in half, but it was removed by the end of my shift.

It was oddly quiet, strangely silent. I normally associate the area in front of the hospital with lots of activity- from the researchers, physicians, students gathered around the little tables and benches, the food carts and their billowing fragrant smoke clouds, to the constant battle between pedestrian and motor vehicle in the crosswalk. All of that was gone. I was the sole, silent figure walking on the rustling, deserted street.
The normally busy employee entrance was closed and I made my way through the main entrance guarded by one lone security guard. Inside the hospital, life was also suspended. Valhalla, or the "section above", was unfortunately still being used to quarter my night-shift co-workers who had to work again the following night, so I was assigned elsewhere. In my new section, I arrived to see we had 6 providers/doctors for only 6 patients! Where normally our census boasted at least 80-90 patients at any given time in the ER, we had less than thirty in house, some of which were already discharged to go home. With each new EMS arrival, we would ask- how is it outside? Not bad, they would reply- the sun is coming out.

Sure enough, our patients started arriving. After staying 24 hours indoors, they flooded our gates, eager, angry, anxious. My first patient that came in during this rush was a young man and his hood rat friend, who sassed us from the moment she walked in. She would not elucidate her relation with him, whether familial, fraternal, or professional, but proceeded to try to speak for him, demanding amenities such as blankets, pillows, and food. He apparently arrived because he 'asked someone for a cigarette and when he smoked it, felt high." Good riddance when we kicked both of them out after determining no foul play.

We had, oddly enough, several very amply padded patients come in by ambulance. Their chief complaints were: firstly because they had lost power, secondly because they were alone and scared and thirdly because they wanted us to refill their at-home oxygen tanks. It took a lot of staff-power to move and shift them about, as they barely fit into our 700lb capacity bariatric stretchers. After whatever action we had to perform, whether it was holding legs open for a foley catheter for a UTI or moving them up from sliding too much in the stretcher or even just moving them to our stretcher, four of us would be breathless and incredulous. I will refrain from repeating some of the names I heard referring to these poor immobile folks. But wow, what are the chances we would get three of them within the same hour?

I had a very sweet old lady who then came in, for bleeding gums. If I should live to be 95 and my only problems were bleeding gums from a tooth extraction and deafness in one ear, I should be a very happy little old lady, grinning every day ear to ear with the bloody gauze in my mouth. My sweet LOL was totally with it and even chastised the nurse for pulling her clothes off unnecessarily- it's just a tooth, for goodness sake! She reprimanded. As I was helping her get up and dressed, she commented to me, it's so much harder to manage the motions of dressing with somebody else, isn't it? I gently squeezed her foot into her brown loafers and pulled her pants up for her and thought about what she said. How many babies, children, invalids, and elderly people must have passed through her life that she must have cared for. I pushed her in her wheelchair to the waiting room to await her daughter's car so she wouldn't have to sit in the draft.

More and more patients started coming in- and our tube system was down, again. I made 4 courier trips to the blood lab... on my return, the team leader nurse pulled me aside apologetically and said, "I'm sorry S, you have to sit." Soon, I had the prattling pretender (again) on my hands and passed the evening in more or less of a stupor, listening to him gab.

What a night! Our manager was wonderful through it all and had stayed the overnight shift, didn't sleep, then continued to work until the end of my shift. He ordered pizza and soda (white birch beer is delicious with pizza!) for us as a morale booster for coming in during the hurricane. Free food is the best morale booster there could be. <3 Our hero!


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