Monday, August 1, 2011

Inappropriate Dinnertime Conversation

I have changed the diapers of countless old grandmas and grandpas with the expectation of cleaning up urine, diarrhea, blood, etc from their ample or skeletal behinds, wiping the creases of delicate, wrinkled skin, avoiding sores, applying barrier cream. I have learned to recognize the smell of UTI (urinary tract infection) so well that I can sometimes tell with people walking by in the grocery store. But I had never changed a baby. That was a realm totally unknown to me, until recently.

The new mother had just given birth by C-section only a few days ago and had a fever. I took her vital signs and asked if she was warm enough. The husband stood by nervously, cradling a carrier and two friends stood in the corner. They did not speak English and I came back with a few chairs so they could all sit down.

As I was leaving the room, I heard "Miss, miss." I turned around, "Excuse me..." it was the husband, looking sheepish. I went in the room where they gesticulated that they would be very thankful if I could change the baby that just started crying- little sobs of pure want and need. The patient was in too much pain to sit up and the other three visitors had no idea how to do it. Totally taken aback, I said, sure!

Running back outside, I grabbed a clean pad for a working surface and a few pairs of gloves, took a deep breath, and walked in. I was unexpectedly nervous as I gingerly lifted the little one from the cradle, just a few pounds of flailing arms wearing a small pink cap. Unbuttoning the onesie, I saw green liquid everywhere- is it called meconium? As I lifted the little legs to wipe her, she stopped crying and began to coo, looking at my face.

This is as it is supposed to be, I smiled to myself, as I applied the stickers on the diaper and changed the baby into another set of pajamas. I had seen everything else in my time at the ER, practically, but a baby was a totally new and wonderful experience. What an excellent end to a long shift.

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