Katie Brack Day

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So… I know we all have them.  If you don’t, you will sooner or later.  (And consider yourself very lucky if you don’t already.)  You know them, those days we all dread…those silent, looming anniversaries of some terror, some horror, perhaps the loss of a loved one.  Maybe it was the day you were told you had cancer, or that your loved one was killed unexpectedly in an accident, or the day you realised you’ve lost everything you’ve ever worked for.  Your spouse was unfaithful, your dog died, another war started and your loved one didn’t make it back alive.  So, so many things in this life can and do go wrong.  And we go through the stages of grieving, and we gradually recover, because we are a resilient people.   But there’s always that day that comes around once a year, that day on the calendar, that marks for you a space in time to stop and remember.  To grieve anew, to honor what was lost, to put into perspective what time and change has wrought.  Everyone deals with that day on the calendar differently.

I have been radio silent the past two weeks for that reason.  (Well, that, and partly because I was on a Carribean cruise soaking up some sun–I really was radio silent and unable to write during that time. )

This past week marked the 21st anniversary of when my beautiful five year-old goddaughter passed away unexpectedly in my home.  A whole person’s drinking age life-time ago.  I have had three great kids of my own, helped care for numerous foster kids, have taken care of oh-so-many kids in the healthcare system as a nurse, and still the ache remains.  Oh, time has greatly helped heal the wound.  Now the anniversary is more of a tug at an old scar vs. ripping my heart open again, like it used to years ago.  The way I remember the day is different now than what it used to be–I don’t fall to pieces anymore, for one thing.  I still cry a few bitter tears each year, and we still plant flowers in her “memory garden”, and my hubby makes sure I know he remembers too.   I message her parents, who are divorced now and live in different states than we do.  We check in on each other, make sure the other is doing okay.  And I look at her scrapbook, and remember all the beautiful, wonderful things about her.  All the things that made her so uniquely “her”, that made her so sweet and loveable, despite her severe level of cerebral palsy.

To this day, I have a hard time talking about the details of that day.  We’ve since moved to another state, where no one knew her, or what happened.  It’s easier to not talk about it at all.  But I made a promise to her and her parents.  That her short little life was not lived in vain, she did have a purpose, and I will always strive to keep her memory alive in whatever way I can.  I tell my friends and coworkers about her.  I tell my kids about her.   When we go “back home” to visit every couple of years, I take them to the cemetery with me to visit her.  (And then I choke up and start crying and I whisper to her I will see her in heaven someday, and I have to leave before I’m a complete wreck.)

I suspect you know what I’m talking about.  Your scenario might not look the same.  You might handle grief totally different than I do.  But we all have those memories, those moments in time that stand out starkly in our minds.  It’s one of the things that bonds us together as humanity.  Just as a smile is universal, so is crying and shaking your fist at the sky.

Whether it’s been two years or ten, or way longer than that, grief and loss never totally go away.  We are grateful that the sharp sting fades away, and the jagged edges smooth away like rocks worn smooth in a stream.  But that takes time, and time means days and weeks and years.  Which, of course, means anniversaries that roll relentlessly by.

If you still struggle with the anniversary part of the grieving process, I encourage you to start something new to carry on as a tradition for years to come.  Something that lets you vent your grief in a positive way, to honor your memories, to help you get through it.  And when it’s come and gone, and you can breathe a sigh of relief again, whisper a prayer of thanks that it won’t roll around again for another year.  And hopefully by then, it will be easier to deal with.  Trust me, I’ve been there.

Rest in Peace,  KatieBug,  I Love You

4-25-93  —  6-6-98

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                            Nurse Ames, RN

Housekeeping Blues

 

Now I’ll be the first to wholeheartedly agree that without good housekeeping staff, no institution functions properly. They are the backbone of any hospital, Medical Center, nursing home, etc. That being said, they can sometimes offer up humor without trying, just like any of the rest of us.

This past week in the ER, we had an interesting experience. I had a elderly patient that had an unfortunate experience in the bathroom. An enema gone wrong, and diarrhea that somehow ended up covering the walls and also the floor near the toilet.

We called housekeeping and let them know the bathroom would need a thorough cleaning. After the patient left, housekeeping came to clean and we warned them how bad it was and that they would want shoe covers and gowns.

They dressed up like they were going into major surgery. They were covered head to toe in blue throwaway gowns, caps, shoe covers, eye protection… it was like aliens were invading that bathroom. Or so we thought. We saw them from the doorway cleaning the whole room– floors, walls top to bottom, mirrors, equipment–they even took the clock down and cleaned behind it! We were so impressed they were going the extra mile –although we didn’t quite understand their reasoning, we weren’t complaining. They finished and left, and soon another nurse went to put a patient in that room. She took the patient to the bathroom in that room and handed them a specimen cup for a urine sample. Soon the nurse and patient came hustling out of the door and headed for another room. When we asked what was wrong, the nurse said “There’s diarrhea all over that bathroom!”

Completely puzzled, we called housekeeping to come back. What were they possibly thinking, meticulously cleaning the room itself and not the bathroom where the actual mess was?

It wasn’t long before we found out. And when we did, we were rolling on the floor laughing. Tears were coming down our faces– I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!

(And remember, friends, you can’t make this stuff up. Absolutely priceless.)

When we asked the two ladies who had cleaned so diligently before and yet missed the mess altogether, here is what their response was. ” We thought the mess was in the patient room itself, not the bathroom, and since we didn’t see any mess in the room, we thought it was that kind of diarrhea that is the clear diarrhea!” Huh? Clear diarrhea?? “Yeah, you know, the clear kind!”

Omg, smh, lol. 😜😂🤔🤣

                           Nurse Ames, RN

 

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Old MacDonald had a farm

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Little man had his end-of-year daycare program yesterday evening. He was a little piggy for the verse of “Old MacDonald had a farm, E–I–E–I–O… and on that farm he had some pigs…E–I–E–I–O”.  Little man didn’t want to be a pig–specifically, he didn’t want to wear his cute little piggy ears. He wanted to run and play, and hit the balloons, and eat the pig-shaped cookies. Wearing the piggy ears just wasn’t an option in his little one-year-old mind. I suppose if I was a one-year-old, I would feel the same way.  But doggone it, he sure was cute for the 2.2 seconds we got him to keep them on for a picture. 🙂

My heart was happy to see him run and play and act like any other kid his age.  It  hurt though, to know that although we love him, and he calls me “Momma” with confidence, that’s not the way it will always be.  And last night as I thought about his fate in the foster care system, my sweet friend walked by with her daughter.  My friend, who is as good of a mom as any you’ll find, was there with her daughter, yet was missing her son who was killed in a car accident two summers ago. Why did she lose her child while the foster child I raise desperately needs a loving forever home? Why is life so unfair to those completely helpless to fight back? My foster child doesn’t lack for love, but he does lack for a stable home. His parents are caught up in a series of bad choices and it’s not clear yet whether they will improve so he can go back to them or not.  Will I be left with a few artwork pieces and precious pictures and memories ? Or will he need a forever home at our house? There’s no way to know for now.  As for my sweet friend, she doesn’t lack for other children or a loving husband, but that in no way whatsoever takes away the pain and anguish over losing her firstborn child.  Sometimes being a mom is one of the hardest tasks handed to us as human beings.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.  I think of all the moms (biological or otherwise) out there who come together with a common interest on this day.   Whether it’s a year to rejoice over how blessed we are, or to mourn what we have lost or never had, it’s an emotional time.  For some moms on this day, they must visit their kiddos in jail, while others visit theirs at a gravesite.  And yet others rejoice while they hold sticky, cuddly, smiley little ones…and their hearts are full, rightfully so.

To celebrate this Mother’s Day,  I pray for my little ones.  The ones I’ve cared for and sent back to their parents.  The ones I’ve been blessed with biologically (who aren’t so little anymore).  For the current foster child in my care.  And then I pray for moms everywhere.  I pray for my friend who still cries for the loss of her son.  I pray for my friends who have never been blessed with children, despite their most fervent wishes.  And for the moms who need a helping hand up, a better support system, a mother figure in their own lives… Let’s not forget them either.  (May we not forget–as a mother’s path goes, so does that of society).  Today, let’s take time out to be there for each other.  May we be that helping hand, that listening ear, that shoulder to cry on.  Remember–It doesn’t take a mother, it just takes someone who cares.

                                             Happy Mother’s Day

                               Nurse Ames, RN

 

Dixie update

 

For those of you who are wondering how Dixie is doing, here’s a quick Dixie update.

She is craaazzyy. And cute. And cuddly. With a little bit more crazy mixed in. :).She’s got teeth like a piranha. She’s got a tail that can wag 90mph. She dances when she’s excited, which is most of the time. She’s just happy to be alive.

Her favourite pastimes are terrorising the half grown kitten in residence, as well as chewing on anything and everything she can find. I mean, anything. She has taken to even trying to chew on my clothes as I’m walking by. She will nip at my pants as she prances along beside me while I’m walking through the house. If I stop, she’ll reach up and grab on to my T-shirt and start a game of tug of war. If I’m working in the kitchen? The kitchen towel is a free-for-all if I accidentally let it get too close to her level. I basically have to decide how important that particular kitchen towel is, because her little piranha teeth are not letting go. I have caught her chewing on the cupboard doors, the baseboards, the dishwasher, my grandmother’s sewing machine stand, the couch, the refrigerator… nothing is safe from her. At least she is finally potty trained and I seriously thank God for that.

You should see her eyes light up when she’s outside and the chickens or guineas walk by. She starts to chase them but remembers she’s not supposed to, so she stops and follows them with great interest for awhile.

You should see our little foster boy’s eyes light up when he sees her. “Dixie!” he shouts with all the excitement that a 19 month old can muster. He absolutely adores her. Until she wants to chew on him too, and then we have to separate them.

Our two older dogs have agreed to live with her, although neither of them wants to play games with her like she so desperately desires. Our basset hound will occasionally acknowledge her, but the old lab completely ignores her, which isn’t easy to do. And she’s still small enough that the barn cats will swat at her as she walks by, if she tries anything too rambunctious.

All in all, Dixie is a puppy.  Plain and simple.  She’s adorable, frustrating, cute and cuddly, high maintenance… she is behaving exactly like what God made her to be at this point. She teaches my 17 year old responsibility while he learns how to take care of her. She teaches all of us to let loose and enjoy life a little more. She makes us laugh, and to sigh contentedly when she curls up next to us for a short peaceful nap.

If you haven’t considered getting a dog in awhile, consider it. Dogs are such great companions, and they bring so much joy and laughter into your life. That is, if you’re willing to go through the teething stage. That’s a growing time for everyone. :).

Here’s to Dixie, may she live long and well. With plenty of chew toys along the way. And here’s to our house, may it stay standing in the wake of her path.

Have a great day, everyone, and enjoy the cute and cuddly ones in your life, whoever or whatever they may be.

                          Nurse Ames, RN

Do nurses ever truly clock out?

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Ahhhh… Vacation.  Gotta love it.  Nurses tend to joke around about never truly being on vacation.  We make t-shirts about it, send each other funny memes, laugh about it at work.  But really, we do tend to try to avert anything that looks like it might turn into an emergency, because hey, everyone needs a mental break sometimes.  Even nurses. That being said, we also jump in and help without hesitating if the need arises.  Even on vacation.

Last weekend I met up with a girlfriend of mine for a weekend away from home.  We met in St. Louis, which makes the most sense for us while trying to meet halfway.  (I live in Oklahoma, she lives in Ohio.)  We had an awesome weekend just catching up, trying some new restaurants, seeing some great sites and places.  We even managed to get in on opening night of Miss Saigon.  I did not manage to get away from being a nurse for the weekend, however.

We were hiking up the concrete steps of the Gateway Arch when it happened.   I was blazing a trail to the bathroom (which seemed a good half mile off in the distance) when I hear my friend call my name.  I turn around and see her.  One of the sweet little elderly ladies we had just talked to is lying on the ground, clutching her head, groaning softly, a grimace on her face.  My friend later told me “her head sounded like a melon cracking open” when she hit the ground.  She has fallen down the concrete steps onto the equally hard concrete pavement below and taken a direct hit to the back of her head.  My friend motions me over, saying “You gotta help”, and I’m doing a split minute decision on whether my bladder will hold out for this emergency, or if it will become the main emergency itself.  I can’t NOT help her though, so I rush back to her side.  I gently address the elderly group surrounding her– “I’m a nurse, may I help you?”  The look of relief is evident on their faces.  I quickly assess her while someone goes for help.  She hasn’t passed out, and she is talking to me without difficulty, so I know she is okay for the moment.  Soon a physical therapist stops and offers help, and bystanders are quick to help with whatever they can–keeping her shaded from the bright sun shining in her eyes, something to put under her head to pillow it from the concrete ground,  etc.    Her friends are praying out loud, panicky, scared something terrible has happened.  My training kicks in–regardless of what has happened, calm the patient and those around her.  I quickly point out to her and her friends that she is stable for the moment, and that emergency services will be here shortly for further assessment and to take her to the hospital.  I talk directly with the patient then, discussing her condition and telling her what needs further testing and why.  She insists she doesn’t want to slow down her group of friends, which has not yet gone up in the Arch.  I gently remind her that she might have suffered a brain bleed from the fall, which wouldn’t necessarily be obvious in the few minutes that have passed.  At the very least, she might very well have a concussion.  I convince her to keep from moving until Emergency Services get there to take over.  Once they arrive, I step back and let them do their thing.  We leave after they have taken over and have things well in hand.  I still really need to use the restroom, and it’s almost time for our tour to go up the Arch.  For all I know, that elderly group of visitors may have been slated to go up on the same tour as us.  We’ll never know; neither will we ever know how things turned out for her.  We did ask a park ranger after the tour if they had any updates.  Apparently, she was still refusing further medical care and was not taken to the hospital.  I laid awake that night, worried for her.  Was she okay? Did she eventually get worse as time went on? Was she near help if she did worsen?  As I lay there, I thought of all the things I could have done differently to help her.  Did I miss something? Was there anything else I could have done before EMS arrived? And other thoughts I had…Why are the steps and walkway designed like they are at the Arch? How many people fall on them each year?  How much worse are they when it’s actually wet?  How do they respond to emergencies inside the Arch? Or at the top? How far is it to the nearest hospital?  Where DID those emergency workers come from so quick? Why aren’t there better signs posted around the Arch, directing traffic?  Sometimes I have a hard time shutting down the “what if” questions. 

Nurses are trained to look at scenarios to find out what’s wrong and to try to fix it.  I guess that’s something you don’t just turn off when you clock out and walk out the door.  I had a great weekend in St. Louis, but I came away with a few golden nuggets of wisdom.  1) Allow plenty of time to reach your destination, in case something unexpected happens.  2) Never turn down a bathroom break when it’s presented to you, as you may really, really wish you would’ve taken it a little while later.  3) Always be prepared to lend a helping hand to those around you…you’ll be so glad you did.  

To the sweet little lady who fell, I hope you are okay.  I hope you and your friends were able to go see the Arch.  I hope your vacation was all you dreamed of.  And… here’s to many, many more adventures for the both of us. 

                   Nurse Ames, RN

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Hannah’s uvula’s Big Day.

 

This week my daughter Hannah had an EGD performed to hunt for the source of some ongoing stomach issues.   After hearing her talk about how much her uvula hurt, I told her I’d write a little something funny to remember the incident.  She had been scoped before, and was caught off-guard by how much it hurt this time compared to last time.  I helped her through the experience as best I could, and then I wrote the story from a totally different angle.  I wrote this mainly for her, but I thought it might make you smile this morning so I included it here as well.  Enjoy! 🙂

Hannah’s uvula’s Big Day

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Today I woke up like I always do, a little dried out from sleeping all night, morning breath in place, because, well, that’s what happens inside a mouth in the morning.  I thought today would be like any other day, but wow! was I wrong.

I got my surroundings brushed up and minty fresh, and assumed I’d be heading off to school with Hannah just like any other day.  Boy, was I in for a surprise!  I started to realise we were at the hospital about the same time the anesthesia hit me like a ton of bricks.  So, I relaxed like any good uvula does under those conditions.  Then I heard a lot of talking by nurses and the doctor.  And then ….Bam!, out of nowhere, the most massive tube ever made just shoved right past me into Hannah’s esophagus.  Quite rudely done, if you ask me.  So I’m trying not to gag, while I’ve got this massive tube pressed up against me, violating me and all of Hannah’s mouth and esophagus all the way to her stomach.  I see a camera come into view at one point, and realize someone is actually taking pictures of this weird and offensive start to my day.

Finally, it’s over and the tube is gone.  Ahhhh, what a blissful feeling.  Until I realize I hurt all over and I’m swollen what seems like ten times my normal size! And her tongue– its swollen too, and we are fighting, pushing and shoving, for who needs more room in the back of her throat.

Several hours later, I’m still totally miffed about the situation.  I’m still sore as can be, swollen up like a dead bloated toad, and nothing is helping.  Finally, Hannah gets some Advil past me, and starts helping me out with some ice chips and cold ice cream.  We can be friends again for that one.   But it might take a few more offerings of the ice cream to make up my mind.

I can tell this day will be one of infamy for me.  I am the biggest, baddest neighbor in town in my neck of the woods today.  I demand everyone’s attention, as my swollen, angry red self asserts itself as the power-to-be for the day.  I get all the attention, all the negative feels.  I longingly wait for my former nice, not-red-and-swollen, self to return. I dream of all my favourite cold popsicle flavors, and think ice is the best invention ever made.  I wonder what I did to deserve this outrageous attack, and vow to fight back the next time.

The next morning I wake up, a little worse for the wear, but feeling a little more like nature intended me to be.  I still long for ice, Advil, and popsicles, but I’m more open to the thought of returning to life as regularly programmed.  However, I have a few thoughts on the subject of EGD’s, scopes, hospitals, and the like….What’s that saying? “History repeats itself”?  There had better not ever, ever be a repeat, that’s all I’ve got to say!

                           Nurse Ames, RN