When I was 17 I watched a colonoscopy and what I assume was some sort of heart surgery. I stood over a man and watched as a doctor used a shiny metal contraption to spread a total stranger’s ribs open until all I could see was a pumping heart and lots of bright red body tissue. The rest is a blur because I probably passed out or threw up or got so light headed that I had to crawl out of the operating room on my hands and knees. Apparently this was before HIPAA regulations, because who in the fuck would authorize a high school student to hang out during a butt hole exam? At the time, I was participating in a job training program through my school which allowed me to miss two classes every day and engulf myself in the intriguing world of nursing at our local hospital. And by local hospital, I mean a small town hospital with no regulations and doctors who were only hired because they had lost their licence or were being sued by disgruntled patients. It’s the kind of hell hole you warn your family to keep you away from unless you are ready to die a slow and painful death under the care of hacko whackos. After years of ‘serving’ our community, that old hospital was recently converted to a haunted house. Sounds about right.
Until I had the experience of watching a human heart pump blood, or a long tube crawling up a human asshole, I thought I wanted to be a nurse. That didn’t last long. Every day spent at the hospital made me lightheaded and I could usually be found hunched in a chair in the lobby with my head between my knees or wandering aimlessly, trying not to vomit on myself. After one semester of that, I decided I would not be pursuing my nursing degree, but would instead wander the planet with no career strategy at all. Nailed that one like a champ.
I’m not sure how nurses do what they do. While at the hospital yesterday for my husband’s surgery it became clear that I would have been the absolute worst nurse on the planet. Think Nurse Ratchet. While my husband was in the recovery room, doped up on whatever miracle pain medication they had given him, he began complaining incessantly about his blood pressure cuff. “Can’t you just take this off? It’s uncomfortable and I don’t like it.” I tried to shush him but he wouldn’t have it. The nurse kindly told him (900 times) that they needed to watch his blood pressure until he was ready to get up and get dressed. “But I just want it off now and then you can put it on later.” He was slurring his words and threatening to take the cuff off on his own and all I could think was ‘If I was this nurse I would be using a pair of dirty gym socks to tie this man’s hands to the bed and then I would make that cuff ten times tighter.’ Not really nurse-like behavior.
Once we arrived home with two prescriptions, a novel-sized folder filled with post-op instructions, and my groggy patient I realized that I was in charge of this shit show; I WAS THE NURSE. I did my best…for about 25 minutes. Between fresh water cups, doling out meds, grabbing blankets, and heating up soup, I became angsty and found myself sitting on the toilet well past the time I had finished peeing. Then I heard my ‘patient’ snoring, so I bolted out the front door to enjoy an adult beverage and check FB. When my daughter showed up on the porch after school, I handed over the reigns of care to her because she’s 13 and she needs to learn how to dispense pain medication and fill up ice packs. I’m doing her a favor. Maybe one day she will become a nurse and she can thank me for her early training. At the very least, I was off the hook for having to throw away another bloody tissue and becoming so light headed that I fell down the stairs and ended up in the hospital with massive doses of pain meds coursing through my veins. Wait. I’m back on duty.