Friday, April 29, 2005

The Results Are In

The results of the Big Yellow Controversy are in. Half of you made a write-in vote for Big Bird as a hermaphroditic and/or transsexual freak. Thanks guys.

The other half think Big Bird is a guy, except for my father, who thinks that Big Bird's gender is irrelevent in the grand scheme of things. Trust my old man to put an existential spin on Sesame Street. When phoned for comment, Lunger replied that his mommy says Big Bird is a girl, so there you have it:

Big Bird is a girl.

Since, according to Lunger, his mommy knows everything. You can't provide more concrete evidence than that.

Work has been nuts tonight. As in full of them. Rather like a pecan cluster. Every new ambulance brought us another psych evaluation. One nursing home sent us an almost-90-year-old man with Alzheimer's who groped a fellow patient. Ok, we already know he's out of it, what's to evaluate? If he's still frisky enough to grope at almost-90, I say good on him!

I've come to realize that whatever vestige of sympathy I used to have for the human race, which honestly wasn't a lot, has been sucked out of my very being by this job. I have to leave this hospital before I become an even more pitiless hag. I mean, I've always imagined myself as a pitiless hag in my old age. Think Wheezer from Steel Magnolias. However, I never imagined that I would be quite so pitiless at the age of 25.

Today, I told a woman that I didn't know whether or not her fiance was still breathing when I escorted her to a private consultation room, even though I knew he'd coded twice already. This is where HIPAA is a mixed blessing. Since I'm not allowed to tell people whether or not a patient is dead, I don't have to tell people that a patient is dead.

My job is often far removed from the drama of a code, but I usually have to seat the patient's family in the consultation room. Sometimes I get them coffee, and often I am forced to lie to them.

Sitting in the tiny discharge office in a hallway between the consultation room and the nurse's station, the light kept going on and off because of the stupid "energy saving" light switch. Since it's activated by a motion sensor, every time it goes off, I have to wave my arm to make it come back on.

Filling out a crossword puzzle on Yahoo!, I could hear her fiance screaming in between the CPR sessions when he flatlined. I've never heard a code do that. He was fighting really hard.

Thirty minutes later, I saw the doctor and nursing supervisor make their way to the consultation room, and I knew he was gone. He was only 40. His fiance told me that she'd just mailed out their wedding invitations. They were going to take their vows in June. On her way out the door, she asked one of the nurses to keep him warm for her.

Maybe it was just the Xanax talking, but I don't think the truth of his death had permeated her cerebrum yet. I make jokes about people shoving things inside their anal cavities and the stupid lines people feed me about their real or imagined injuries, but I don't always talk about the horrific stuff. I use my sense of humor as a coping mechanism.

So, I could tell you that what she said made me think of William Faulkner's short story, "A Rose for Emily," the one where the old southern lady sleeps next to the corpse of her murdered lover for 40 years. At least, that's what I said to the nurse who told me that story. Or, I could just be honest with myself and admit that I feel for that woman.

When I think about it, I'm not really much different from her. I try to keep everything warm and light so I don't have to think about all the child abuse, self mutilation, pain, and suffering I witness at work. The only difference is, I know these events have permeated my brain. I just don't know if they'll ever escape.

6 comments:

Dad said...

There is an argument to be made that this blog helps those things to escape your brain, but that's probably just the existentialism talking.

I would beg to differ as to your jadedness. Admittedly, you got a large dose of cynicism from my side of the gene pool, but there is a difference between those who are worthy of our pity and those who are trying to manipulate the system. I hear lots of empathy, very well expressed in this post. I keep thinking that I will read that scene in a short story or a novel some day.

Is this too personal for a public post?

omar said...

Great post. I was all ready to comment on the 90 year old groper, but then I kept reading.

Instead of showing any emotion about it though, I'm going to fall back on what they taught me in "man school" (if you find yourself about to show emotion, either make a stupid joke, relate the emotion-causing incident to sports, or run).

She said "anal cavities." Ha.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Hello girlspit...another literature lover. Great! My fave. American book is actually a tiny book...The old man and the sea. Brilliant!

I know a lot of medical people...nurses, docs...and yeah, some of them do feel burned out in the end.

I live in a country frequently traumatised by cycles violence...of the worst kind. When it gets bad, we are even terrified to walk on the road.

Every day I think about it...how do we manage to keep sane, how do we manage to not get cynical?

You write well.

Guyana-Gyal said...

And your dad is right. About everything. About the thread of empathy, about those who try to manipulate the system...

Nope Dad...not too personal a post.

Omar, not all men run :-)

cadiz12 said...

i used to work in an er and i know exactly what you mean.

it's one of the few places where people really are equal. and it takes balls to hang in there day after day, keeping it together when the world is falling apart for some people.

even if it turns you into Wheezer, just remember, Wheezer was a badass.

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