Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Control Freak

In my line of work I meet so many people. I meet them under circumstances that are, for them, extremely anxiety-provoking and uncomfortable. I bring them to a cold room, put them on a narrow table, and start invading their privacy. I expose parts of them that maybe only their significant other or family physician has seen. I shave their groin area, put sticky patches and wires all over them, and stick needles and tubes in them. I completely take away their control, preparing them for the terrifying unknown of the heart tests they are about to undergo. These people are well-informed (due to legalities) that the tests we are doing actually attempt to provoke a heart rhythm that could potentially kill them. We tell them it's ok, though, because it's all in a "controlled environment." It's easy for us to say, since WE are in control.

I do this several times a day, every day. For my patients, it's hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

How people behave when their control is taken away along with a good portion of their diginity is often remarkable. Grown men shiver and cry, little brittle women take it all in stride. Formerly composed professor-types panic, knuckle-dragging slackjaws show you courtesy and forbearance you could never imagine. So many people, so many surprises.

I am a control freak, and I have been on this table. Twice. I had my own heart rhythm problem. I have been the patient, known the terrifying loss of control. I had the "benefit" of knowing what was coming. Regardless, it was difficult. It has made me so much the better nurse, though. Who more appropriate to help patients through their own experience? I know it sounds corny, but sometimes I feel like I was "called" to do this.

Today, I met a patient who amazed me; one that will be forever in my memory. This man was 100, count'em: one hundred years old. He will be 101 in three months. What an inspiration! He was deaf as a post, sharp as a tack. We asked this poor crooked man to lie straight and still on a hard table for two hours. He never complained. He was polite, congenial, and tolerant. He told us of the 10 different places he was stationed in WWII all over Europe and in Africa. We had to stick him 6 times with needles for an IV and he never once grumbled. When he asked me to adjust his pillow, I told him he sure was a big complainer...he laughed and laughed. When the procedure was over he took my hand, squeezed it tight, looked right into my eyes, and thanked me for "guiding" him through this procedure. Yeah, this is why I come to work...on the chance that I might meet someone like him.

Another Dinner Table Conversation:

Plato: "Mom? What's the bad 'P-Word?'"

Do you know any bad p-words?

Plato: "...Nooooo..." Thinks a while. "Mom?"

Yes, honey?

Plato: "I know the bad "S-word."

The Boss has been listening and can't help but contribute: "WE DON'T SAY POTTY WORDS, JUST ONLY IN THE POTTY!!"

That's right, potty words are only for the potty (I didn't teach her this, but I like it!). Plato, what is the S-Word you know? I promise myself I will NOT laugh when he says it.

Plato: Well, I'm not supposed to say it. You won't be mad? It's a really, really bad word.

I won't be mad. You can tell mommy anything.

Plato: Well....okay... (takes a big breath)...it's..."Stupid."

I am trying hard not to crack up. Yes, honey, "stupid" is a very bad word.


Gosh, I hope he stays this innocent for a few more years.

1 comment:

Monnik said...

He won't stay so innocent. But that's way too cute.

And what an amazing patient you had today. That's a great story. I'm so glad you're blogging! :)