Sunday, October 15, 2006

Not On the Team

It has been brought to my attention for, oh say, my entire life, that I am not a team player. I have, of course, learned to disguse this much better since the time in fourth grade when I protested my assignment to a group project with the words "but he's stupid and she's mean!!!!" I'm saying here, that no one ever talked to me anyway, because I came from our subdivision's Official Weird Family, but I'm also saying that I was a less than graciouse dork. ( Note on a subdivision: you either understand this as a housing entity or you don't. For those who wish to try and understand, even slightly, the anti- human design a "sub" is, let me describe. It is, first and foremost, a large street that feeds onto a usefull street, a street that goes somewhere. This large street, which is NOT called Main St, or This Way Out St., or anything at all useful, is the only way in or out of the sub. Branching from the access road, like the auxillary blood vessels that frequently swarm around tumors, are the rest of the sub's streets. These streets also go nowhere. They twist and turn, are emphatically not grid like, and have nothing in them but houses. Poignantly, they are sometimes named for the type of plant life that was scraped off the site by the builders, but you will see no Birches, Oaks, or Maples on the streets that bear their names. There are no stores in a sub. There are no office buildings, no pizza joints, no liquor stores, no drug stores, no nothing. In the area I grew up, there was an elementary school in each sub, and a junior high school shared by four subs, and a high school shared by twelve subs. The elementary schools were built on an identical floor plan, so that if you ever happened to find yourself in a different school, say for a cousin's school play, you knew instantly where everything was. The houses also displayed the same regularity. We had your colonial, your ranch, and you split level, and that was it. No one ever had to ask where the bathroom was in someone elses house. Ok, enough about the sub, but let's just say that as members of a different faith, the first "broken home", and college educated mom, we were different. Different is bad, dude.)

Ok, so more about me. Today at work there was a code. This happens at hospitals- they are full of sick people, and sick people sometimes give on things like breathing and need to be nudged back. So, I'm in the bathroom, and I hear a code called to the floor that I am on. SOmething odd happens. I do not skip wiping, rip my pants up and run like hell to the room. I do not push the cart. I do not grab an ambu bag. I am not on the team. I wash my hands, and think, wow, I'm not an ICU nurse anymore. Don't get me wrong, there were stacks of people there, all doing the stuff you're supposed to do. They didn't need me. I wasn't the PICU nurse anymore, shoving to the head of the bed untill someone better than me got there to bag. I did not place my standard code IV ( the saphonous vein- top of the foot. Usually unsullied and cradled nicely betweet the metatarsales- you don't even have to see it. You can use the force.) It was really, really weird. At some point, I went around and checked on some of the other patients, and then they needed another central line tray but the person they asked didn't know what that was , so I got one and took it in, and then I wandered back to my office to go remind myself why I had been on that floor in the first place. Right- a diabetic was waiting to learn the mysteries of the glucometer. I had a diet coke, went back up, and did my spiel. For someone who's not so into being a team player, it was weird that I felt so left out and lost.


Rachael said...

You probably weren't aiming at this goal, but what a beautiful post.

(And I never knew that they could build places like that! The schools? That matched? Wow. Scary.)

Dez Crawford said...

I'm enjoying your blog. You write well. Great piece on the suburbs. I was lucky enough to grow up in a New Orleans neighborhood full of jumbled housing styles and equally jumbled races and religions... Most of my relatives had fled to the 'burbs to escape crime ... and to the 'burbs on weekends was where I went so our Moms could shop together and cousins could play together. So I understand, but I didn't really LIVE it ... I was a weekender. At least I could escape the 'burbs, and go home, and play stickball in the streets like a kid in a Bruce Springsteen song.

'Burb culture took a big bite out of all my cousins' psyches.

Your nursing woes -- and I've only read a handful -- reminded me instantly of a dear friend who was a trauma nurse at New Orleans' Charity Hospital before Katrina hit.

Previous to Major Trauma Unit, she spent many years in the ER, and told me many a hair-curling story about people who need health education and don't want it or get it.

The one that sticks in my mind the most clearly is this one:

Cold, wet, windy, miserable winter morning. Mostly the ER is full of people with UR's. Two girls, about thirteen or fourteen, rush into the ER. One is screaming at the top of her lungs -- "Help! I'm dying!" -- and is about to pop with a baby.

No adults, of course, were at home when the girl went into labor (to say nothing, no doubt, of when she got pregnant). So she went next door and found her friend, who found some quarters, and they got on the bus, where her water broke.

Some gentle questioning on the part of my friend ... still fairly new to the ER in a big, urban, charity hospital at this point in her career ... still full of idealism for helping people ... revealed that the girl DID NOT KNOW she was going to have a baby. She thought she was getting fat. She thought she was dying from a "stomach sickness," and did not understand about "Sexual intercourse" or even "having sex" so finally my friend asked if she had done "the wild thing" with a boy, and she said yes.

So my friend had only a very short time to spill the facts of life to inform this fully-dilated child that:

1. she was pregnant, and ...
2. she was going to have a baby...
3. right now.

The girl starts screaming even louder. "But I'm scared to get operated on! I don't want the doctor to cut me open!"

Still trying to keep the girl calm, my friend gently explains that everything looks normal, and the baby's going to come out the normal way, through her vagina, through her birth canal, right there between her legs, and she'll be okay ...

and the girl still does not understand, and this time she really SCREAMS ... "But if the doctor don't cut me open, how's the baby gonna get OUT?"

And my friend violated all of her lofty ideals right on the spot and said, "Honey, the baby's gonna get out THE SAME WAY IT GOT IN!!!"

Which did not diminish the screaming.

The baby came immediately.

That part's perversely funny.

Here's the part that's not: after the young mom delivers uneventfully (excpet for the screaming), she's sent up to maternity. My friend at that point remembers thinking, "probably tomorrow, that girl is going out of here with a brand-new baby in nothing but a disposable diaper, and a giveaway fleece welcome blanket, and a little shopping bag full of sample diapers and sample formula and coupons and a booklet on breastfeeding. And she wil get on the same bus, and go home, with no adults, and no clue whatsoever what to do."

It wasn't the first kid having a kid she'd ever seen, of course. But this particular girl was SO clueless, it was terrifying.