July 5th, 2012

crossed heart

Retronurse 2 — the time I almost kissed a patient

Originally published at Cassie Alexander. You can comment here or there.

It’s only happened once, and luckily I was in full isolation gear at the time.

Continuing on from the bedsores of last retronurse post, only not exactly, and what’d actually happened to this patient  was much much worse….

They’d been with us for months of wound closure, stiff from months of lying in bed, awkward from amputations, still unprepared to live this new life.

There’s this semistockholm thing that happens when you’re with a patient for that long.

In a way, it’s awesome, you know precisely what they want, they know precisely what you’re capable of.

Gah, each time I sit down to write one of these it wants to spin out of control. This one wants to alternately be about pain management — which will definitely be its own later-later post.

Suffice to say sometimes you have to go to the bathroom and we’re not allowed to give you any pain meds.

This wouldn’t matter except that you’ve got fifty-staples in your ass from all your grafts and we’re rolling you on and off of bedpans which are made of cheap bendy plastic and are one size fits all and you’re definitely wider then they are. So if you have to have a bowel movement we’re rolling you onto and off of these bendy plastic torture devices that are digging into the wounds you’ve got — in some cases fresh grafts, with definitely fresh staples — and we’re having to sit you up on top of them so that there’s gravity and your own body weight pulling you down.

You’re on several antibiotics and not able to eat solid food yet, you’ve got loose stools, so we get stuck doing this horrible thing to you several times a night. And you’re crying because it hurts so bad it hurts us to to watch you. We don’t speak the same language so all we can do is cry with you when you cry so that you know that we feel your pain, even though we know it’s not going to really help, us just standing beside you in full isolation gear while we roll you around on your bed telling you in a language you don’t understand that someday you’re going to get better, honestly, you are.

So we lean over you to hug you at the end of things because it’s been so awful and after a full night of this you’re just breaking down in tears. You know what’s coming, and so do we, and it’s awful, each and every time. We don’t know what else to do to help you. The primal things come through. We move to kiss your shoulder as though you were a child because we don’t know anything else that will possibly help. The isolation mask is in our way, and when it dents in we know we’ve gone too far. So we just hold you there on the toilet that’s become an medieval torture device, and you cling to us hoping we can take off some of the awful weight pressing down, to stop the staples from jabbing in.

That’s the only time I’ve almost kissed a patient. The end.