The Only Place I Can Write This…

….and not freak a bunch of people out.    This is the second Christmas without dad, whose family was the  core of all things Christmas when I was growing up.   Even until the Christmas before he died, those who were still around  got together to do the Swedish Christmas Eve party with a lot of traditions soaked into a few hours one night each year.  The music, food, memories- they were all part of something more than any one of us.  They were the bits and pieces of each family member who had been at any of those wonderful Christmas parties.   And now, everybody is either dead, lives somewhere else, or has more dependable people to spend the night with (and I completely understand that- I’m NOT reliable when it comes to showing up for gatherings, with the medical issues and equipment I need to lug along with me if I do go somewhere).   Christmas feels like it’s  over.  Of course, I know that the true meaning of Christmas will never be ‘over’… but everything visible that  I associate with Christmas is gone.  It makes the other pain more intense…    I did have a very nice invitation to go to a friend’s home for a Christmas brunch, which I so appreciate… but I’m just not in a mood to be around humans today.

I got mad at my older dog earlier today, and screamed at her.   My dad bought her for me after my previous dog died of heart failure at age 11 1/2.   Shelby (older dog) is my baby- my pride and joy, and best gift ever from my dad.   She was visibly upset at me being mad at her, since it’s not something she’s used to.  The little dog, Shiloh,  ( 5 1/2 months old) went and lied down on her ‘cube’ bed.  I just went and sat down, and started sobbing and repeating “I’m SO sorry”.    Shelby came over and got on my lap and didn’t seem any worse for the wear, but I feel terrible.   It’s never either of their ‘fault’ that I’m having a bad day.   I can’t take it out on them.  They mean too much, and are my only constant companions.    I feel like I’m sometimes no good for them, though I’d do anything to make their lives as good as is humanly possible to do.   My days revolve around feeding them, changing the pee pads, having them on my lap, etc.

When I feel like this, my thoughts get very dark.  I wonder why I’m still alive, and what possible purpose I could have being a disabled RN whose only hope is riding on being approved for medical marijuana.   Me.  A former detox RN in a drug/alcohol treatment center… HOPING that I can get some pain relief from MMJ.   The fibromyalgia has gotten worse, and add to that diabetic neuropathy pain and bone-on-bone knee pain (that can’t be fixed because of my history of pulmonary emboli… they call knee replacements “elective” surgery, and “pain won’t kill you”), and I don’t know what I’m going to do if I can’t get some relief soon.     Pain may not kill me physiologically, but it certainly could be the factor that decides when I’ve had enough of being alive, and make a very desperate decision to opt out.   I have opiates.  They don’t do much.   I’ve been through physical therapy, TENS units, chiropractors, steroid injections, etc.  I can’t take Aleve or Motrin because of my kidney function.   So, yeah… pain can kill.

I need to be very clear.  I am not suicidal.  I do not want to die.  I just wonder how I’m going to manage living when there is no relief from my body hurting.  Any contact with furniture, or sometimes even clothing, is miserable.   I’m relying on the hope that medical marijuana offers.  So many people are getting help from a simple little plant.   I know that I need  not to  pin all of my hopes on using weed for medication- but right now, it’s the only thing I haven’t tried.     I focus on how much I love the two dogs- and how much they depend on me.   That is huge.    I need to have very concrete reasons to get up each day and know that two little beings depend on me for everything in their lives.   They are my only immediate family.   I have biological and adoptive family all over the place, and I’m very thankful for them.  But the dogs are the only beings with me every day.

I know this is scattered.   My life is scattered.  My body is scattered.  And I need some peace and hope that feels like it’s never going to come.   Applying for the MMJ card was a last resort.   I just want to feel enough relief to make the thought of being alive in 10 years sound like something positive.   I really am grateful for a lot.  This post doesn’t sound like it, but I am.  I know that I have a lot to be thankful for… I’m just so ready for my body to be part of that.

Shelby and Shiloh
Christmas 2017


Need to Write More…Puppy-Motherhood is Tiring !

There’s something about just getting stuff out of my head, whether or not anybody reads it, but knowing that somebody somewhere is probably going to actually know what is going on in my little corner of the world makes my life seem so much less isolated.  I’ve been busy with my puppy…or should I say she’s been busy with me.  This one is a corker.  I’ve had four miniature schnauzers now, and this one has been the most challenging.  She’s very smart, very fast, and has a mind of her own. She also wags her tail at literally everything, so discipline is a crap shoot since she thinks everything is fun.   There is no association between me telling her ‘no’ and what I’m telling her ‘no’ about.  It’s just fun !  For her.  The only thing that she doesn’t like is the crate with a blanket over it. If she can’t see me, she is NOT amused.  Within a few minutes the crying starts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love her like crazy.  She’s got this look of perpetual happiness on her face. My dad says that in 20 years, when she’s been dead and gone for a few years, her tail will still wag.  After Mandy’s illness and being so ‘on guard’ the last month she was alive, it’s nice to have the upbeat energy around here. It’s also nice to be needed.  I miss being a working nurse, and somebody noticing  whether or not I am around and worth something.  Shelby needs me for her food and water, and clean pee pads. She also needs to be loved, and for me to interact with her and let her know that it matters that SHE is around. But she wears my butt out !   Some days I swear I need a net to round her up.  She has that puppy run of tucking her butt under, slicking her ears back, and just going for broke.  And she can stop on a dime. I’ve fallen once trying to avoid tripping over her.

She’s already learned quite a bit- fetch, ‘let go’ (when she doesn’t drop the fetched toy), “get on your chair”, “go potty” (she will go on command if she has to pee- or sit down and look at me if she doesn’t ), “sit”, “down”, “are you hungry?”, “do you want an ice cube?” (she loves ice on her teething-weary gums), and if I holler loudly enough, “NO!”.  She’s not really too good at “stay”.  She will come to her name being called, but sometimes it’s a ‘fly-by’ if she’s wound up and wants to play.  If there are dogs barking or cats meowing on TV, she stops what she’s doing and looks at them. If the bark sounds somewhat menacing, she joins in… it’s funny, but I’m trying to get her to know when barking is not OK (i.e. the neighbor taking out the trash…  I don’t need an alert for that).

She has little fear. She will jump from my arms, off of chairs, over toys, and off of my bed.  She’s growing, but she’s still not that big – I’m guessing about 13 pounds. We go to the vet tomorrow for the last Parvo shot, so she’ll get weighed then.  At least once during the day, she starts running like her butt is on fire, racing around tables, past chairs, down the hall, and sometimes over me (via a quick stop on my lap).  I haven’t done enough leash work with her because of the weather and my activity intolerance, but from what we have done, she’s not amused.  Though she did walk nicely on the leash last time we went to the vet for other puppy shots.

In the morning, she wakes up about 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. and wants to eat (she’s getting a gravity feeder tomorrow). I usually don’t go to bed until 2:00 – 4:00 a.m. (worked nights for a long time), and give her a puppy health biscuit before bed so she isn’t having to go too long without something in her tummy.   I get up and give her the 100gm scoop (heaping 1/3 cup) for her breakfast, and then go back to bed. She will putz around for a while, go poo, and then come back to bed with me. She likes to snuggle against my legs or back, and really is a cuddle bug when she slows down.  She seems to sense that I need to sleep and is really good about our routine.  She is very good about using her stairs to get up on the bed, and has her own bed and blankets up there, but prefers to snuggle.  She also brings toys to bed sometimes (as long as they aren’t the squeaky ones, they’re OK  🙂 ).

When I finally start moving around and she knows I’m awake, she gets SO excited. It’s so nice to be ‘wanted’ every day, and to have ‘someone’ show me that she’s glad I’m there for her.  Usually there is a fair amount of slurping on whatever part of me she can get to, and that tail literally wags too fast to actually see.  Boat motor speed.  And she’s so happy. It’s nice to start the awake part of my day with that.  Shelby can’t stand when I’m in the shower. I have to leave the shower curtain open about 8 inches so she can peek in to make sure I haven’t left her. I talk to her the whole time I’m in there, and it’s a transparent plastic curtain (but it’s green with turtles on it), so it’s not like I’m behind a concrete bunker, but to her I may as well be.

Sometimes she comes over to the recliner where I’m sitting and when I reach down to pet her, she flings herself over on her back, spread eagle, and waits for the belly rubs to commence. She has no shame. If I sit up, but reach down again, she throws herself down, and waits for more.  When she is ‘in the mood’ she will lie on her back in my arms like a baby, and doze off. She’s big enough now that with her arm in the crook of my elbow, her legs hanging off of my lap by a good 6 inches.

She LOVES her grandpa, and he loves her. She learned to climb up the couch using his inner thighs as a brace many weeks ago. Now she just takes a flying leap and gets on the couch. She can easily get on my lap in the recliner.  She loves the crazy playing with her grandpa; she’s not a prissy little girl- she’s ‘all in’ when it comes to playing. He’ll put her down in case she’s had enough and she always turns around immediately and wants more. 🙂

Last night, she walked over towards her pee pads and stopped cold. She leaned forward with her back legs planted firmly and acted like she was stalking some sort of evil prey.  I couldn’t figure out what in the world she was confronting, so went over there expecting something fierce. It was a plastic bag from her pee pads that had fallen on the floor.  Uh huh.  Go Killer!  I’ve seen her smack bugs with her paw and then eat them (yuck- but she’s too fast to pry them from her teeth), so thought that maybe it was at least something alive… nope. The dreaded pee pad bag.  Oooohhh. Gotta watch out for those !

Her curiosity is fun- it’s refreshing to see things for the first time with her.  Sometimes she does it from the safety of my arms, but most of the time she just charges in and pokes around. She does NOT like mirrors. She’s not curious about who that dog is, or why I’m over there and holding her.  I’ve got things ‘baby-proofed’, and so far she hasn’t been interested in chewing up my stuff.  She has an elk antler that she loves, as well as Nylabones for this teething that is making her kind of cranky and nippy. But there isn’t a mean bone in her. Even when she’s charging at something, her tail is going like crazy, ears are up, and a sort of ‘smile’ on her mouth… never bared teeth.  She’s just goofy !!

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m exhausted, but I love her.  The season change is hard with the pollens and erratic weather. We may have strong storms on Monday (possibly tornadoes), so I have more headaches and muscle pain.  I saw the pain guy last week.  Seems I got TMJ a few weeks ago, so he worked on that with a steroid injection.  I wanted to get some beef jerky, but figured my jaw would rebel… bummer, since jerky doesn’t mess up my blood sugar, and I’m always looking for protein sources that are ‘grab and go’.   I’ve been back to  reading other blogs more recently, but still miss regular updates from y’all.  Now that Shelby is playing on her own more, I can get back to writing and reading… funny how this blog world has become such an important community.  🙂

Big girl haircut !!

Big girl haircut !!

The view when I have been on the computer... Shelby brings me toys !!

The view when I have been on the computer… Shelby brings me toys !!



Running on Empty

The fall of 1981 was one of isolation, hopelessness, and being totally overwhelmed.  I was supposed to be having a wonderful time as a freshman at the University of Illinois- Urbana-Champaign campus.  I was 17 years old when I got there, and had become seriously anorexic the summer before when working as a nature counselor at a summer church camp I loved.  I wasn’t super skinny, but my mind was a total eating disorder trap.  Every thought included how to avoid eating, how to ‘get rid’ of food (I used laxatives- 10 of them 4 times a day), and how to avoid being noticed.  I bombed that last one pretty quickly.

My roommate and I didn’t last long. She thought I was too quiet, and requested to move out (which she did).  Looking back, I can’t blame her; watching someone self-destruct and be so consumed by the eating disorder had to be miserable for her.  We both had double rooms to ourselves- which just meant more isolation for me.  Outside of classes, I spent a lot of time walking around campus, or taking the bus to various parts of town, and just walking.  When I was in the dorm, I’d look out of my 12th floor window, and follow the lights of cars as they drove through the countryside at night.  I played a Christian radio station for comfort, and just wondered if I’d get better.  Then I’d get scared that ‘getting better’ meant eating, and I’d fall back into the ‘starvation’ mode with even more determination.  Other than the background music, and the fighting in my head, most nights were eerily quiet.  Those who know the insulating effect of heavy snow, and how it mutes most sound, will understand what my head ‘sounded like’ for the many months I was there.

I’m not sure how I lasted as long as I did.  My weight was relatively stable, but the starving/bingeing/purging patterns were also how I was ‘living’.  I’d take 10 laxatives at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime with a 16 ounce glass bottle of Diet Rite cola.  If I ‘had’ to be seen eating at dinner (only meal where I’d be noticed- missing, eating, or acting weird), I’d have an apple or half of a baked potato. That would trigger intense guilt, and I’d run up the 12 flights of stairs to my room.  Then I’d get homework done, and go back to watching the lights of the cars in the night.

When I did try to get to sleep, it was another battle.  There were many nights when I’d watch one specific star as it moved across the sky out of my window.  Many times, I’d get up to go to the bathroom (spent a lot of time in there with 40 laxatives per day), and pass out before I could get back to my room.  I’d be sent out by ambulance, rehydrated, and sent back to the dorm.  They’d lecture me about how unhealthy eating disorders were, and I’d nod, then go back to my crazy routine.

What stands out the most from that semester, besides being so sick, were those nights of such ‘silence’ as I watched those car lights (and occasional police car’s red flashes ) move across the view I had from that 12th floor dorm room.  I’d wonder what those people were doing, and if they were in their own living hell.  I’d wonder if I’d ever get out of the mess in my head.  I’d wonder why I couldn’t just snap out of it and eat, without the blinding feeling of guilt for having fed myself.  It was like I was punishing myself for existing and having human requirements to survive.  But I had no good reason why.  I’d been born there (and placed for adoption), but the starvation (and diet contests) had been brewing for a few years- so the whole adoption/birthplace thing didn’t really pan out.  My mom had been constantly on me about my weight (when I wasn’t fat).  Maybe I just picked up where she left off.  I don’t know.  I eventually did ‘click’ with the explanation given by Peggy Claude Pierre- that the ‘negative mind’ was the one in control during eating disorders, and refused to allow the anorexic/bulimic to tolerate self-care and survival.

But those nights were so muffled and eerie.  I won’t ever forget those.  Or how scared I was.  And alone.  I had several people looking after me from their assigned ‘roles’ (therapist, resident director, resident advisor, and several dorm-mates), but nobody understood.  They each tried to help in some way, but I was on my own, with something I couldn’t handle. I refused to tell my parents (I saw that as failure, which wasn’t allowed).  So I tried to just keep going… but how long could I go on fumes?  Many days I had fewer than 300 calories.  When I binged, it was a disgusting amount of food, but it possibly gave me enough of a ‘boost’ to keep going. Laxatives don’t remove food; they remove water- so some nutrients got in… but I was running on empty, and running OUT of time.

And it was so, so quiet when I looked out at the world from that 12th floor dorm room window.

University of IllinoisOctober 1981

University of Illinois
October 1981

Tis The Season…..

….to have all sorts of things churned up.  I don’t really get ”depressed’ over the holiday season, but more a vague sense of being overwhelmed since there are a lot of ‘anniversaries’ around this time.  This year added a new one with the death of my amazing, crazy companion- my miniature schnauzer Mandy, who died on December 27, 2012.

I’m still crying pretty much every day when I think about her, and especially about that last day.  I’m very thankful that that ‘end’ part was pretty fast.  And she was in my arms.  At first, she whimpered enough to alarm me, and from that point until she was actually gone, no more than 15 minutes went by.  After she  peed, and then froze in her tracks, she seemed confused, and not sure what to do, so I just held her and told her how wonderful she’d been.  Her breathing slowly stopped as I held her on my lap.  The ‘new normal’ of not hearing her come running when I mess with the dishwasher or clothes dryer (she had a thing for appliances), of her not leaving the room when I sneeze (or even said the word ‘sneeze’), or escorting me to the door when I got my keys to get the mail.  I didn’t have to say anything; she just knew.  I miss her more than words really can describe.  She was my only companion here in this city, for the past 10 years.  I talk to my dad every day; I saw my dog 24/7- especially since being on disability since April 2004.

Then there is the whole issue of being disabled.  It is somewhat worse in the winter months since everybody has the heat on. I don’t tolerate heat- to the point I shaved my head again (well, I had a professional do it; I wanted to avoid slicing my ears off).  With my ‘normal’ hair (mine is really, really thick), I can’t tolerate the heat it retains. Think dead animal on my scalp.  I also have to see a surgeon this next week about some (more) cysts on my scalp that are painful.  They need to go, so the poor doc has to be able to see my head.  The other issues with disability include being in more pain when it’s cold outside, and my joints just not liking getting in and out of the car.  Sounds wimpy.  Maybe it is.  All I know is that I have to manage it the best I can- so whatever I can get delivered to my door (Schwann’s frozen foods, Walmart for laundry and paper goods, Amazon for miscellaneous stuff, etc), I do.   It’s still very painful just grocery shopping for the dairy/fresh items, but it definitely helps to get stuff delivered when possible.  I’m thankful that those things are available.

Early January is rough for anniversaries.  January 7, 1978 my figure skating coach’s six kids were murdered by her then husband.  I was 14 years old, and it rocked me to the core. I can’t imagine how she has done.  I think about her often, and have always prayed that somehow she’s managed to have a life after that.  January 10, 1987, I was raped and ‘tortured’ (word the newspaper used- don’t want to sound overly dramatic on my own) for 6 hours when the uncle of a baby I took care of regularly lied his way into my apartment… he did things to me I’d never heard of, being very naive…and a virgin.  I’ve never let anybody get close to me since then.  I’d always thought I’d have a family of my own.  That day changed a lot- but I survived.  And I’m thankful for that.

In 1982, the semester that started in late January was a bad one.  I was in the midst of some serious eating disorder stuff, and the depression I only get when I’m starving and purging.  I ended up getting sent to a psych hospital (no eating disorder ‘treatment centers’ back then) for several months.  That was a bad year. I ended up attempting suicide the next semester when I returned to the university.  I was in a coma, and then shipped back to the psych hospital for many more months, once I woke up and was medically cleared.  Things weren’t done in a week to 10 days back then.  I spent about 8 months altogether at Forest Hospital (Des Plaines, IL) in 1982.  They were good to me; I did do better, but the eating disorders were on-again/off-again for decades.

This is the first winter since early 2010 (when I was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia) that I haven’t been on chemotherapy or waiting for the built up amounts of toxins to leave my body.  I’m still dealing with the weight gain and changes in my blood sugars and insulin doses, as chemo messed that all up.  The diabetes is getting better faster (great endocrinologist with a Joslin Diabetes Center affiliate here in town). I wasn’t on steroids long enough for that to be an issue- it’s ‘just’ the arsenic, tretinoin (ATRA), methotrexate, and M6Mercaptopurine.  They rearranged my chromosomes (literally…. they ‘re-translocated’ the arms of 15 and 17). I guess it will take some time to get my body back to ‘normal’.  I hate the weight.  I’ve had a long history of eating disorders, so can’t just do some crash diet and hope for the best- it could easily trigger a relapse that I just can’t afford.  But I’m going to turn 50 in late 2013; I don’t want to  look like this when I turn 50.  I didn’t want to look like this at all… but it was chemo or die.

And yet, I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m alive- that’s the big one; people with APL sometimes aren’t diagnosed until autopsy (and I know of 2 people just a few months ago who only had one and two days from the time they were told the diagnosis and the time they died; one was 11 years old).  I’ve survived being raped, and other stuff. And, with my health, I am glad to just have a day when I can get the basics done around here.  I’d like to be around people more, and am hoping to get to that Bible Study I’d mentioned in another post; last week (the first meeting of this topic- Ephesians) I wasn’t feeling well- that doesn’t mix well with indoor heat, even with my ice vest.  A childhood friend who I’ve reconnected with on FB came over one Saturday, and helped me with some generalized clutter (result of not being able to unpack after the last time I’d packed to move BACK to Texas), and is coming again- that has been a huge help.  I want to get this place puppy-proofed for the new puppy I hope to get this spring.  That helps, too.  I can’t imagine not having that hope for a new little companion to fill the dog-shaped hole in my heart.

2013 isn’t starting badly… just ‘complicated’ by past and present stuff mixing together.   There is still more good than bad.  I still have a lot of interests, and while I can’t physically do a lot, I do find things to keep me happy and make me laugh, especially online.  Blogging has been a great way to blow off steam, and some days that makes  a big difference.  🙂

Freak Magnet

Sometimes I’ve wondered if I’ve got a sign on my forehead that screams “ALL FREAKS, C’mon over” !  I’m sure that everybody has experienced the same sorts of people in different ways…and some days I’m not so sure.  Maybe some of it has to do with being a nurse. People see nurses as helpful and nurturing, when we’re just as weird as everybody else- we just get paid to take care of the lost and vulnerable. And then there are the folks who would fit nicely  on the side of ‘Criminal Minds’ that either gets shot or lengthy prison sentences. The spooky people.  Not all are dangerous to others, but the danger to self thing eeks in there. Regardless, they don’t fit well into a ‘normal’ life.

Let me start with a director of nurses (DON) who had been one in a line of them at a very nice nursing home after the ‘good’ DON had gone on maternity leave. He happened to come along during a time when a new administrator was also getting used to all of us.  Initially, he seemed a bit intense, but not pathological.  One of my duties when I was working on the weekends as the RN Supervisor was to log in the discontinued medications that did little but take up room in the storage cabinets in locked medication rooms. I counted each pill on each card of pills (packaged at the pharmacy for nursing home med carts), bottle of loose pills, or made sure injectable medication vials had a reasonable amount left for what the sign-out sheet said it should have.  Narcotics (or ‘scheduled’ drugs) had to be accounted for separately and documented on specific forms.  It was mundane, but necessary. At one point, the DON asked me for the keys to the file cabinet  in his office where we kept the ‘logged’ drugs.  He was the boss, so I handed them over- no problem.

A few weeks went by, and the nurses on the floors said that nobody had picked up the growing piles of discontinued cards and bottles of medication for a while; they wanted them out of the way. I asked the DON if he wanted me to log the meds in that coming weekend ( I think this was either a Thursday or Friday). He looked at me and closed the door behind me in his office.  Gulp.  He then pulled out a .44 semi-automatic handgun out of the desk. That alone was a huge, HUGE problem. Texas was pretty gun-friendly, but in 1994, guns and old folks weren’t a good pairing.  He pointed the barrel at me as I sat down (which I decided to do before I keeled over), and asked me if I was going to tell anybody about our little talk.  Nope. My lips were sealed. Everything was very cool (as I’m imagining my body being found after the weekend, ripe and smelling up the place).  He handed me the keys and told me to go ahead and log in the meds that were piling up.  NO problem. Happy to do so.  Can’t wait to get started. Did he want coffee with that?

But that weekend, I noticed that every last narcotic form I’d filled out had been rewritten in his handwriting, with no way to figure out what had been removed from the lists I’d been keeping. I had a very specific way of tying the bags when I was done, and how I kept the narcotic sheets separate.  It was a federal law that this all be done according to the rules. I liked following the rules 🙂   I didn’t like having my work screwed with by a gun-weilding nutjob of a boss.

I  didn’t like even knowing about the gun. But I was also initially scared enough that he would shoot me, run off with piles of drugs, and nobody know why I was found belly up until they start looking at the paperwork. By then, he’d be on some uncharted island in the South Pacific, in some hut powered by a bamboo bicycle generator and drinking coconut drinks. The new administrator didn’t know any of us that well, and I wasn’t super tight with the assistant DON, but I had to tell someone. The ADON ‘G’ was outside smoking late that next Monday afternoon after nearly everyone had gone home. I told her about the gun.   She knew me well enough to know I wouldn’t come up with some sordid story about someone.  We agreed that we’d both go to the new administrator in the morning, before the gunslinger got to work.  We did, and told the newbie administrator. By that time, the DON had turned in his resignation, and it was decided he need not complete the two-week notice. He was free as a bird.  I have no idea what else was done about reporting him to the board of nurses (not sure if mandatory reporting was in place at that time), but I was told (after he left)  that before he left, he’d taken it upon himself to just stop some lady’s order for morphine- pills and injectable- and they were never seen again.  That created a HUGE mess with calling the doctor and getting the stuff reordered from the pharmacy for the poor little lady who still needed the stuff. The floor nurses were going nuts counting everything that wasn’t nailed down, and making sure their names were clear (they were).  I’ll never forget the business end of that .44 charcoal gray gun ‘looking’ at me.  “Two in the chamber, ten in the clip”…. whatever that means, it didn’t sound good.

Another time at this same facility, there was a sweet certified nurses assistant who was noticeably quiet, but she got her work done and wasn’t an attendance issue. Those sorts tended to fly under the radar. She was probably in her early 20s, and a member of the ‘fashion isn’t my thing’ club (I also belonged to that club- no judgement from me). We all worse scrubs while working, so looked pretty much the same (in different colors and prints, depending on the department), but when she came to get her paycheck, she dressed ‘depressed’. That was my first clue. I’d talked to her several times, and we had a decent rapport. I could tell there were things going on, but didn’t have any reason to pry. Her work was acceptable. I was part of the nursing management bunch, but did patient assessments and staff training/infection control- not the hiring/firing/counseling stuff.  Anyway, I kept an eye on her.

One afternoon, I got a call from the next door emergency room. They had the CNA there. Her friend wanted to talk to me.  Seems this CNA had slit her wrists. I wasn’t sure why I was being called, but the friend asked if I could talk to the staffing nurse (ADON) and let her know that ‘L’ wasn’t going to be there for her next shift; ‘L’ didn’t want to talk to anybody. I asked where she was going when she was done at the ER (as in what psych facility is going to evaluate her?). She was being discharged home.  With sharp things. By herself.  I didn’t like that at all. I knew ‘L’ lived alone. She never mentioned any family or support system.  OK, not good.   When they left there, I needed to see ‘L’ with my own eyes, so asked them to come over to work, and I’d talk to her.  She agreed via her friend.

In the meantime, I tracked down the social worker (from hell, normally) who was still there; I needed help with this one. And she got nice about it all, which I was thankful for. She got on the phone and started making calls re: acute psychiatric facilities who would do an impromptu assessment as soon as we got ‘L’ over to their facility.  I don’t remember who the DON was at that time, but I think she was gone for the day (it wasn’t gun-boy).  ‘L’ got over to the nursing home in a little while (wrists wrapped in gauze), and agreed to go with the social worker and me to the psych hospital, just to see ‘what her options were’.  I was hoping they’d keep her for a few days, so she’d be safe.  She was worried about losing her job if she checked in to a psych facility, but I told her that being checked out, and getting help was going to help her keep her job. Our administrator (before the one with gun-boy) was very compassionate.  ‘L’  agreed, and the psych facility did decide to admit her. She was in and out of there over the next few months (once after I sent the police looking for her as she had uncharacteristically not shown up for work), and ended up getting shock treatments.  She came back to work eventually, and while a bit subdued, she was doing better.  I learned more about her past, and she had reason to feel overwhelmed and hopeless.  Everybody has a history…

Another coworker (an LVN at an acute care hospital working on the neuro floor) had some ‘issues’.  At work, she was fine.  Not employee-of-the-month, but she did OK when she was there. We were both fairly ‘young’ nurses- as far as time out of school, and also just plain young, in our early 20s.  ‘A’ had all sorts of respiratory problems- mostly asthma. She had some attendance issues as a result, and the hospital had a ruthless attendance policy. She could be admitted in the hospital on oxygen, and it counted against her attendance record.  Anyway, a few months after I’d been raped and beaten in a very publicized case, ‘A’ calls me and says she had been attacked overnight by a former boyfriend, and needed help getting her dog to the vet. Fido had been cut by the boyfriend’s knife per her report.  I immediately agreed and went to pick them up.  Something seemed ‘off’.  Fido was frisky and happy to see me (his  usual goofy, non-traumatized behavior). There was a tiny cut  on his paw (more worthy of a bandaid than a trip to the vet), and ‘A’ had some odd looking cuts on her neck…the depth wasn’t something I’d expect from someone who had been seriously sliced by a rabid ex-boyfriend, and the way it went from deeper to more shallow from left to right looked kinda self-inflicted to me (she was right handed). But I didn’t want to believe that.

‘A’ told me she’d been whacked in the head, and felt horrible, but after going to the vet, how about we go get some lunch and maybe do some shopping.  😮 Everyone deals with stress differently…but another piece of the puzzle wasn’t fitting well. But, I agreed.  We spent most of the day together, and during that time she told me that the police had asked her for this guy’s photo- but she didn’t feel like getting it for them. WHAT? Not helping to apprehend this guy?  I had no ability to understand that ‘reasoning’ at all.  I’d been held in my apartment for 6 hours, finally escaped and called 911, and police ended up shooting the guy in my bedroom when I’d been attacked less than 7 months earlier. Why was she doing this?

I decided I needed to get home, and she suddenly begins to have symptoms of a concussion.  Puking, head pounding, vision a bit blurry…. so she now needs a ride to the ER for a CT scan and neuro evaluation.  The day was getting so very long (and more and more weird). She ended up being cleared for any sort of head injury, and told that basically she was fine.  I dropped her off at her apartment, drove like a bat out of hell to get home, and turned my answering machine off when I got there. She could dial 911 in a real emergency when she was going to cooperate with an investigation.  I was done.  I was no longer working at the same hospital by that time, so rarely saw her… I’ll never think that she was telling me the whole story- OR stop wondering if the police had ever actually been notified of the ‘attack’.  What made me even more mad was that the dog had been involved.

I got much more jaded when crises came up with some coworkers.  I had my own stuff to deal with, and had also become much better at sorting through when someone needed  help that was appropriate for a friend or coworker to handle.  I had times when coworkers helped me through some lousy times, and most of that was when they offered; I didn’t seek them out.  I was always very thankful for their time.  But,  I got careful about that as well, as crises junkies also like to be on the ‘helper’ end, not just the ‘helpee’.  One in particular had been a huge support system during some eating disorder stuff that was pretty serious, but when I got better, she wanted nothing to do with me. That hurt a lot.  There are a lot of people out there who are taking care of people who need keepers themselves.  Or who help to fulfill their own self worth needs.  There’s nothing wrong with finding satisfaction with helping people (professionally or on a friendship level), as long as the needs of  those being helped are the first consideration- not some twisted need for being needed.  Sometimes it’s a fine line.

I can think of others… these just stood out tonight.  Stay tuned for the continued saga of the  wacky side of nursing, and whacked nurses. :/

Yo, Doc…I Don’t Worship You

I went to see a surgeon about getting rid of some cysts that I get on my scalp. I wait until I have a ‘crop’ of them before bothering with them, but eventually they do get infected, so I prefer that they are gone.  This isn’t anything new. I hadn’t anticipated any problems.  This same surgeon had inserted and removed my Hickman catheter for chemotherapy. He’d been pretty decent to deal with.

So,  I go to the appointment, and he’s deciding what he wants to do, and we both agree that doing it under a local anesthetic would be fine. I’d prefer to not get knocked out; anesthesia doesn’t sit well with me and I’ve had some nasty complications.  Then he tells me he’s going to do it in a small town about 15 miles from here. There are three good sized hospitals (250-350 beds) and an ambulatory surgery center here in town. In the little town, they have a ‘branch’ hospital of one of the larger hospitals. If something unexpected happens, I’m either stuck in that dinky hospital, or I’ve got to be transferred.  And why should I have to go out of town to a smaller place?  The nurse said that the doc thinks it’s quieter over there. Really?  I’m being inconvenienced for his convenience?  I didn’t see him walk on water. I’m not impressed. I think he may live there, and it would let him sleep in later instead of driving here early in the morning. But that’s pure speculation.

Then I tell him that the driving distance is an issue. So he tells me that I’d have to have someone drive me here in town even for a local anesthetic, so just find someone. At that point I hadn’t brought my dad into the picture (the one who does the driving in these situations).  I am always within a cab ride or bus ride away from home no matter where I go for medical stuff; I always want a backup plan even if dad is going to drive me. There is no bus between that little town and home, and a cab would be more expensive than the surgery.  I told the doc I don’t have anybody to ask, and he insists that I can come up with someone. I told him I’d have to ‘rent’ someone (which will be the case when the time comes that my dad isn’t available).

That made me mad. When I say that I don’t have a lineup of people to drag me through two counties, I mean it  (well, dad is willing to take me there, but that wasn’t the point).  Not everybody has a list of people who will be available to help them at the drop of a hat.  Not everybody has friends that they’re in contact with regularly- or even in the same state.  I’ve got one friend here who just had some significant complications after one surgery, that required another surgery, and she’s still recovering. She also has a toddler, and works part time when she’s not recovering from surgeries. We’ve talked, and had FaceBook contact, but I haven’t seen her for 27 years. I know she’d help if she could.  I know a very few other people who also work, and I haven’t seen them since 1985 either; it’s all FaceBook contact. 

I don’t go out of my way to be difficult, and I’m not obligated to go into every reason why I want something done closer to home. If that little town had some medical center of the universe, I might think differently (but probably not for some stupid scalp cysts), but it doesn’t. To me, it’s like ‘The Podunk Urgent Care and Taxidermy Shop’…not really fair, since it’s associated with a good hospital (actually my preferred facility IN TOWN). I have to have the local anesthetic without epinephrine, which will increase blood loss- but the epinephrine would make the dysautonomia go crazy, and there’s a considerable risk of ending up in ICU. I’m not just being stubborn. I need to be closer to home, in a decent sized facility, or even the ambulatory care center, where they deal with emergency transfers if needed.  Then I got to thinking that maybe something was wrong with the doc being banned from the hospitals here, but the info online didn’t show any problems.  It was purely for his convenience or preference.  Yeah, well buddy? I’ve got some preferences as well, that revolve around safety and getting this done without any medical mayhem happening because of being somewhere that isn’t as equipped to deal with blood loss and/or the dysautonomia. And yes, he knows about the dysautonomia.

So, I got the call from the nurse at his office thinking she’s going to schedule the procedure out there in the back forty, and I told her I’m not going to be going there. She then asks “So I should cancel it?”, and my unpleasant, sarcastic self is thinking, ‘Why no ! Let’s just let him show up to NOBODY, and he can see my list of people who can drag me around the state -right there in front of him’. But I was nice. Sorta. I just said that would be fine. End of conversation.

I’ll see my regular doc on Monday, and ask her for a referral to someone who doesn’t do cross-country surgery. I’m sure there are plenty to choose from. And dad will be happy to lug me around here in town whenever it’s scheduled. 🙂