Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Work Hangover Wednesday: Performance Art

Holy whatever.

As a result of our clinic trying to be nice and accomodate another clinic's patients for one day, we had a scheduling fiasco that made the past two days of work over the top.

My hands would be bleeding if I had to work one more day. They already are so dry from washing them that they are cracking in a few places. And my brain hurts.

Last night after work the first thing I wanted to do was put lotion on my cracked, raw hands, and when I did, they burned. Then I wanted to cry.

I am officially toast. I am dehydrated, my lips are cracking, my hands are raw and bleeding, and I have brain fog. All I need is butter.

It's easy for nurses to get jaded, seeing the same patients day after day or week after week, for months or even years. You get tired of the little quirks people have, and the psychological baggage they bring with them. I'm sure they feel the same way about us. So it's important to constantly remind yourself what they are going through, what they need, and how you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes.

I can put lotion on my hands, chapstick on my lips, take naps, drink water, eat, pee, and in a day or two, I'll be ready to run 100 miles or so. I say this so cheerfully and casually, but I have this little thing in the back of my mind for the next few days...

Someone I talked to yesterday, who happens to be an artist, described my Walmart run as "performance art". Which I guess, in a way, it is.

Work is performance art too. Getting through a 12 hour day and not being able to go to the bathroom or eat when you need to. Then do it for two 12 hour days in a row and don't sleep much in between. You're on your last nerve and your last patient of the day brings a laundry list of new orders that you could never have anticipated and the patient has no idea how much paperwork it takes just to get those orders done, so it's the equivalent of dropping a small bomb on you, which under normal, early morning, well-rested, adequately staffed circumstances is not that big a deal. So you smile and say, "Sure, no problem!"

And you manage to keep moving, smiling and being accomodating and nice and caring and all that stuff when all you want to do is lie down and curl up in a ball under the desk and hide. Please don't ask anything else of me tonight, I'm empty.

I had a dentist appointment, and an appointment with the boob-smasher this morning. I like to schedule those fun things all together and get them over with. Especially on a day where my brain isn't functioning well and I don't have a lot of energy. I can just zone out through the whole process and wake me up when it's over.

So I went to the dentist, got my teeth cleaned, uneventful, then home for a big S-cap smoothie- I was starving but after having such clean teeth I hate to ruin that feeling by eating solid food for at least a few hours! I throw some frozen fruit, plain yogurt, a little orange juice, and some vanilla extract into the blender, open up a couple of S caps and dump the contents in, whirl it all together and I can solve my work-induced fluid, caloric, and electrolyte depletion instantly.

Then onto the boob smasher. I don't know what percentage of my readers are women who have had mammograms, but let's just say I often wonder if men had to get sensitive parts of their anatomy basically ironed in two directions, if they would freak.

Before you go in they make you take off everything from the waist up and wear these little gowns that open in the front. It's always a moment of hesitation for me and pausing to take a breath in the dressing room. I guess because of my sister's experience with breast cancer, I go into each mammogram appointment with a bit of fear. I do my little moment of silence by myself before I walk out in my gown and wait for the smasher (the correct term is mammographer) to take me back. Unless they find something concerning, you don't hear anything for a few days, and that weighs on your mind. But it's better if you hear nothing for a few days, because if they do find something they call you back right away.

It's amazing all the fine details of positioning, as they make you contort yourself to get the best possible image. Sometimes it feels like they're going to rip your breast off of your sternum. Move your arm this way, relax your shoulder, move your chin back, point your toes this way...and then you have to hold your breath! It hurts too much to take a breath in when your chest can't expand because your boob is being pinched horizontally and then diagonally, before they tell you you'll have to hold your breath.

So you stand there and asphyxiate...and it all went well except for when she discovered the scabs that are healing from my latest episode of running bra road rash and gasped...I had to explain to her that it was from chafing from a running bra she was seeing, not inflammatory breast cancer. I showed her the other side, which was identically scarred. Bilateral, 8:00 on the left, 4:00 on the right. Once she believed me, I got "smashed" and was out of there in 20 minutes from start to finish.

So I guess mammography is performance art too.

For me the worst part of going to get the mammogram is seeing other women there who, by the looks on their faces, are not there for just a routine screening. They might be my patients in the near future.

After the boob smashing I went to Runner's Roost and bought a new pair of running shoes. I finally ran through that huge pile we bought last spring before Badwater. My gazillionth pair of Brooks Addictions. Brooks should definitely be sponsoring me by now.

Remember the old Palmolive dishsoap commercials? They'd compare the hands- are they 18 or 30? As if 30 was dried up and old? I don't know why I just remembered that.

Running plans for the week: recover from work for a couple of days with just easy miles, then 3 consecutive longer, more challenging runs over the weekend. I'm shooting for something like 90-100 miles in 3 to 4 days. We'll see what happens. The weather's supposed to cooperate.

That's all I have in me for now, until after a nap.

Life is performance art.


Mike said...

My oldest daughter is a RN on the cardiac floor of a hospital. After hearing some of her stories you realize, being a Nurse is a tough, tough,job.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Mike, It is a tough job. Cardiac nursing has it's own whole set of patient-nurse interaction subtleties that make it performance art, too.

One of the challenges my coworkers and I face in our work day is the sandwich effect, in which we start and end our days with mostly patients receiving IV antibiotics once or twice a day, a good number of whom are there because of long term self-neglect, wounds from poorly controlled diabetes, poor hygiene, multiple social and psych issues, and various combinations of factors.

The middle of our day is a mix of chemotherapy, biotherapy, IV fluid hydration, and blood product transfusion patients who are there for treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

So after giving so much care all day to people who come to treatment with a wide range of physical, emotional, and psychological needs, we get that bump of people at the end of the day who have a lot of extraneous social and psychological needs when we nurses are exhausted, and might be finishing up at the same time with other patients who have been there all day getting hours-long treatments like chemotherapy regimens.

It makes for a lot of variety and diiferent opportunities to learn, which is good, but sometimes it just plain wears you out.

That's why running is such a great recovery tool!