I was on the tail end of a twelve hour shift, at the hospital. It was my fourth day in a row. I was mentally & emotionally drained. My scrubs were splashed with blood & the bio-hazard warnings were buzzing faintly in my ears. I paid them little heed. At this point, I was much too exhausted & very close to punching the clock & going home. I didn’t want to change clothes. I was to be off for 3 days. I would rest and skate with Rhino, Preston& Andy.
I had been admitting a 59 year old, obese man with heart problems & renal issues…his heart & kidneys were failing. Not so good. He was pretty demanding & needy. I understood. He was scared. However, I still had a bit of work to accomplish, so I tried to keep him comfortable & deal with the mess of paperwork & doctors orders that routinely go along with an admission to the unit. He was a bank executive, and a pilot in the Air Force, he quickly told me. He let me know my place in his scheme of things. He questioned my every action. He was a curmudgeon.
I looked at this overweight, ill man & wondered how he became this way. After all, I knew how I turned out the way I did. I knew that I was a mess inside. I would go home from work, taking all the pain & suffering with me. I would put Keith Jarretts- ‘Nagoya’ on the CD player, open a bottle of Stoli, and drown in a river of my own making. Who could I talk to of my household gods? Rage, alcohol, loneliness & despair. I shook my head sadly. I had a messed up childhood- in some ways -and a huge inferiority complex from it. I guess that I had finally stopped blaming my parents & tortured myself with my fears. It wasn’t their fault anyway. They did the best they could. Damn! A person could go nuts with such thoughts.
I was out in the hallway, striding toward the supply room when I heard a call, ” I need some help in here!” The voice had that urgency & panic familiar to me. I knew that something was wrong. I rushed back into the patients room & saw my admission patient turning the wrong color. He was dusky & slipping fast. We all went into our mode. One person checked vitals, one called for more help & the machinery of life-saving quickly fell in order. I performed CPR on the man after he ‘coded’. The ‘Code Blue’ team responded with the ‘crash cart’ and we -collectively- brought the man back from the darkness.
It probably wouldn’t be for long, though. He was a physical wreck, from years of indulgent living, sumptuous meals & neglecting his health. I pictured his home on a Friday night. The smell of good cigars, rich food, business banter & wine-inspired laughter. The families gold-laced, framed photographs in the hallways, spoke of assured destiny & old money. We brought him back to life again…
After a few weeks, he was stabilized & ready to be discharged. He would need careful monitoring & home health visits. He sent for me & I stopped in his room to see him. He was with his family at this point. He looked different…not so haughty or entitled. He spoke humbly, thanking me for my efforts & for performing CPR & life-saving measures on him. His family said much the same to me. My fingers fluttered & I fidgeted nervously. I didn’t like this part of the job. For me, it was easier to zip them into a bag.
I wished him & his family well. I hope that he makes it. I hope he sees his grandchildren grow older. I hope that he’s not such a prick any longer. I drove home in the early morning light. My shift ended at 7am. I was wrung out. On entering my room, I looked longingly at a bottle of Crown Royal on the nightstand. It glittered wetly. My demise. I turned away, showered & went to bed. Pulling the sheets up over my head to block out the morning light, I had one final thought before sleep took me. If I helped to give that man more life, then how can I consider my life a waste? Thank you MRZ for the image. Skate-Ozzie