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 and emotionally drained. My scrubs were splashed with blood and the bio-hazard warnings were buzzing faintly in my mind. I paid them little heed. At this point, I was much too exhausted and very close to punching the clock. I was going home. I didn’t want to change clothes. I was to be off for three days. I would rest and skate with Rhino, Preston and Andy.
I had been admitting a 59 year old, obese man with heart problems and renal issues… his heart and kidneys were failing. Not so good. He was pretty demanding and needy. I understood. He was scared. However, I still had a bit of work to accomplish, so I tried to keep him comfortable and deal with the mess of paperwork and 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 and 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 and suffering with me. I would put Keith Jarretts- ‘Invocations’ 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 and 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 and just 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 and panic familiar to me. I knew that something was wrong. I rushed back into the patients room and saw my admission patient turning the wrong color. He was dusky and slipping fast. We all went into our mode. One person checked vitals, one called for more help and 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 and neglecting his health. I pictured his home on a Friday night. The smell of good cigars, rich food, business banter and wine-inspired laughter. The families gold-laced, framed photographs in the hallways, spoke of assured destiny and old money. We brought him back to life again…
After a few weeks, he was stabilized and ready to be discharged. He would need careful monitoring and home health visits. He sent for me and 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 and for performing CPR on him. His family said much the same to me. My fingers fluttered and I fidgeted nervously. I didn’t like this part of the job. For me, it was easier to coldy zip them into a bag.
I wished him and 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 7:00 am. 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 and 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, how can I consider my own life a waste? Thank you MRZ for the image. Skate-Ozzie