Jeff Gonsalves joins us again with one of his humorous hospital rants. Who knew a hospital could be so entertaining. (g)
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I've worked as a pediatric R.N. for over ten years. It's a nerve-wracking job, brimming with stressors, and often the only way to maintain my sanity is to keep a sense of humor and laugh at myself. Below are a few more "situations" that tweak my patience until I consider unlocking the narcotics drawer and stealing a few carpujects of intravenous Valium.
Situation #1: Get your Grubby Paws off my Earl Grey
The other night I entered the nursing station, searching for my cup of black tea. It was 2:00 a.m. and I was exhausted. I hadn't slept in twenty hours and the first half of my hospital shift was extremely frantic. Now I needed my "brain booster." I've sworn many times that if teenagers appreciated the energizing effects of black tea, they would stop spending hundreds of dollars a month on Red Bulls and Full Throttles. A couple mugs of Pekoe and my heart jackhammers, my cerebrum buzzes, and my fingers tremble. Everything you could want from taurine and more!
Anyway, I couldn't find my drink. I asked around and discovered that nurse "Gina" had thrown it away. I bit back my irritation and smiled.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because it didn't have a lid."
"Oh. Um, who cares?"
"Administration. There's a new policy saying that beverage cups at the nursing station must have a lid."
"So it doesn't spill? I mean, I can understand if it's steaming hot and tips over and burns someone. But my tea is cold."
"It's not sanitary."
"Oh. Should I pour bleach in it first? Or scrub the cup with Ajax?"
"It could have germs."
I laughed. "There's germs floating in the air. If they fall in my tea, they didn't spontaneously procreate. They were already there."
"If a beverage is sitting out, it can become colonized."
Suddenly we were entering the Theater of the Absurd. "It takes a long time for bacteria to colonize a drink. When was the last time you saw a yellow splotch of mold floating in a cup of coffee?"
"You don't have to see germs for them to be there."
"So the germs that fall into my drink will bounce back out and suddenly become lethal? Wow, is this radioactive tea or something? Does it have mutating abilities I don't know about? Call infectious disease, STAT!"
"Jeff, don't be a wiseass."
"Gina, I love being a wiseass. But just listen for a moment. My tea is flavored with Splenda, not sugar. There's nothing in the tea that provides a medium for rapid bacterial growth."
Gina was getting flustered. "Bacteria, viruses, whatever. It's an eyesore."
"Then put it in the back lounge where no one can see it."
"For God's sake, we have more tea in the drawer! You can make another cup!"
"It's the waste that bothers me, not the effort put into brewing tea (see Hospital Rant #1)."
Gina stormed off. "I'll buy you a jumbo ice tea from the cafeteria."
I smiled. "No thanks. I hear their tea is infested with fungal spores."
Situation #2: Mistaken Identity:
Because I have rudimentary Spanish-speaking skills, I often get called into a room to translate. One night a co-worker asked me to come with her and try to communicate with a middle-aged Hispanic woman.
"What do you want me to ask?" I said.
"I need to know if her baby had a bowel movement yesterday."
Nice. Reduced from Valuable Interpreter to feces-fixated snoop.
We enter the patient room. It's pitch black because a roommate is sleeping. I approach the woman, barely able to make out her hazy form in the dark.
"Hola," I say, proceeding to question her in gringo Espanol.
The woman frowns at me.
I inquire again whether her infant has soiled his diaper in the last 24 hours.
She scowls at me as if I am asking whether she has had a breast reduction.
Obviously I am not making myself clear. One more time: "?Su bebe tenia un panal sucio ayer?"
Her violent head shake makes me feel like an eavesdropper who is interrogating her about the brand of tampon she prefers. I smile awkwardly and scurry outside.
Looking at the census board, I check the last name of the patient's mother. Vang. I smack myself on the forehead. The woman is Hmong. I just spoke Spanish to a Hmong lady.
Which speaks volumes about racial profiling, since the nurse thought she was Hispanic the entire shift, but we'll save that for another rant.
Situation #3: Absent-Minded Doctors
Doctor Heston enters the nursing station. He has been a doctor at this hospital for 30 years. Little has changed in that 30 years. Everything is arranged almost exactly the same. Why then must we have this conversation? (My subconscious replies are listed in italics).
Heston (upon sauntering into the station): "Did I admit a patient last night?"
Me: "Yes. Actually, you admitted three patients."
Heston: "It was a kid with a scratched cornea. His hair scraped his eyeball."
Me: "That would be J. Bieber. His mother is with him."
Heston: "What room is he in?"
Me: "Dude, the census board with all the patients and bed numbers is ten feet from your head! Look at the damn thing!"
Heston: "Well, who's his nurse?"
Me: "Sally. It says so right next to the patient's name."
Heston: "Where's his chart?"
Me: "The chart rack is three feet to your left, sir. The chart is in slot number 4."
Heston: "Are his parents with him?"
Me: "Has your hearing aide misfired, sir? I helpfully informed you that his mother was there ten seconds ago."
Heston: "Where's his nursing binder?"
Me: "Um, you just placed your coffee cup two inches away from it. But if you'd like I can draw you a diagram replete with longitude/latitude coordinates."
Heston: "Can I borrow your stethoscope? I left mine in my Lexus."
Me: "Sure! As long as you promise to clean the wax out of your hairy ears first."
Heston: "Is there an ophthalmoscope in the room?"
Me: "Yes, sir. It's right next to the ambu bag, both of which have been bolted there for the last quarter century."
Heston: "I'm going to see the patient. Anything you need to tell me about him?"
Me: "No, Doctor Heston. You'd probably forget every word I say in five seconds anyway."
That's it for now. In Hospital Rant #3, an infant gets revenge on a hostile man who throws a chart across the nurses' station and almost knocks the baby out of it's stroller!
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Elliott Andersson is a disturbed young boy with a dangerous psychic talent. His mother believes that he can make a victim's worst fears materialize in times of stress, so she keeps him locked in her house for days at a time. In a fit of desperation, Elliott transforms her home into a fiery vision from Hell, drawing the government's attention. A frantic chase results in the crippling of federal agents and detainment of Elliott in a maximum-security seclusion tank.
Elliott's uncle Chuck is an operative working for the Genetics Bureau, the agency that has subdued his nephew. His job is to interrogate mutants to see if they possess lethal psychic abilities. When Elliott is imprisoned, Chuck embarks on a moral roller-coaster ride, uncertain whether to protect his nephew or society. His nonchalant attitude masks an innate desire to save Elliott at all costs--even if it means leaving casualties in their wake.
An interrogation proves that he can alter reality, and the government decides to evaluate Elliott for use in military combat. Frightened, but with a strong will to survive, he resists the hands twisting him into a weapon. He is reeling on the brink of despair when his uncle forms a band of renegade soldiers to smuggle Elliott out of the Genetics Bureau.
After this daring escape attempt, Chuck and a group of aberrants board a skim-cruiser headed into an uncharted wasteland. Pursued by the military, an android stalker, and a vengeful government agent, their only hope is to reach a leper colony that may not exist.
Shadowing every victory is the suspicion that Elliott cannot control his psychic ability, and is unconsciously using it against the people he loves most.
Chuck must determine whether Elliott can be saved, or whether his psychic ability must result in his own termination. But at whose hands?
I arrived at my sister's duplex in ten minutes. Elliott's agenda had detonated like a nuclear warhead, laying everything to waste. The lawn had been replaced by a volcanic ulcer of lava, neon orange and rippling sideways. Steam sprayed out of the fire hydrant, hovering in a scalding fog over the magma. The driveway was scorched black, paved with charred cinderblocks. His illusions seemed so realistic I found myself stumbling back even after a sludgy wave of lava failed to scorch my shoe.
Ash coated the roof, as if dozens of corpses had been cremated there. Withered trees trailed smoke into the sky. Flowers in the garden became hands clutching fistfuls of air, their wrists submerged in mud. Scarlet light spilled out the windows as though the duplex had been converted into a forge.
Perhaps the most striking feature was a monstrous, forked tongue protruding beneath the garage door, flailing like a bullwhip.
Elliott's doomed, I thought, reeling on the threshold of Hades.
The air around the house was hazy, singed by heat. The odor reminded me of burnt waffles, which is what Velma had told Elliott "Hell smelled like". Amazingly, my nephew was now capable of olfactory hallucinations. He could produce scents to accompany his illusions.
Defying his horrific mirage, I tiptoed across the lava, greasy fumes puffing up to liquefy my vision. Tortured banshees wailed in my ears, hinting at condemned souls torn apart in the netherworld. With each step, chunks of scree belched up and became stepping stones so I wouldn't plunge into the inferno. On the other side, a sooty beach washed up to the front door. The sand was littered with razored shells waiting to mutilate my feet. A raven perched on the duplex's gutter, a lock of Elliott's hair pinched in its beak. Beside it rested a nest made of bones, its pink, squalling bird fetuses eaten alive by maggots.
The living room, too, had been warped by Elliott's raging psyche. Contrasting the childish panorama of Hell, it was transformed into a mortuary. The windows were colorful stained glass, fashioned with images you would see inside a church. The brown carpet was now a plush purple, the sour odor replaced by incense. A flickering TV flashed images of veiled widows mourning the deceased. Watching them turn to face the screen, their faces were identical. Each bore the stern countenance of Ms Horner, a schoolteacher who disliked Elliott because he was an "aberration". Organ music groaned from a radio, casting a pall over everything.
In the center of the living room sat a coffin on an oval dais, a red satin cloth drawn over the casket. Massive holes had been gouged in the lid, the way Elliott might render a plastic box containing his pet lizard.
Chilled, I stepped forward and heaved open the lid. Inside, Velma lay cloaked in her wedding gown, a frilly, white, moth-eaten dress. Shovelfuls of dirt smudged the gown, as though gravediggers had tried to bury her with the coffin unsealed.
Velma's hands were crossed over her chest, clutching a vidpager. She gazed up at me through jittery eyelids. Her face looked grisly, powdered with mortician's attar.
"I can't move," she sobbed.
"Shhh, take it easy." Tears crept down her cheeks. "What happened?"
"Elliott got mad because I wouldn't let him play with a neighbor boy. He created the burning bush, and I told him to stop. He threw a tantrum, screaming that he was a bad boy and was going to Hell."
"Where's Elliott now?"
"A military patrol came by and saw my lawn on fire, so they smashed down the door. Elliott slipped out the back. He jumped on his bike and tore off down the road."
"He'll be okay, sis."
"The guards had rifles."
"They won't hurt him. They're instructed to contain a juvenile, not gun him down."
"I'm afraid I'll never see him again, Chuck."
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