Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Early 1973

Life was happening fast. I could see the end of school coming. I was single and directionless, unless you count as a direction the direction of whatever fun was going on.

I did graduate in the spring, and took a job in the Intensive Care unit at the Veteran's Hospital in Birmingham. I was making big bucks, had 4 weeks of vacation yearly, and had nice benefits, none of which meant a thing to me. I was suprised to find that I was good at nursing, and did well on the job. I do have some funny stories about working there- and it was intense to say the least! The medical center is part of the Southside so I was right in my element.

We did everything as nurses at the VA- the more experienced nurses ran the place-instructing the docs (they were all Residents from the University of Alabama medical school) who were always just passing through. We had male "orderlies", there were no techs. We did our own respiratory therapy, were our own pharmacists, made up all the IV's, peritoneal dialysis, etc. We had people on drips with no IV pumps at all, ventilators, cardiac monitors- we did it all. We even had a lab on the unit for putting in transvenous pacemakers. Have you ever sat and twiddled a knob to capture a heartbeat or run a dopamine drip rate up and down to keep someone alive? I scare myself when I think of what I was doing at 21 years old.

I loved the nurses there- they were such great role models for me. They were confident, well educated and kind to me. Firm, and kind. That is, the nurses I worked with were kind- not the administrative nurses. They were a whole 'nother animal.

One story involves a young guy that was in a coma. One day he was on a gurney coming back from a test and as I was wheeling him back on the unit he opened his eyes, looked up at me and said "kiss me"! In my astonishment and youthful enthusiasm I gave him a kiss on the cheek. I was of course immediately called in and given a lecture, and written up. Another time I slept late. I was called within minutes of not showing up, again lectured up one side and down the other. Nurses don't just not show up. I learned that lesson really well that day. Another evening our usually horribly busy unit just emptied out. We had three stable patients. In those days they did not send nurses home if "overstaffed". The young doc that was on the unit said "let's play some cards". Next day we all got lectured and written up.

One day we had 4 Code Blues at the same time. Another evening, I was the lone nurse in the MICU with 9 patients, 2 orderlies and had to prepare and administer 4 peritoneal dialyses at the same time. If anyone reads this that knows what I am talking about- is that even humanly possible? In spite of all that, I did learn a lot there, and the things I got to do were exciting. I worked back and forth in the CCU and the MICU so I did get a lot of training that always served me well.

So I was working. And at the same time I guess I needed a little more excitement in my social life so I started seeing someone that I had met through my ex-husband that had piqued my curiosity. That is the beginning of a story of epic proportions. It will take a while to figure out how to tell that story. So much of it is ineffable. to be continued

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