For those fans who have not given up on me and still check this site on occasion, I do apologize. Sometimes the words flow freely. Sometimes they are nowhere to be found. Sometimes I get busy doing other things. Sadly, I've realized that my ability to multi-task has gone down the tube. Lately I've tried to remember how in the world I ever juggled more than one, possibly two(or 10), "life" balls at the same time. I know I did it, I just don't know how. Is this yet another symptom of menopause?
When all else fails, I find I can blame my middle-aged failings on hormones. As if this is a universal excuse, other women my age nod their heads with an X-chromosome understanding. "Ohhhhhhh," they say with an empathetic nod of their heads. Like wooly mittens and a warm winter scarf, the drying up of ovaries and the mis-firing of brain synapses are a matched pair.
I may not have been writing, but I certainly have not been resting on my stack of princess pillows eating bon bons. For the last few weeks, I traded my typing skills for triage and first aid. My sister had some pretty major surgery. It fell to the dog and me to see that she was properly nursed. I've spent a good part of the last 12 years as a caregiver, but truly, my job description was more about hand-wringing and pacing the floor than actual hands on wound care and drug distribution.
Nursing has not always been strong suit. Years ago, when my daughter was pretty young, I fainted at the sight of her bloody mouth after some tooth extractions. The attending nurse made the mistake of asking me to stay with the poor kid until she awoke from the anesthesia. The next thing I knew I was coming to on a cot right next to Wendy with a washcloth on my head.
There was also the time when my son, who was not yet a teenager but could swear like a well-seasoned sailor, took a nose dive over the handlebars of his bike. I was greeted at the front door by a good Samaritan and a kid I had trouble recognizing as my own because his face was so mangled. I was able to get him to the ER but as soon as the doctor mentioned stitches, I felt the room begin to spin. I'm embarrassed to admit it but I kissed my child goodbye and stood outside the curtain, shocked by the cursing but unable to get my head out from between my knees.
So I gotta tell you, without sounding too braggadocious, I've impressed myself over the last few weeks. It is probably a good thing that I didn't know exactly what to expect. I thought I'd make some chicken soup and fluff some pillows, stuff like that. Imagine my surprise the first time I saw the drains coming from Jean's stomach. Drains as in tubes coming out of holes in her gut which deposited the contents of the wound into a plastic bulb; we're talking blood and goo. But I took a breath and emptied the thing like I was Florence Nightengale's long lost cousin.
We made it through the first week with the help of a lot of prayers and drugs. Thinking back on it, I'm still not sure how we got Jean in and out of compression pants that were meant to hold everything together. It makes sense. Cram all the tubes, bandages and booboos into a pair of tight stretch pants, snap the velcro together and zip the zipper. Nothing's going anywhere, right? Except for the pants get covered in crusty gunk and need to be cleaned. Once removed they don't go back on very easily. Imagine if you will, trying to get into control top pantyhose, a size too small. Now imagine doing it with your gut stitched so that you can't stand up straight. Then put yourself in my shoes [it's all about me! Remember, Jean had drugs to ease her pain, I was on my own!] the official zipper upper. I cried every time poor Jean invoked the Lord's name and when it was all over, patient back in her chair and under the influence of powerful narcotics, I sat on the floor feeling a little woozy, wondering if I had it in me to do it all again.
It was a few days before we noticed that the real nurse in the room was our black dog. Like the Darling's dog, Nana, from Peter Pan, Black Beauty was the self appointed patient sitter. She sat next to Jean's chair day in and day out. When we got up to walk down the hall, she followed not only looking concerned but making sure we were never in harm's way. When changed bandages, she came with us, making it clear to the cats that they were not welcome in the treatment room.
I remember how she used to sit near my mom's chair, but I didn't realize then that she was on alert. I've noticed that she refuses to eat her breakfast until Dad is up and out of bed. But watching her keep watch over Jean gave me a whole new appreciation for (wo)man's best friend. Black Beauty is more than a sweet dog, she's faithful and loyal and deserves all the Milk Bones she can get. I'm really proud of her.
When I started this post, I was sitting next to my Dad's hospital bed. I'm glad to report that whatever pain he was having dissipated without too much intervention. I'm also glad to report that I made it through the ER without needing care myself. Looks like my staying power and/or nursing skills are improving! Although Dad was in a hospital bed, hooked up to all kinds of monitors so that if anything went wrong he was right where he needed to be, I worried a little about leaving him. He assured me, however, that he'd sleep through the night; and his nurse assured me everything would be just fine. (Yeh, right, she's paid to tell family members things like that!) I think I know how Beauty felt as she sat at the front door watching the EMTs wheel dad out to an awaiting ambulance. She could have opted for taking a chunk out of someone's leg, but decided instead to lie back down on her pillow and rest until her services were needed again. Following her cue, I'm on my way to bed. [Photo L: Beauty taking a much needed break!]
"She proved to be quite a treasure of a nurse. How thorough she was at bath-time, and up at any moment of the night if one of her charges made the slightest cry." James M. Barrie, Peter Pan