Unsung Heroes…

Actually there are lots of unsung heroes in the world today. But I’m thinking especially of the doctors and nurses of our medical system. I’ve just spent two weeks in the hospital, a new experience for me, and I was impressed at what I found. Decent food, caring nurses, helpful doctors – the only sour note that I can remember was a cleaner who grumped because someone had peed on the floor of the washroom.

Hmm. I wonder who would have done that?

One Night

One night stands out to me as I look back. I was in a four-man ward – actually a transition ward intended for overnight patients or patients almost well enough to go home. On this particular day, everyone moved out but me, and three new people moved in. Two had just had operations, and the third one needed help for everything. Between the three of them they kept our poor nurse hopping. One fellow roamed the floors at all hours, and even tried to help the older man out of bed to go to the washroom (he needed professional help, usually two nurses). Fortunately, the nurse came running in time to avoid a catastrophe. Another man wanted fresh socks because he soaked his feet on the wet washroom floor (the nurse said it was just water, but it was awful sticky water, I must say…). I didn’t count how many times they pushed their “nurse” button between them, but for a while she almost wore a path from the nurse’s station to our room.
Through it all our nurse remained cheerful (mostly). But I suspect she was glad when her shift was over.

Another Night

Another night stands out to me, in the same room. Two older men were moved into my room after minor operations, so that they could be evaluated overnight before they went home. They were friendly, but one became confused during the night. I don’t know how often he tried to jump ship during the night – catheter, IV, and all. But it seemed like about every time I drifted off into a deep sleep, I woke up to hear nurses running into our room, trying to avert a calamity. Finally, they packed him into a wheel chair and moved him down the hall to where they could keep their eye on him.

And One More Night

Hospitals are not noted to be places to get a good night’s sleep. Another night, I was all alone in my room and enjoying my privacy. But soon after midnight I woke with a start because someone crashed into my bed with a stretcher. What? Oh, a new roommate. Back to sleep after they got him settled in. Beep, beep. The nurse call woke me up – as did his gasping. He couldn’t breathe, and they came running. They called in a technician. Then an emergency room doctor. And the nurse kept talking, trying to keep the patient from panicking. Lots of interesting events, but not really conducive to sleeping. Finally, they hauled him back out and took him to the ICU. Blissful sleep – it felt so good, until about six o’clock when, crash, you guessed it, ANOTHER stretcher ran into my bed. The nurses on this floor were great but apparently the orderlies had all, flunked drivers ed.

It’s All About People

I could keep on telling stories, because as I look back my stay was actually fairly eventful and full of human interest. But what really impressed me, was the staff at the hospital. A nurse needs to be ready do almost anything comes their way. On the one hand, they have to be able to install catheters and IV needles. On the other, they might need to change a diaper for someone with fecal incontinence. Plus, they need to understand symptoms, and be ready for emergencies at any time.
Nurses need a lot of patience. My veins apparently vanish when I see a nurse coming in the door with the IV kit, so I really tried their patience at times. When I arrived at the hospital, I needed a blood transfusion. Badly. And the emergency room nurse could not, for the life of her, get my IV needle into a vein. I was too sick to really care, but I think she actually had sweat drops on her forehead. It took another nurse to finally get it. That wasn’t so bad; one time it took four nurses about three hours to get me hooked up.
Nurses are constantly working with people, and some of them could try the patience of a Mother Teresa. I don’t recall a nurse getting really upset with a patient during the time I was in the hospital. Probably the night nurse in the second illustration above came the closest, but she actually handled it quite well.
It also helps if nurses have a sense of psychology. I listened in on a nurse trying to settle down a man who was sure that someone had tricked him into coming to the hospital. He kept insisting on going home and the nurse kept telling him he couldn’t. He was sure that there had to be a back door he could sneak out of, if only she would tell him where it was. She kept the conversation going. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear the end of it, because I fell asleep, but I’m sure she came out on top.
I had a terrific medical team looking after me while I was in the hospital. One morning I was eating breakfast and saw a gathering outside my door. After the discussion was over, all five came in and it turned out that they were the surgical team and they were concerned about my future after I went home.
It turned out I didn’t get to go home right away. They told me almost every day for a week that I could probably go the next day, but it didn’t happen. The problem was that I had surgery one day, then landed serious blood clots in my one leg, the next. So, the specialist looking after the blood clot was playing ping pong with the surgeons. My blood clots required blood thinners to dissolve them. But when they gave me blood thinners I had internal bleeding. They had quite a time striking a balance that finally worked and I could go home.
I can’t imagine being a doctor, playing Russian roulette with people’s lives. I don’t think I’d ever sleep. But they stayed calm through it all.
Anyone in the medical field probably will become either calloused or unselfish. Mostly they seem to become unselfish, though I met one person who I think was calloused. Or pretended to be – I’m still not sure which. But I needed a filter put in my vein to stop any blood clot pieces from sneaking through to my lungs. The only problem was that the local hospital only had two doctors who could install them, and one was on vacation and the other was off for the weekend. The closest hospital that could do it was three hours away. Have you ever had a six-hour trip in an ambulance? Well, I haven’t either, because that doctor who was off for the weekend came in extra to do the procedure for me. When I thanked him for coming in, he just smiled and shrugged, remarking, “This made a lot more sense than sending you all the way to [the other hospital].”
I learned a lot of lessons during my hospital stay. I learned some things about praying (that’s another story, for another time), and I learned a lot about getting along with people by watching a group of professionals at work. I’ve heard and read a lot of horror stories by people who apparently have had bad experiences. But I can’t relate to those and I hope I never can. It seems to me that dealing with doctors and nurses is similar to dealing with most other people. If you are nice to them and appreciate what they are doing for you, they will normally return the favor.

I’m afraid I wouldn’t make a very good doctor or nurse. But I’m sure glad that there are people who do.

About Lester Bauman

Free lance writer and editor. Author of a dozen books, husband of one wife, father of six, grandpa of ten.
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