Friday, June 29, 2007

Drove my Chevy to the levy...

For the first time in five years, I got recalled the other night. We'd had ten inches of rain in about four hours, atop already-saturated ground, and the hospital was short staffed. There were folks who simply couldn't make it to the building.

So the night supervisor started calling people from the day shift to see if they'd want to come in and work all night, then be off the next day. The recall, thankfully, was optional for people who'd already worked that day, as I had.

It had taken me an hour and a half to get home. The streets around the hospital were flooded. The major arteries in the city were flooded. They were pulling people out of their cars in high water near the party section of town. The frigging *highway* was flooded. As in, all the way home, a drive of about thirty-eight miles, I wondered if I would make it or end up flooded out like the countless cars I saw awash on the shoulder.

I did not go back in.

In other news, a patient I had cared for a couple of years ago walked in early last week to say hi. This was news because, the last time I saw her, she was going somewhere else for experimental treatment of some bizarre cancer I'd never heard of before and haven't seen since. After two years of chemo and radiation and removal and replacement of various bits of her spine, she's in remission and doing well.

The last time I saw her, I was loading her on to an ambulance stretcher from a Roto-Bed. (That's a bed that moves horizontally and vertically on its axis to keep a person who can't move from getting bedsores.) She was completely unable to move, barely able to breathe. The only thing alive about her were her eyes and her masses of gorgeous black hair.

The hair's gone, thanks to the treatment, but her eyes are the same. And she was able to hug me, tightly, when before she couldn't move her arms.

I don't normally cry at work. I *certainly* don't cry at work where other people can see me. I broke those rules when I recognized her.

Finally, I close on The House today. In about an hour and forty minutes. No, make that an hour and thirty-eight minutes. Thirty-seven. Not like I'm nervy about it, or anything. The entire process has been remarkably pain-free; I was expecting something like the soul-crushing, life-eating experience Chef Boy had in buying his first house.

The only screwup so far has been minor, and will result in me being a little late to my own closing. Like a bride who's late to her own funeral, I'm not concerned--I figure they can't start without me, so why worry?

This blog will be changing after I take posession of the house. I'll be so obsessed with wiring, insulation, paint colors, mortar, and wall tile that I'll have to abandon my usual set of metaphors and go to a new set--one that describes patients' conditions in terms of building materials.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Just an FYI: Blogger is losing comments, or not publishing the ones I approve, and occasionally the blog just disappears. There's no bug bulletin up about these issues, but I'm not the only one with 'em.

So have patience. Perhaps your comments will show up; perhaps they won't. Everything except spam is getting approved, but some of the approved ones are getting lost in the ether (sorry, SHZ!). Maybe the blog will be here when you want to read it, maybe it won't.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Oh, so *that's* why I was so tired.

It wasn't a cold. It was bronchitis. The bacterial sort, rather than the viral sort. The cold I had led to a bacterial superinfection that is now getting its butt kicked with Spectracef (note: Spectracef is one nasty drug).

I slept all day today. *All* day. As in, I got up at six to pee, drink a cup of coffee, and eat some toast, then went back to bed. Got up at one to do the same thing, then went back to bed. Got up at six-thirty this evening and am waiting on toast right now.

So if I'm not around much in the coming days, that's why. The good news is that I feel considerably better. The bad news is that now everybody else at work has this, too. *sigh*

Friday, June 15, 2007

Happy Birthday!

It's the first anniversary of Change of Shift!


Monday, June 11, 2007

Don't pick.

It all started with a zit.

It was a typical zit, close to his hairline. You know the sort: it grows and grows and gets painful, and finally you notice that it's got a head on it, so you pop it. The thing goes away for a while, but then it comes back. So you pop it again. Lather, rinse....

Six months later, it became obvious that something was wrong. There was that odd red mark where the zit had been, and he wasn't feeling well. Off he went to one doctor, then another, finally culminating with one of our gals for a CT and an MRI and a this and a that.

The various tests revealed various things: that his body was fighting off an infection, that he was losing his balance and having some trouble finding words, that he had been plagued by a constant headache for months. The scans showed an abscess just behind and above where the zit had been.

The abcess had eaten through his skull and into his brain. Lovely. You know it's bad when somebody's skull looks like Swiss cheese in one spot, with bits of dura poking out of the bone because of the pressure inside.

To the OR, then, and the bone comes out. The abcess gets drained. He's returned to the floor with powerful IV antibiotics...and then, quite suddenly, nothing seems to be working. Fever of 41 C (that's 106 F), heart rate in the 160's, big rash all over. We spring into action with cooling blankets, cultures of blood, sputum, and urine, chest X-rays, and fungal cultures of damn near everything else.

Further scans revealed that things had gotten nasty under his skull, so back he went for more draining and washouts. Right now he's in the unit with a tube going into his brain for further instillations of antibiotics and pressure reduction.

People, don't pick yer zits. I don't know how many times I have to say it.

Still, I guess it's better than that one gal who ended up with meningitis from brushing her teeth too enthusiastically.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rant. Rave.

Gracious, colds take a long time to get over. My two remaining brain cells are huddled in the back of my skull, wrapped in blankets, drinking tea. I'm no longer *quite* as snotty as I was, but goshdarn I'm tired.


1. I do not wanna hear you apologizing for "bothering" a doctor when you page her. The correct phrase, when you answer the phone, is "thank you for returning my page." You are not bothering her. You are her eyes and ears and hands when she's not there, so it's reasonable for you to page her with changes or questions. Got it?

2. Lose the acrylic nails. For cryin' out loud, acrylic nails have been implicated in hinty-gazillion reports about the transmission of Nasty Bacteria. Thank you.

3. I should not (and I cannot believe I am saying this again) be able to see either your sacral tattoo or your thong string above your scrubs. Please.

4. Residents: Bathe. That is all.

5. Patients: If you refuse your insulin, refuse to stay on bedrest, refuse tests and procedures and lab draws, don't be shocked when we tell you there's not a lot we can do and send you home.

Raves: Ode To Underappreciated Things

1. Mucus. Who doesn't love mucus? I mean, really. It traps bacteria, viruses, pollen, and small animals; it keeps your stomach from digesting itself; it lubricates your intestines. Sure, sometimes there's too much of it, but on the whole, we don't give mucus the love it deserves. I'm going to start agitating for a National Mucus Appreciation Day.

2. Avril Lavigne: Sure, she's sold out. Yeah, the edgy rebel with the bad attitude got married in Chanel and bought a seven-million-dollar house, but come on. She's got a song out now with the line "She's like, so whatever" and Toni Basil-style handclaps. She's consciously moved from Avril Lavigne the Artist to Avril Lavigne the Parody, and I love her for that.

3. Ramen: Highly processed and full of fat, yes, but what better medicine for a cold do you know? (I don't like chicken soup.) Ramen is patient, ramen is kind to unhappy stomachs, ramen never fails. It, like Twinkies and TV Guide, will be able to survive a nuclear holocaust with no problem. Plus, it never goes stale, even if the package has a hole in it.

4. Vietnamese instant coffee: when you just can't stomach the regular stuff, this magical powder will not only settle your insides but provide you with a buzz that would shame a beehive. Plus, it leaves a weird residue on the inside of your cup, and I think it's full of trans fats. Perfect with ramen.

5. Cheesy fashion magazines. Constantly pilloried for promoting an unhealthily thin body type and conspicuous consumption, fashion magazines are actually the opiate of the cold-infected. Two hours of Vogue or Elle will put your brain into such a comfortable alpha-wave state that it'll feel like you've slept for a week.

Thus endeth the rant/rave for this week. I'm off to get more ramen.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Doped to the gills on Sudafed and wine.

I am coming down with another bedamned cold. My right ear has been clogged for three weeks now; Sudafed offers temporary relief. Today, when the 70-mph winds blew in with their four inches of rain, my chest started hurting. Now I'm grumphing and blowing like an old man with emphysema.

But I made an offer on a house. And it has been accepted. Verbally only, so hold your applause. Keep your digits crossed that the contract gets signed, the inspection reveals no past craziness with termites, and that I can afford to RamJack the house up level. Provided all that happens, my 1948 end-of-year Sunbeam mixer will finally have a kitchen that matches it.

Living with expansive clay soils means that everything, from a 1200-square foot Home For Heroes to the Capitol building, shifts. Sometimes there's subsidence; sometimes the whole damn thing slides down a hill. Luckily for me and my bank account, the subsidence is more of a problem than sliding downhill, since the land is flat.

Living with enormous thunderstorms means you need storm windows, which this house does not have. Likewise, you need gutters, ditto. Likewise, you need a cistern, especially if you intend to keep the St. Augustine grass in the yard, which requires a weekly dose of an inch of water, more in 100 degree heat.

Living with a pecan tree (the state nut, did you know?) in the back yard means that every time a 70-mph wind blows through town, you fret and agonize over the possibility of pecan limbs landing on Your New House's roof. The first rule of camping in Texas is this: Don't lay your bedroll under a pee-can tree; them's the trees that drop branches fer no reason. Bigguns.

Of course, living with pecan trees and healthy shrubs and plenty of rain (this year, at least) means that when you open the lid to the breaker box, the real estate agent you've hired will stumble backwards with a choked scream as a six-inch-long pink gecko leaves its hiding place. And that a large toad will SCREEE at you when you almost step on it, backwards from the house steps.

The basics: It's a post-WWII (Dad is saying "Dubya dubya eye-eye" in his head) Home for Heroes with two bedrooms and a small bathroom that needs work. It's about 1200 square feet, give or take, sitting on a quarter acre. That's big enough for two large dogs who get along well. Or five greyhounds off the track. The original windows, six-over-six with wood dividers between the glass panes, are still there, as are the original fluted glass doorknobs. The kitchen has a built-in hutch with glass doors, perfect for storing Fiestaware (Beloved Sis is foaming at the mouth just now).

There's a room for working out. There's space for washer and dryer connections. The yard, despite something like seven feet of rain in the last three weeks, is not soggy. The foundation, while sagging, seems sound. The roof is halfway through its expected life. The floors are gorgeous. The cabinetry is all original, the doors all solid-core.

The neighborhood is neither scary nor train-track infested. There is a space just to the right of the front door for a rose bush grown from a clipping from Mom's bush up in Seattle, which originated at The Old House. That variety of rose is one nobody's ever been able to identify.

It's like having a brand-new boyfriend: I can't stop thinking about it, hoping it doesn't come to harm with the storms, wondering when I can see it again.

Dog won. Lack of maintenance lost. If you're ever in central Texas, look for the frazzled woman pushing a Green Mountain reel mower. That'll be me.