Friday, November 25, 2016

Say goodnight, Gracie.

Ladies and germs, I have worked my last shift at Sunnydale Hospital (Healthcare for the Hellmouth)(Fully-owned and operated subsidiary of Giganto Research and Education Corp., Inc., LLP).

I start a few days from now at a very posh and very private surgical center, doing pre-op and post-op stuff. It was time. It was, honestly, past time.

In the past couple of years, Kitty and Bethie and I have busted our asses to get and then maintain certification. Sunnydale just got magnet status. We've earned five stars from whatever group it is that rates patient care that way. We've earned gold medals from the folks who figure out how many patients you have die, or come back, or otherwise not do well. We have, with our coworkers, rocked it. Our unit is the highest-rated unit in the system, in terms of safety and success and patient satisfaction.

And in return, we got staff cuts. Bethie got accused by a crazy family of abusing a patient and was left to dry in the sun by Manglement; she spent two days on her own dealing with detectives and forensics teams and lawyers and so on without a peep from her bosses. And when Kitty and I went to those bosses on her behalf, we got promises and no action.

So, yeah. It was time.

In a way, my fourteen years at Sunnydale remind me a lot of my marriage: Erstwhile Hub and I had a number of really good years, but then he began a slow slide into insanity. That culminated in something so bad, so unforgivable, so weird, that I had to walk away.

I've spent the last two weeks wondering how on earth I'm going to say goodbye to all these people. The people at my work got me through a divorce and took care of me after Dr. Heron cut the roof of my mouth out and sent it to Pathology. I've been the funeral of a coworker--it was possible because nurses from all over the hospital came in on their days off and moved down the hall in a flying wedge that allowed all of us to pass on care for a couple of hours. I've been to funerals for husbands and wives and daughters and sons. I've also gotten birth announcements and wedding invitations and innumerable emails and Facebook messages from patients and coworkers, letting me share in tiny good and tiny bad things. I've cooked Thanksgiving feasts and had a couple of surprise birthday parties.

You hear a lot of businesses say, "Our employees are family," but in this case it's true. Above my immediate manager is nobody I'd piss on if they were on fire, but below that? Lidia and Carolita and Edgar and James and Lisa and all those other folks are my family.

James made the comment the other day that he and I are the longest relationship he's ever had. He was the one who looked up my NCLEX score to see if I'd passed, back on the third day of our internship together, because I was too afraid to.

I spent days and days going to every department in turn, repeatedly, and I'm sure I still missed people. I'll visit, sure, but it won't be the same. And we're all pals on Facebook, but it won't be the same. Saying goodbye was hard.

And saying goodbye to you guys won't be any easier.

I'm shutting down HN. Let's be honest: "Preop-and-PACU-Nurse" just doesn't have the ring that "Head Nurse" does. I've done brains for so long that the thought of switching to something else is a little scary. Maybe someday later I'll have more stories to tell, those about healthy people getting elective surgeries and my taking care of them for two hours. For now, though, this is a good break. It's a period at the end of a long, amazing, convoluted sentence that any Restoration author would be proud of.

Because you know what you did? You, the idiots who keep checking in on HN, did this:

You kept me sane during times that I had nothing left. You got me through working nights, through having cancer, through a nasty breakup, through periods of self-doubt that encompassed not only my work but my self.

You emailed me with questions and criticisms and reflections that made me think hard about my life and sometimes go back and edit things here.

You bought two enormously expensive therapeutic jaw-stretcher dealios for people who couldn't afford them, thus allowing any number of people (because the devices were sanitized and passed around) to be able to do things like brush their teeth and eat after cancer surgery.

You contributed a thousand dollars to the Oral Cancer Foundation, because you cared about what I'd been through.

And you all, because you were generous enough to let me siphon off money you'd donated for a friend in need, made it possible for my friends Kevin and Sarah to stay in their apartment during the last weeks of Kevin's life. You paid their rent and electricity bills, and because of that, Kevin got to watch one last episode of "Doctor Who" with Sarah before the brain tumor he had rendered him unconscious.

Most of all, though, you responded to what I wrote here and made it better. There were a lot of times I thought I was writing into a void, and you told me that wasn't the case. I've said a lot of stupid shit and been called on it, and once in a while I've said something here that seemed to resonate with people, and that's made me think that maybe the world is pretty cool after all.

The money was great, because it accomplished tangible things.

The love and support and feedback and sometimes outright rage has been infinitely more valuable.

Thank you for wasting time here. May your pumps always have full batteries and your ventriculostomies always be level.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Once upon a time, there was a nurse named

Carol. Or Marcie. Or Kristen. Or Justin. Or Brandon. Or John. Or Tita. Or Lidia. Or David. Or Aimee.

And that nurse taught me everything I ever needed to know about IV starts. Or dealing with difficult patients. Or dealing with difficult coworkers. Or handling death. Or handling survival. Or just surviving a shift.

Once upon a time, there was a unit secretary named Harriet. Or Girlie. Or Mary. Or Joanna. Or Marlene.

And that unit secretary taught me everything I know about finding the answers to tricky problems. Or about who to call when something breaks. Or about who to call when nobody else can fix something. Or about how to MacGyver something when nobody's around.

Once upon a time, there was a housekeeper named Shirley. Or Larry. Or Lisa. Or Gary. Or Richard. Or Daphne.

And they taught me how to put the bag into the trashcan so it didn't fall down halfway through the shift. And how to get that weird stain out of my patient's pajamas, and who to call when I needed a lightbulb, and how to fix the drain in 18 when it just would not drain.

Once upon a time there was a biomed guy, or a maintenance guy, or a woman from food service, or some person from the concierge.

And even if I didn't get their name at the time, they taught me how to avert disaster by either rebooting some monitor somewhere by doing some obscure Ancient Technology dance, or they helped me manage somebody's diet when they were about to order out for KFC, or they brought me the paper some family member was yelling for with a minute's warning.

Once upon a time there were patients: sick people, or people who only had one thing wrong with them, or people who were just plain old, or people who were far, far too young to deal with the things that they had to deal with.

And they taught me about being decent, and patient, and having humor even when you look like a goblin and things fucking suck, and loving yellow flowers and always wearing pearls, and not flipping out when you have a downturn in your diagnosis, and finally, living and dying the way you want to, with dignity and humor.

For all those people I give thanks.