Of Spoonfeeding My Beloved and Evil Nurses

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Most everybody feels out of place in a hospital. The groups of sweatered families seemingly fresh from a J.C. Penny catalog added to my sense of being in an alien environment. Clusters of them were happily shopping in the hospital gift shop, Giftique (brevity as the soul of witlessness).

Charles didn’t remember my visit yesterday. He hadn’t guessed that you have to dial 9 for an outside line. I walked into his room to find him feeling panicky and deserted. Made me feel ashamed for having arrived as late as 9:30 a.m. Throughout the day he’d thank me for being there. No reply except to turgidly and floridly assure him that I was where I belonged.

Charles was still a bit muddled. When he asked me if we had anything for pain it took some digging to discover he wanted some cold fruit juice for his throat. I’d never fed anyone before. It was the only way to get any food into him. Even with me handling the fork he ate little: some pear, a couple of bites of spaghetti, later fragments of macaroni, dressing, a slice of brownie.

I was going to stay until ejection time at 9:00 p.m. He nodded off about 7:00 p.m. so I had Gordon come for me early.

I didn’t know that swallowing your vomit would cause pneumonia. Charles seemed to have passed the worst of that while in the ICU. He does have bronchitis. While he was napping his breathing was very labored if only to my attuned ear. If Charles isn’t snoring he’s so silent that long before there was any reason to worry I’d sometimes stick my ear near his nose to make sure he was alive. Shortly before leaving I was able to tell his breathing nurse who said she’d watch carefully and put Charles back on oxygen if he seemed to need it.

I turned a deaf ear to his restless requests for schemes to get out. Doing the sensible thing will never be one of Charles’ strengths but he won’t be getting out of Durham Regional until they’re sure he won’t be hurrying back.

When I’m ill I go to Duke University’s Medical Center. Charles is getting good care at Durham Regional Hospital. I couldn’t help noticing the wards at Durham Regional are bigger, the staff smaller than at DUMC. When I carelessly interrupted an IV drip a nurse would fix it in ten seconds. Charles may have to wait a few minutes. Hardly a critical difference but it hints plenty at the difference between private and public health care.

Ever since my first hospitalization as an adult my respect for nurses has been just about boundless. For hours every day they work with sick, often ungrateful, people cope with their messes and demands. I don’t have the resources to do that.

Last night, sadly, I saw a different kind of nurse. Charles hadn’t been out of the ICU for two hours. He soiled himself while trying to make it to the bathroom. Not fully awake he tried to get to the bathroom. I summoned a nurse.

Since he was confused the nurse that arrived threatened to strap him in the bed. Her manner was more sadistic prison guard than caregiver. She shoved a plastic toilet under him and left. The LPNs who arrived later seemed shocked by how she left Charles.

You ever think about filing a complaint against a rude clerk? Me too. I haven’t done that in years. Partly from the usual laziness. And who really wants to cost someone their job. But I learned Mrs. Bruce’s name tonight. She wasn’t on the ward tonight but I asked another nurse. Maybe she’ll be back tomorrow. If she is and does nothing evil I’ll forget about it. But if she isn’t sweet to my sweetie I’ll do my best to add a big black mark to her record.

There’s a real shortage of nurses. The drudgery doesn’t match the expectations of my and later generations. Probably gives some bad nurses an entrée they wouldn’t otherwise have. You think them usually tormenting the feeble and elderly.

Not the way to end this entry.

My Charles is going to be well. A fellow in Raleigh has offered to care for him since I may need to be at work when Charles first leaves the hospital. We’ll see. But Charles and I will still be together.

Until then I’ll be spending my days at Durham Regional.

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