How to Sabotage a Shift (Niki Meets a Service Dog)

Chapter 56

Never, ever think your shift is easy and you may go home early. It’s the quickest way to sabotage it.

The shift started well enough. I did vitals and passed meds for the two post-open heart patients first. They each have private rooms, and I chatted a bit with their respective parents. Transferring their children from the PICU to the general floor makes some parents uneasy, even though they understand it means their child is getting well. In the PICU, they become used to their child receiving one-on-one nursing care. They become accustomed to the vigilance of a nurse dedicated to the care of only their child. On the pediatric unit, the nurses are assigned three or four patients plus their child. The parents are now required to practice vigilance for their previously critically ill child’s care. Understandably, some are more comfortable than others. My patients’ parents recognize me from the PICU. A familiar face eases their minds. Our rapport encourages my belief it will be an easy shift.

My third patient shares his room with another.

During report the night shift nurse said, “Niki, your patient, Travis, is a delight, you’ll love him. Unfortunately, his roommate is a bit of a handful, so we assigned him to another nurse. He saw Travis’ seeing eye dog, Reege, and insisted his parents bring his dog to stay with him. They brought him in last night, claiming it’s a service dog too. Fortunately, Travis’ dog is a professional, and ignores the little dog’s aggressive behavior towards him.”

“Well, if Travis and Reege can ignore the other dog, I guess I can too.”

 

“Hi Travis, my name’s Niki. Is this beautiful dog is your partner, Reege?”

“Hi Niki, I need to go to the bathroom. Can you put the IV pole where I can reach it please?”

“Sure. Do you need help?”

“Nope.”

I watch Travis handle the IV pole, and grip Reege’s harness with his other hand. Reege, a golden retriever, pads along silently, leading Travis the to the bathroom. Travis seems steady enough, but his fall risk makes me nervous, so I wait for them in the room.

On the return trip I try again, “Is it okay if I take the IV pole for you?”

“Sure.”

After Travis is back in bed and Reege settled at his bedside, I take his vitals.

“Travis, are you hungry or is your stomach still bothering you? The breakfast trays should arrive soon.”

“I’m hungry. Do you guys have bacon?”

“Of course, but if there’s no bacon on your tray, I’ll call down to the kitchen and get you some.”

“Thanks!”

As if on cue, the meal cart arrives, and I find Travis’ tray. Lucky me! There’s bacon.

I place the tray on his table, adjusting the bed and utensils so they’re within reach. Travis tells me he’s right-handed.

“You’ve done this before, I see.”

“Yeah, a few times,” he grins. Would you tell me what’s on the plate, and its place on the face of a clock?”

“Sure. Anything else? Do you want me to butter the toast or cut anything for you?”

“Nope, I got it. Thanks.”

“Hey Nurse. Hey!” It’s the kid in the other bed. He’s got his dog, a nondescript terrier mix, in his lap.

“Hi. Do you need something?’

“Yeah, can you get some bacon for Rocket?”

“Sure. I’ll make a call to the kitchen.”

When I near his bed, Rocket growls at me.

“Do you want to pet him?”

“Does he bite? I thought strangers shouldn’t pet service dogs.”

“People just say that because they think their dog is more special than Rocket.” The kid glares at Travis, who flips him off. I try not to laugh.

“He only bites if he doesn’t like you. If you give him some bacon, I’m pretty sure he won’t bite.”

“Um, okay. I’ll order the bacon and let your nurse know.”

I leave their call lights within reach, bed rails up, and take breakfast trays to my other two patients. After they’re done, I help their mothers with bathing and dressing them.

One of the perks of day shift is the café is open. There’s time to go downstairs and bring a latte back to the unit. I get in line. There are two police officers ahead of me.

One of them is Officer Mike.

“Hey, Nurse Niki. What are you doing, getting a latte before heading home? I thought night shift prefers beer for breakfast.”

How the hell does he know that?

“Well Officer Mike, how nice to run into you again. No more nights for this nurse. I’ve transferred to day shift.”

“Congratulations. Welcome to the land of the living Niki. See you around.”

Mike and his partner take their coffees from the counter.

Did he just look my way again before walking away?

Follow Me Home (Niki changes her mind)

Chapter 24

Liz and I stop talking about my patient once we enter the elevator.  We leave the hospital, walking to the staff parking lot together.

“Who’s that standing by your car, Niki?”

“I’m not sure. It looks like Corey.”

It is Corey. He sees us.

“Hey Corey,” Liz says. “How was your shift?”

“The usual madness and mayhem of the ER.” He’s acting nonchalant, but I can tell he’s nervous.

“Well, it’s good to see you. Don’t be a stranger. And Niki, I’ll see you again tonight for another shift.” Liz heads off to her car, leaving Corey and I in awkward silence.

“So what’s that goofy expression on your face about, Corey?”

“Good to see you too, Niki. You’re not going to make this easy for me are you?”

“Sorry, Corey. My filters don’t work so good after a twelve-hour night shift. The truth is I’m really hurt that you’ve avoided me the past couple months, and now here you are! What do you want?”

“I’m sorry. I wanted to talk to you sooner. I miss you. Then Gerald told me you and Simon were divorcing, and then I felt like you’d think I was swooping in, and that’s not what I’m doing. I just miss you. I care about you Niki. I really do. That’s all. I’m sorry.”

The sincerity of his expression reveals the  eight-year-old boy in a man’s body. My God, he’s adorable. My rehearsed reserve melts just a little.

“Why does sex always ruin friendship between men and women?”  Groping for something to say, I resorted to cliché.

“We didn’t have sex, remember?” Corey pokes back. “You didn’t want me. That’s what hurt our friendship.”

I think about this for a minute.

“Corey, do you want to have breakfast?”

“Sure. Meet at the diner?”

“No. Follow me home. I’ll cook you breakfast.”

For Whom the Phone Rings (Niki does ‘wine by phone’)

Chapter 10

After working a night shift, my soundest sleep occurs between 10 am and noon.

At 11 am the ringing of our landline phone wakes me. Drowsily, I pick up thinking it could be the school calling about Maddie. What if she’s sick, or hurt? But I forgot, the school only has Simon’s and my cell phone and work numbers. The landline is for Maddie.

It’s my sister, Raquel.

“Hullo?” I slur.

“Dammit, I woke you up, didn’t I? I’m sorry. I never know when you’re working.”

“It’s okay. I forgot to turn down the ringer.”

“Niki, why don’t you get rid of your landline and just use cell phones like normal people?”

“Because Simon and I think Maddie is too young for a cell phone. The landline is for Maddie.”

“You’re gonna have to let her grow up one of these days, Nik.”

“And this is why you woke me up?”

“No, I’m just checking in. Are you off tonight? Wanna do wine by phone?”

“Yeah, I am. Wine by phone is perfect. After dinner?’

“Yep. We’ll talk then. Goodnight, or whatever.”

“Goodnight.”

***

Raquel and her family live south of us, in La Jolla. It takes two hours to get there, depending on traffic, and the day of the week. It’s too far for us to get together regularly, so Raquel and I started wine by phone. Once a week or so, we each open a bottle of wine, and talk by phone for an hour or more. We sit in our kitchens drinking wine while catching up one each other’s lives. Our husbands and children are forbidden to interrupt wine by phone unless they are bleeding severely about the face or neck.

Besides being my sister, Raquel is my best friend.

“So Doll, things must be a lot better now that Simon’s working again, right?”

“Yeah, I think so. He’s happier for sure. He’s cut down on watching sports now that he has lesson plans and paperwork to do in the evenings. He helps Maddie with her homework more too. He’s preparing her for classes at Woodman next year. She loves the attention.

“What about you, Nik? Are things heating up a bit for the two of you?”

“I guess. I mean there’s more to talk about now that Simon’s working and has stories about his day. He’s spending time on his appearance again, and getting more exercise since he’s coaching too. If this lasts, maybe we’ll try to have another baby, although there’d be a big age gap between Maddie and a new brother or sister. Then again, we really should put money away for a down payment on a house. But there’s saving for Maddie’s college education too. I don’t know. I can’t seem to make up my mind. I think the weekend trip in Coronado will help. Thanks for taking Maddie for us”

“Niki, why don’t you stop worrying about the future so much and just make love to the man?

Silence.

“Right. Okay, so, how’s work? Are you still having breakfast with that ER nurse, what’s his name again?”

“Corey. Yeah, we go for breakfast once a week or so. Sometimes another nurse or two come along.

“Is Corey cute? Have you hooked up with him yet?”

“What? No! I mean, yeah he’s cute. No, we’re not hooking up. He has kids. He’s married.”

“So are you Niki.”

“What are you saying Raquel? What are you getting at?”

“Nothing Niki. Nothing at all. Don’t get all defensive.

We’re happy to have Maddie for the weekend when you and Simon go to Coronado. So when are you going to get her a cell phone?”