While getting ready for work I struggle over wearing my hair loose around my shoulders, foregoing the usual scrunchy-bound topknot I wear when I haven’t bothered to wash it.
“Pull it together, jeez,” I reprimand myself. “He’s still married. Don’t set yourself up like this.”
Pulling into the staff parking lot, I look for Corey’s car, but I don’t find it. He may have parked elsewhere, because there are never enough close-in staff parking spaces. I unwrap my stethoscope from around the rear-view mirror, grab my tote from the passenger seat, and breathe deeply to calm my giddiness before entering the hospital.
“Jeez-us, you’re a grown woman. Calm down,” I repeat, but the butterflies in my stomach still flutter.
Corey catches me at the elevator just before I head up to the PICU. He’s holding a little pink bakery box.
“Hey, I brought you a cupcake for your break tonight. I’ll stop by if it’s not too crazy. You’re hair looks nice down.”
I take the box, hoping he sees how happy this makes me before I recover my normal expression and say, “Thank you.”
Corey waits in front of the elevator until the doors close and I am out of sight.
As it turns out, Corey’s gift of a cupcake is prescient.
One of the problems of nightshift nurses is foraging for food.
Budget cuts have limited hospital cafeteria hours, leaving nightshift without options besides bringing their food or snacking from vending machines. Occasionally, nurses will send a “runner” to an all night fast food place to pick up dinner for several coworkers, but that only happens if the department can spare the nurse. This was not one of those nights.
In the PICU all Hell broke loose.
The kid in bed two continually seized despite being in a medically induced coma, and no one knew why. This kept Kathy busy with frequent lab draws, adjusting drips, and administering anti-seizure medications, all the while trying to comfort distraught parents, and documenting the frequent changes.
Liz’s hands were full with a post-open heart surgery patient whose blood pressure repeatedly tanked in room five. She also had a second post-open heart patient weaning off of sedation in preparation for extubation from the ventilator in the morning; the short of this being that she had to keep that child from pulling out his breathing tube and IV’s while allowing him to breathe on his own.
And me? I was managing a new onset diabetic admitted on dayshift with a blood sugar of 400. This meant frequent blood draws for lab values, and several changes of IV fluid solutions, lowering the potassium as the insulin drip took effect, and the blood sugar normalized.
This did not prevent me from being up for the next admit, however: a stable neurology patient accompanied from the OR at midnight by his neurosurgeon, Dr. Kearney. The boy had an infected shunt, a surgically implanted device that drains excess cerebral spinal fluid from the ventricles in his brain, caused by a congenital condition. The infected shunt was removed, and a temporary external one now drained CSF through a tube into a buretrol. IV antibiotics were prescribed around the clock. Once the infection healed, the neurosurgeon would replace the implanted shunt with a new one in the OR.
Dr. Kearney sat at the nurses’ desk, calling lab for culture results, and entering orders. I overheard him saying into the phone, “What do you mean I can’t order ‘antibiotics per pharmacy protocol’?” There was a pause. “Well why isn’t there an ‘antibiotics per pharmacy’ protocol?”
Shortly before Dr. Kearney’s arrival, Liz had sat in the same seat at the nurses’ desk in which he now sat. In front of him was a small open bag of potato chips belonging to Liz, which she’d momentarily left unattended to answer an alarm in her patient’s room. She hadn’t had time to pack a dinner, and this bag of potato chips from the vending machine represented the only food she would probably eat tonight.
When she returned to the desk, the bag of chips was empty, and Dr. Kearney brushed the last crumbs from his mouth.
“What happened to my bag of chips?” demanded Liz.
“Oh, were those yours? I thought they were out here for everybody,” Dr. Kearney was unapologetic.
“That was my dinner,” growled Liz. “Now what am I going to eat?”
Dr. Kearny said, “Here,” and tossed a couple of dollar bills into the empty bag on the desk. “Buy yourself another one.” Then he left.
Liz returned to the PICU ranting. “The damn vending machine ate both of Dr. Kearny’s dollar bills without giving me a bag of chips, even after I kicked it!”
Kathy and I shared our food from home with Liz, and I divided Corey’s cupcake three ways.