Tuesday, January 31, 2012

About That Headache

Last night I couldn't sleep.  It was one of those nights where dreams are weird and relentless...First I'm lost driving down the interstate, but then somehow I'm WALKING, only it's like an interstate in that I can't just turn around.  Then I'm somehow in a car wreck...And it's MY FAULT, but I have no idea how it happened.


Brent's alarm went off at 4:20, as usual.  I snuggled up to him for a few minutes, but really couldn't wait for him to get out of bed...I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I physically kicked him out of bed. 


His alarm went off.  He didn't want to get up.  I was tired and irritable and I just literally shoved him out of the bed.

Because I'm loving like that...

Anyway, I couldn't sleep, and once it hit 5am, I decided it was time to get up and color my hair.

Ooh!  Ooh!  Did I remember to tell you that I got hair color for free!  You betcha I did!  I got a coupon in the mail for a free John Frieda Hair Colour foam.  I was excited to try it, yet fearful because it was a totally different application method than I'd ever done before.  I had wanted to try it out last night, but was on call, and you know a  sure fire way to get called in is to do something stupid that can't be interrupted like coloring your hair...

Anyhoo.  It was 5am.  I decided to color my hair.  Before beginning I very carefully read the instructions.  I decided (as I do every single time I color my hair) to ignore the skin allergy test.  I mean, really people.  I can barely be bothered to read school newsletters that my kids put on the table in front of my face! 

So.  Right off the bat I decided to ignore the stupid skin allergy test.  The next bit of advice was to "apply water resistant cream around the face."

Water resistant cream.  Water resistant cream....Hmmm...


I had no Vaseline...What to do.  What to do.  What. To.  Do.

It was moving on toward 5:30.  I had to get the girls up at 6am.  My precious hair coloring minutes were tick tick ticking away...

Now, I confess I've never applied water resistant cream to my face either, but my old brand never recommended it.  What if John Frieda's hair color would stain my skin more?  I didn't want to go around with dark purple streaks on my skin!  (Red hair colors have purple in them) 

This post is really boring me.  I apologize.  But I will persist.  After all, this story MUST be shared.

In a moment of shear desperation I pulled out...

Preparation H.

Yep.  You heard me.  I was on a mission and I was NOT going to let a little thing like lack of Vaseline or A&D ointment deter me!

I defiantly placed a dab on my finger and smeared a thin layer all along the edges of my face, the tops of my ears, and even along the back of my neck for good measure.

And then I began to color...

A few minutes into the application process I developed a splitting headache.

'Cause y'know as a nurse I understand how Preparation H works. It CONSTRICTS your blood  vessels.

So strangely it gave me a headache.

And it lasted until about 9am. 

But my hair turned out GREAT!  And, the John Frieda rinses out much easier than Loreal, so if it holds its color as well, they may have made a new customer out of me!

Oh, did you want to see a picture?  Well when i got home from work and decided that I needed to blog my stupidity I decided to snap a picture with my phone..

Whoa!  That was scary.  Let's try this again...

I don't know.  Is that any better?  Apparently taking a photo of oneself with a phone is harder than I imagined...Let's just go for JUST the hair, okay?

Well, that's as good as it gets...

So, what other uses have YOU found for your random tube of Preparation H?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Story of My Tattoo

It seems as if EVERYONE wants or has a tattoo these days.

I got my first tattoo in 1993.  I was a Junior in high school.

And it wasn't real.

You see, it was a very classy rub on tattoo.  I think I got it from Claire's.  I loved it.  I proudly sported it on my ankle, just above my bobby sock during basketball season so everyone could admire it's beauty in my cheerleading uniform.

The thing about rub on tattoos is they come off.  So a few days later I put a butterfly tattoo on my OTHER ankle.  It was sooooo beautiful.  I think it was a big blue butterfly.  But I could be mistaken.

"Do you know what people think of you when they see those tattoos on your legs?" my mom would ask.

"They think it's in a different location every time they see it," was my smart reply.  (I fear I frequently needed my face smacked in high school.)

So in high school I had a love affair with tattoos.  I would put them on my shoulders if I knew I was going to wear a sleeveless shirt, but I quickly learned they weren't as pretty as the ones I put on my legs, due to my resistance to shaving my arms...

In those days tattoo parlors were illegal in Oklahoma.  I turned 18 in 1993, and I think my parents were quite relieved that I could not just wander up the street and get a REAL tattoo.  However, I was determined that one day I would have a tattoo.  I hadn't settled on the exact design, or even location.   You see, NOBODY had tattoos in those days.  Well, unless you were a biker, active military, or a veteran.  But other than that, no all American girls had tattoos.  However, for some reason I had determined it was my destiny to decorate my body with colored ink. 

I graduated high school in 1994.  That May I went to work at a regional hospital in our area as a nurse's aide.  I did all of those things that nurses receive such glory for.  You know: Bed baths, toileting, diaper changing, spoon feeding, and lets not forget overall cleaner of vomit.  I always tell people who are considering nursing as a profession to work as an aide before they do it.  If you can do the most menial part of the job and still love it, then it is definitely your calling.

So there I was 18 years old, working as a nurse's aide and pondering the exact location of my permanent tattoo, and how I was going to manage to get said tattoo when I was a kid working through college, with no opportunities for road trips in my near future.  I continued with my hobby of temporary tattoos. I would try different designs and different locations, and contemplate which colors worked best with my fair skin... 

Anyhoo as I was pondering my future tattoo, I was working in our local hospital.  One day as I was helping a woman who was the same age as my grandma have her sponge bath, I noticed something on her belly.  At first I thought some jello or something had gotten on her and dried.   So, I tried to help wash it off.  Only it didn't come off.  Then I realized it was a TATTOO!  Of a ROSE!  A withered, disfigured, faded rose.  I was quite shocked.  Here was this sweet little old lady with a TATTOO on her belly!  What made it even worse was that the tattoo wasn't SUPPOSED to be on her belly.  It was supposed to be about 12 inches farther north.  Sadly, as her body began to sag and shift, her once perky rose tattoo was now a sad and saggy shriveled blob.

I never did get a tattoo.  Every time I thought about getting a tattoo after that, I would picture that disturbing image.

Now when I see everyone running around with tattoos, I'm really glad I never got one.  Not because I care that they have tattoos.  I had wanted a tattoo as a statement of being different.  If I had one now, I'd just be like everyone else.  And where's the fun in that?

When I have veterans in as patients, I always look at their tattoos, and ask them about them.  Some of them are embarrassed, but  most of them have an interesting tale to tell about getting it.  I have to say one of the perks about being a nurse, is the ability to ask darn near anything of people, and they answer the questions as if you have every right to know... 

I remember a few years ago, I was trying to start an IV on an elderly gentleman who had a tattoo on his forearm.  He had come in dressed as many men his age do:  Docker pants, button up shirt, sweater vest, gold watch and fedora in place.  I love when men come in dressed like this as it is very similar to how my Grandad Marvin dressed.  Anyway, he was out of his "civilian clothes" and had changed into our very flattering "one size fits none" hospital gown.  I had tucked him up in warm blankets, and gathered my supplies for his IV.

I placed the tourniquet on his upper arm, and began my survey for a likely vein candidate, I vaguely noticed he had a tattoo.  Typical of elderly people, his skin was loose and thin.  I stretched it taunt to see if I had any takers pop up.  I couldn't help myself, but I started to chuckle as I stretched his skin out and realized that he had the oh so classic naked lady tattoo on his forearm.  He asked me what I was laughing at.

"I'm sorry.  I just couldn't help but think that I bet when you got that naked lady tattoo you never dreamed she'd get old and saggy along with you!"

Fortunately, he saw the humor in the situation along with me.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This List is REAL

Our lives have been in a state of turmoil lately.

Sadly, life does not seem to slow down when turmoil comes, but in some ways it seems to go into super fast forward and you just want to say, "WAIT!  Slow down!  I didn't have time to check homework or fold laundry, and I'm tired and all I want to do is sleep, but I can't sleep, and then the night drags on and on and on..."  And then the next day I'm tired and the day is flying by and I'm not managing time wisely because my brain is circling around and around topics that I have no control over, but can't seem to make myself stop worrying about.

Guess what?  In the midst of this turmoil my Grandma Irene is coming to my house for the VERY FIRST TIME EVER.   I'm super excited.  She will be here Tuesday evening.  I will work tomorrow.  I will work Tuesday.  I will be on call both of those days, unless I can find someone to switch with  me Tuesday.

So all of that whining is to say this:  After taking a two hour nap today (which I really did NOT have time for) I made a list of things that MUST be done before we all leave for work Tuesday morning.  I think the list is rather revolutionary if I do say so myself.   As I was writing this list, in the exact words I'm about to share with you, I said to myself:  Instead of packing the last of the red dishes on the hutch, I do believe I will blog this list. 

(Because my decision making processes are always full of wisdom and ambition.)

And so I am. 

Chores to be done before GRANDMA IRENE arrives on Tuesday afternoon:

-Dust (Your bedrooms too!)
-Clean your bathroom
-Vacuum your rooms

Brent & Andrea:
-vacuum remainder of house
-Hide Clutter in Closet if All Else Fails
-Our bathroom
-Oh no-We have basketball practice for Bookworm Monday night!

You see, I glanced at our hutch and number three simply flowed out of my brain and onto the paper.

I'm pretty sure it is imperative that it remain.

Now to figure out what to make for dinner for my Grandma Irene's first ever visit to my house...

I have some leftover chicken.  I'm nearly out of dog food, so I must stop at the store tomorrow on my way home from work.  I'm thinking I'll grab some refrigerated pie crust and make some pot pies tomorrow night for Brent to pop in the oven around 5pm or so Tuesday night...

It's either that or carry out pizza.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Enunciation (Or How An Accent Changes Things)

Attention:  This post contains language that I don't use...Except that I'm having to tell a story.

And the story just isn't the same without direct quotes.

And they use the word in the Bible.

So surely that makes it okay.

Yesterday's post about Rasslin' made me think about accents.

And that made me think of my dear friend Jennifer.  She's from Tyler, Texas and her accent is quite catching.

So catching that when we lived in Texas Grace said such words as "hotayel" instead of "hotel."  Since I didn't tend to add extra accents to my vowels, I could only blame such things on Jennifer...

Anyhoo.  We lived in Arlington, TX for eight years.  And for six of those eight years, I worked at a hospital in Fort Worth.  Two years as a nursing student, and the last four as an RN.

One day Melody (one of my fellow RNs) and I were standing in the medication room, drawing up medications in syringes and doing all sorts of other "nursey" type things.  Things that require the UTMOST attention to detail, so I'm QUITE certain that there was just NO way we were discussing our precious new baby girls who were mere weeks apart...

I'm sure we were discussing cardiac rhythms and fluid overload and uncontrolled diabetes...Or some other lofty, most excellent and invigorating subject.

But the POINT is that we were in the medication room.

And we were possibly chatting.

And then a respiratory therapist stuck her head around the corner (this was before the days when medication rooms became required to have locked doors) and said, "Hey guys, where do y'all keep your ass?"

Melody and I froze.  We slowly turned and looked at her.  Two heads turning, eyes widening...

"Excuse me?"

"Where do y'all keep your ass?"

There was a beat of silence.

"Our whaaaat?"  And we both began to slowly turn our heads to look over our shoulders at our, well...Our backside...

"Your ass!  Your ass!!  Where do you keep your ASS?"

And suddenly Melody, who was Texas born and bred said, "Oh my gosh!  Ice!  You are looking for our ice!"

And we both broke into peals of laughter.

I'm not sure if we answered her between gasps of hilarity, and gestures to our behinds, and broken phrases of "Oh my gosh" and "I thought she was saying ass" and "me too!"

And then we laughed some more.

As the day progressed we'd be working along, bustling this way and that up and down the halls, in and out of rooms.  We'd happen to enter a door at the same time, and then our eyes would meet and one of us would say "ice" and the laughter would start all over again.

We dined on that request for ice for months to follow.

Strangely, the respiratory therapist never seemed to find the humor in the situation.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Okay, just to be clear for those who don't know me: I truly do say "wrestling." I even put the "ing" on it, which is a pretty big deal here in Oklahoma.  Makes me seem all proper like and ever'thin'...

Tonight I took the girls to a fine Mexican establishment for dinner.  Studmuffin was eating Buffalo Wild Wings with a friend, and rather than use the practical "save money" route, I went with the "Dad gummit if he's eating out, I am too" route.  I really like that route.  As I was having a brief accidental conversation with my sister (the kind where you don't mean to call her, but then the call doesn't go through so it's okay, but then she gets all mannerly like and calls you back anyway) and I over heard the following conversation between my two girls.  I made them repeat the entire thing, just for accuracy sake. 

Because I immediately recognized it as a very blogworthy moment, and those are few lately.

And I'm thorough that way.

Bookworm was telling Popcorn about a wrestling match.  You see, Bookworm is our local expert on many, many things, and she was the most informed of all things wrestling at our little table of three.  Because A) She reads voraciously, and B) She actually saw a real live wrestling match, which all sixth graders were required to attend to support their school...

Popcorn:  Do you think I could take down an eighth grader?

Bookworm:  I don't think so.  They're really tall.

Popcorn:  Well that's when you bite'em!

Bookworm:  There is no biting in wrestling.

Popcorn:  Then I'll pinch them!  (Sadly, she took down a cousin that has a good thirty pounds on her by this very technique.  Not all of my parenting moments are proud ones.)

Bookworm:  There's no pinching in wrestling either!

Popcorn:  Oh.  Well then I'll just punch him in the FACE!

Bookworm:  There's no punching in wrestling.


Me:  That's called wrestling with rules.

Popcorn:  Wrestling with rules is unnatural.


Being the dignified parent that I am, I burst out laughing.  Very loudly.

I don't understand the point of quiet laughter.  It's just no fun.

Unless you're laughing so hard that you go all silent laughter, and you can't inhale because you're laughing so hard, and then if you're in my family you suck in a giant breath of air...

And then you sigh a long drawn out sort of high pitched sigh like about an "A" above middle "C"...

And then if you're all together as a family, the gasp and sigh somehow synchronize so that starts an entirely new round of silent laughter that makes my dad's face get alarmingly red, and you almost fear he will have a stroke, but nonetheless you can't stop laughing long enough to make him stop laughing...

What has made you laugh lately?

Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

P.S.  I really should avoid this particular establishment as it was the sight for the great choking debacle of 2010.

Really, you should totally click that link for a refresher laugh, even if you've already read it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Putting A Face To It

Today I received an order from one of our kidney doctors to remove a dialysis catheter from one of his patients.  "I don't know why Southwest left this line in when they discharged him a few days ago.  It needs to come out."  The line is one we consider temporary, and not safe to be left in outside of the hospital as it is only held in by a stitch, and if it comes out the patient could bleed to death if proper pressure is not applied.

Just another day in the world of health care...

 I had the patient come to our department after his dialysis treatment.  I noted that he was Mexican.  I asked if he spoke English and he said "Yes."  I asked what his plans were for dialysis if I removed his access.  He simply shrugged.  After a brief interview I realized that he was not sure if he still needed dialysis, and if he did, he was not sure how he was going to receive it. 

"Are you supposed to go home today?"

He said yes he was, but still didn't have an answer how he was supposed to get treatment.  I pulled up his chart on the computer and looked up the note from his doctor.

I was startled at what I found, but I could understand the reasoning behind it...

I had just never found myself in the position of explaining such things to a patient.  After a moment's thought, I read the following doctor's note aloud to the patient:

Patient is an undocumented worker from Mexico.  I instructed patient that he needs to return to Mexico where he can get health care, and continue treatment for his renal failure.  I also told patient that if he develops shortness of breath, he needs to return to the nearest hospital where he will be treated for his renal failure.

The patient became very reserved and stoic after I read the note aloud to him.  I asked if he understood what the doctor was saying.

He shrugged and avoided eye contact with me.  I wondered what he was thinking.  I wondered what he thought I was thinking.  Did he think I felt he didn't deserve health care because he does not have the proper paper work?  My reality is that even if he didn't have paper work, as a laborer, odds are he wouldn't have insurance.  Of course, our state Medicaid system would step in if he were a legal citizen.  Instead, this man has a serious, terminal if not treated illness, and no means to get it paid for. I quietly stood beside him and thought about his situation and the consequences.  I wondered if he was able to fully grasp what was going to happen with him, considering his not quite fluent English.  How do I explain what he is facing?  What do I say to a man that I know is doomed to death if he does not receive treatment?

Sometimes there are just no words to say.

After what felt like an eternity of silence, I asked him if he understood what it meant to lose function of his kidneys.  Again, he shrugged.

"Juan, once you've lost function of your kidneys, it usually means that it's permanent.  They are no longer able to clean out your blood of toxins and fluid.  Those toxins and fluids build up and you end up back in the hospital, unable to breathe.  The best thing you can do at this point is dialysis, which is what we've been doing.  Unfortunately, you don't have insurance, and you can't get insurance because you're not a legal citizen.  That is why Dr. K is suggesting you return to Mexico."

Of course he continued to look straight ahead, and barely acknowledge what I was saying.

"Has anyone talked to you about monitoring how much you drink and changes in what you eat?"  He didn't remember if they did.

I don't doubt that he has been instructed on both of those things.  I just don't think he really understood what he needed to do.  I tried to explain the importance of watching his fluid intake.  I talked about avoiding the salt shaker.  At first I thought he was not going to engage in the conversation.  He surprised me by asking how much he could safely drink in a day.  I told him that it varies from patient to patient, and he needed to ask Dr. K.  "However, a pretty basic measure is not over two liters."

Of course he had no clear idea of liters.  I told him to think of a big bottle of pop, and I got a foam cup and told him to not drink over nine of  those a day.  We discussed that he has to consider liquid from soups, jello, ice cream and even ice.  I gave the lecture on no soda and certainly  no alcohol.  He told me he doesn't drink "cerveza" and I told him I hoped that was so.

I removed his dialysis catheter with a heavy heart.  My mind was spinning with things he needed to know to have any hope of controlling this disease without dialysis.  And yet, I realize that all of those things are really just tiny bandages on a huge gaping wound.  After I removed his catheter I reminded him to leave the dressing on for at least one day.  I reminded him to ask about foods he should avoid, and what level he should keep his fluid intake at.  When I called report, his nurse was off the floor.  I asked the nurse taking report for him to please have her get a dietary consult so the patient can have a better idea of what foods would be safe to eat.

After leaving Juan's bedside, I went to my next patient.  Also of Mexican decent.  She speaks little to no English, and instead of removing, I was assisting in PLACING a permanent dialysis catheter.  She will go home and receive dialysis three times a week, four hours each day...And it will all be paid for by the tax payers because she is on the state Medicaid program.  You see, she is here legally.

Juan is not.

Same disease.  Same background.  Taxpayers will be picking up the tab for both patients.

I can't get  his face out of my mind.  He was a quiet man with unexpected green eyes.  He was slim and well groomed.  After digging through his chart as we chatted I discovered his kidney disease was probably caused by high blood pressure, which he had not realized he had until it was too late.  He still did not understand his high blood pressure when I talked to him.

When I'm outside the walls of the hospital it is easy to say that we have to stop giving health care to all of these illegals.  It's easy to complain about the drain on our budget that their children are, because they all get coverage.  However, when you are looking in the face of that person, and you know that they will surely die without proper care it is a big pill to swallow.

Of course, I realize Juan is still getting health care.  And, he's getting it for "free" as there is probably no way he will be able to pay, and no way for us to collect. 

I was physically ill as I spoke to him.  His condition will only get worse.  He will continue to go into a crisis of fluid overload.  This will cause him to either go to the hospital where he can get a temporary dialysis catheter placed like the one I removed today and receive a few treatments until he's "stable" and the doctor can discharge him and try not to let him weigh on too heavily on his already overburdened conscience.  (After all, any doctor that works for our hospital is not in it for the money.  We are known for giving away free health care.)  Or, Juan will literally drown in his own body fluid because his heart will be overloaded with fluid and literally give out from inability to deal with the fluid.  If by some miracle he is able to manage his fluid intake without dialysis, his kidneys will not be able to manage the waste products and his potassium levels will become so critically high that he will die from cardiac arrest...

So that sucks.

He will continue to be a drain on the system, getting "free health care" because no hospital will turn him away.  This is not near to the cost if he actually received dialysis three times a week, four hours at a time like he probably needs.  But it will still be a cost to the taxpayer. This sporadic treatment given as a result of recurring crisis will take it's toll on his body, and his kidney disease will progress rapidly.

And then he will die. 

So that sucks even more.

As I spoke to Juan today I realized that putting a face to something changes your perspective.  I'm not saying that illegals should all get free health care.  That would just be crazy.  What I will say is that it's a lot easier to say "kick 'em out of the country" when you're talking about a nameless, faceless person.  What will happen to him if he returns to Mexico?  Will he get treatment?  I can't imagine that he will get the level he would here.  I imagine he would be treated from one crisis situation to the next.

But maybe I'm wrong.

All I know is that he is a man.  A human being with a family and friends and hopes and dreams of a better life.  He is a creation of God.  He has a scary diagnosis that I don't think he understands.  I pray for his safety.