I can't for the life of me think of a good title for this post, which will be a motley collection of odds and ends. If anybody has any great ideas after reading it, lemme know. I'd offer you a cool prize, but I can't think what that would be, either. So you can suggest a cool title and a cool prize. A year's supply of cat fur, maybe?
My last Thursday shift went well last night; the minute I walked into the ER, a staff member snagged me to ask me to talk to a patient, and that always makes me happy. It's nice to be seen as a resource. That patient wound up doing well, too (no credit to me), which is always a plus. Gary's cookies were popular. I called our local crisis hotline to get some social-service referrals for a frantic family, who thanked me profusely; the ER no longer has social workers, and this is exactly the kind of help that patients often need and that medical staff don't have time to give. (My old volunteer coordinator, who's left to go to grad school, used to tease me about being a social worker at heart.) I got to watch a doctor hop on top of a bed to reduce a dislocated joint, which is the kind of dramatic move I thought only happened on ER. (The other staff were very impressed, but also clearly alarmed that the doctor might fall.) I alerted a nurse to a possible problem with some equipment, and instead of giving me the Go-Away Glare, the nurse said, "Thank you for calling that to my attention." That same nurse, when I mentioned how patient the staff has been with me this past year, squinted at me and said, "What are you talking about? You're the one who's been patient." Since this is someone with whom I had a really royal tussle over ice chips at one point, that felt good. A very sweet patient told me several times, "I love you," and that patient wasn't even drunk (I routinely hear professions of undying devotion from ETOH patients, but not usually from sober ones).
There was also some tough stuff, though, as always. One patient dealing with a very difficult loss asked me for prayer, but also asked for non-Christian language. Because so many people have had such toxic experiences with Christianity, I'm very sympathetic to such requests. But my own theology of loss and suffering is deeply and very specifically Christian, so when I can't use that language, I'm working with a drastically reduced toolbox. It feels like trying to perform brain surgery with a paperclip and a piece of dental floss. I did the best I could, and I'm sure the patient appreciated it, but it was definitely one of the moments when I regretted dropping out of CPE, which would have given me better ecumenical/interfaith/broadly-spiritual resources.
It was also one of the moments when I was grateful not to be the most important entity in the equation. As a fellow volunteer's fond of saying, "God was in the room before we got there, and God will be in the room after we leave."
Dogs and Cats
Talking to a patient with a beloved dog, I mentioned one of my pet (ha!) theories, that pets are small pieces of God wrapped in fur coats -- or feathers or fins, depending on your zoological preferences -- who come into our lives to teach us about unconditional love. The patient's nurse said, "Oh, that's definitely true of dogs. I'm not so sure about cats." I protested that of course it was true of cats, but both the patient and the nurse seemed unconvinced.
Okay, faithful readers: where do you fall on this issue? Especally if you have both dogs and cats?
I went to bed feeling less exhausted than I often do after a shift, but I woke up at 5:00 a.m. (ugh!) with a madly itching right forearm, which has since developed into a rash. A quick web search informed me that most such rashes have no obvious origin and disappear as mysteriously as they came, so I'm not going to panic just yet about having picked up something awful at the hospital. (I've been sick less often since I started volunteering there, maybe because I've become maniacal about handwashing.) It sure is annoying, though!
When I toured my favorite websites this morning, I learned from Locus that Stephen Martiniere, who did the cover art for my novel The Necessary Beggar, has won a Chesley Award for best hardcover jacket art. He didn't win for my book, of course, but it still feels like reflected glory. Congratulations, Stephen!
Tonight Gary and I are having some friends over to watch Joss Whedon's brilliant Western-in-space series Firefly on the new 42" plasma set, which Gary refers to as the "Omega 13." (If you've seen GalaxyQuest, you'll catch the reference.) We're going to start with the pilot, show two episodes each on successive Friday evenings, and wind it all up with Serenity, the feature film made from the series. It should be good fun!
Any fellow browncoats out there?
And finally . . .
Toto, I'm Not In Kansas Anymore
I've set site meter not to record my own visits to the blog, and I've also set my location as Reno. But it is recording my visits -- I can tell by timing and outclicks -- and for some reason, it thinks I'm in Kansas, 1,212 miles away. Does anyone have an explanation for this, or advice on how to fix it?