Friday, January 05, 2007
Last night's hospital shift was exhausting (although, as often happens, I'm only feeling the full effects this morning). There was a much higher percentage than usual of people who desperately needed to talk, so it's good I was there, but the stories were sad and complicated and full of unresolved grief: a parent who, many years ago, lost a child on Christmas; a grown child who, several years ago, lost a parent who's still deeply mourned; an older man who's lost five siblings in the last two years. These were cases where all I could do was say, "I'm so sorry" and be willing to listen, but although I was certainly happy to listen, it was harder than usual to walk with these patients without being dragged into their emotional states myself.
At the end of each shift, I do a circuit of the waiting room. I wait until then because otherwise, I'll just see those patients back in the ER. Usually, hardly anyone in the waiting room wants to talk to me. Last night, two people wanted to tell me complicated life stories, another patient needed to share a long medical saga, and a family asked me to pray with them.
It was a draining shift. At the end of it, I was really tired.
And in the middle of it, another insane ice storm had descended on Reno. Nothing was moving on the freeways, and major local roads were closed. Nurses had to extend their own shifts because their replacements couldn't get in to work. Ambulance medics were saying, "It's a nightmare out there." I thought about leaving after two hours instead of four -- urged on by an EMT who said, "You're a volunteer, and we don't need to see you as a patient in here because you've gotten into an accident!" -- but decided to stay the entire time after a security guard pointed out that the snow had stopped: things wouldn't be any worse in another two hours, and might be better if sand trucks were able to get out.
But when I left at my usual time, that same security guard drove me back to my parking garage over level streets slick with ice, and told me, "Don't even try to drive uphill in this with a front-wheel-drive car. Call a friend who has AWD."
My trusty SUV friend wasn't home; I called a cab instead -- I had chains with me, but was more comfortable just leaving the car there and paying for a ride home -- and made it back fine, but much later than usual. It was nice to have bouncy little Balthazar to come home to!
Today I'm wiped, watching in bemusement as Balthazar energetically slaughters a toy mouse at my feet. Can someone give me a transfusion of kitten energy, please?