Saturday, January 22, 2011

Peas and Pinballs

I had to reschedule yesterday's fiddle lesson because of meetings at work (the same will be true next Friday). Charlene was willing to meet this morning, so I went for a 10 a.m. lesson before my hospital shift.

I'm not aware that lessons are especially draining, but for whatever reason, I was just exhausted at the hospital. It was one of those days when I was dragging myself from room to room, re-visiting patients I'd already seen because I didn't remember that I'd already seen them, forgetting names, and generally being spacey. Sometimes I'm on and sometimes I'm not; today I definitely wasn't! The department was really busy, and all the nurses and techs were bouncing around like pinballs, looking grim and harried. (One of the ER docs somehow found the time to leave the hospital, go to a fast-food place, and come back with several huge bags of drinks and burgers and fries, which she walked around sticking under the noses of frazzled medical staff. "You're all working your butts off and not eating, and you need to eat!") I, on the other hand, felt like I was swimming through pea soup.

Early on, I'd had a brief visit with a patient who, despite looking very ill indeed, had been funny and cheerful. After my own lunch -- which was longer than usual, since I kept hoping the food would kick in and I'd get some energy -- the case manager told me the patient had died. One of the staff chaplains had been called, but would I go talk to the family until she arrived?

Of course I would, although the swimming-through-peas sensation kept me from feeling fully present. I offered a generic prayer; at my best, I'd have tried to learn more about the patient to personalize it more, but I wasn't at my best. A relative asked for coffee -- a need I felt able to meet! -- so I went to get it. When I got back, the staff chaplain was there. I was very relieved, since I knew she'd be more helpful to the family than I could be in my muddled state. (I probably should have just gone home early, but my attitude is that whatever I can do is better than nothing.)

Later, after the staff chaplain left, the family wanted help with release of medical records. I asked the case manager, who didn't know anything about the issue, so I went to the relevant department, talked to the manager there, got the form the family had to sign, and brought them that with the records. (From my point of view, this was the best moment of the shift; I've gone to that department before, but have always wound up wandering through eerily deserted hallways, unable to locate a soul. Today someone in the hall sent me through a nondescript, unlabeled door, and I finally located the nerve center of the place. I'll know where to go if I need anything there again!)

As I left at the end of my shift, the case manager asked if I'd gotten the records, and when I said that I had, said, "You've been really helpful today." (I'd gotten a bit of other info for him earlier.) I laughed and said that was good to hear, since it wasn't a day when I felt helpful.

Upstairs, I found a note from the staff chaplain, written on a Post-It she'd stuck to my timesheet. She said she hadn't known I was working today, and thanked me for my "compassion and help." It was very sweet of her. I'd have been more helpful if my brain hadn't been running down like a depleted wind-up toy, but again, I guess anything's better than nothing.

I was on my way to my car when I realized that I hadn't actually filled out my census sheet or signed out, and also that I'd left my notepad back in the office. So I had to turn around and go back, shoving aside peas. Sigh.

Now I'm trying to get work done, with mixed success. Time to get back to it. But I'm going to bed early tonight, I promise!

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