Of A Healer: Too Old

“I’m too old for this,” she moaned as we repositioned her body higher up in the hospital bed.

“You are not,” I said, looking her square in the eye.

Her eyes narrowed and a gnarled hand reached up to point a finger at my chest, “Boy, I’m 86 years old, I’ve got 15 great-grandkids, and I’m stuck in here fighting cancer. I’m too old!”

I gave a short laugh and said, “that’s nothing! I had a patient who woke up from surgery and asked where the hell she was, and what the hell we were doing in her room.”

“She was 96, and her family didn’t even bother telling her she was going in for surgery.”

My patient looked at me, mouth open in shock.

“You’re right,” she said, that’s too old.”

-M.E. InkOwl

Of A Healer: Goat Boy

“Hey Mary, sorry to bother you again,” I said knocking on the door as I stuck my head in, “I just need to check your drains.”

Mary sat in her hospital bed, her bare head wrapped In a colorful scarf. Her wrinkled face broke into even more smile lines as the eighty-two-year-old waved me in.

“Yes of course! Come check out these dreadful things,” Mary said, brandishing the fluid-filled plastic bulbs. Lines of dark red ran from the bulb and into her gown.

I knew full well those drains ended almost another foot inside the body. But it was best not to think about it. I was still a new Healthcare Assistant and wanted to put my best foot forward with my patients.

“Well they’re not not that dreadful,” I said, remembering a pair of ill-colored drains in the next room over.

“Oh really?” Said Mary, a note of incredulity plain in the air between us.

“Errrmmmm-” was all I could say without grossing her out or breaking legal confidence.

“You know Mike, I think you’ll appreciate this,” she said as a sly smile crept across her face.

“When I was a young girl my father owned his own farm. We kids would be up at the crack of dawn to help him feed all the livestock. We had cows and chickens, horses and pigs, sheep and ducks. Everything.”

“That’s amazing!” I said, emptying the contents of a drain into a cup and setting it aside.

“It was,” Mary said with a knowing smile, “but my favorite had to be the group of silly goats my father had bought at a livestock auction. They were the most bizarre animals I’d ever seen.”

“Goats are the weirdest!” I exclaimed, trying to not show how much I loved everything about goats. This poor woman already knew I was an odd duck, no sense in giving her more fodder.

“They are! They eat everything and anything they can get their little mouths on,” she said with a laugh.

I took a cup to the restroom and flushed the contents down, then returned with another container.

“Anyway that’s beside the point,” she said, lifting one of the surgical drains with a wrinkled hand, “why I mention the goats is because of these drains.”

“Really?” I asked, confused as to where this was going. An image of a goat eating surgical drains came to mind, but I waited for her to continue.

“Yeah, you see the goats made me laugh so hard because, well . . .” she paused, her face going a light shade of pink.

What on earth? I thought, pausing with one hand holding another drain and cup.

She gave a small giggle, “because they had these weird goat balls . . .”

Mary was now holding a pair of drains up in front of my uncomprehending face. My brain wasn’t registering what she was saying and it wasn’t until she threw her head back and laughed out loud that I understood.

“Goat balls!” I all but yelled as this 80-year-old woman shook with laughter.

“Yes!” she said between guffaws, “I have goat balls!”

I tried to hold my professionalism together for about three seconds and then exploded with laughter, “You totally have goat balls!”

Tears were pouring down our faces as I tried to find a seat to keep me from falling over. Mary couldn’t catch her breath as she rocked side to side with laughter.

“Oh my gosh, Mary that’s the best thing I’ve heard all day!” I said when I finally caught my breath.

“I know!” she said with glee, “I’ve been wanting to tell you this all day!”

We sat there giggling for a minute, staring down her drains, and then I remembered the cup of fluid I still held in my hand.

“I better get these emptied,” I said and emptied the remaining drain. Stepping back into the room I saw Mary’s face covered by a large smile.

“I needed that Mike,” she said.

“I did too,” I admitted pulling off my gloves and tossing them into the garbage, “I’ve got to step out now but you call me if you need anything.

Mary nodded her head and lifted a couple drains up, “If they fill back up I’ll call you to come empty these goat balls.”

We laughed more as I stepped away. The day moved on and before I knew it shift report was happening. People were moving everywhere. In the melee, I forgot to stop by Mary’s room one last time to say goodbye and didn’t remember until I was at home in bed.

A few day’s later when I came into work my manager had a small white card waiting for me in the break room.

“This was from one of the patient’s you took care of a few days back, at least I’m thinking it’s you,” she gave me a weird look and handed the card to me.

“Are you ‘Goat Boy’?

Simultaneously choking on a laugh and trying to keep a straight face I said,”yeah, you could call me that.”

Inside the card, in a neatly scrawled hand was this note:

To all those who took care of me,

While I recovered, thank you. I could never have recovered as well as I have under your special care and support. I will remember each and every one of you, you have my sincerest thanks and appreciation. And to my Goat Boy, thank you for all the laughs.

Best Wishes,

Mary

-M.E. InkOwl

Of A Healer: In Death’s Arms

*Warning this piece contains some graphic medical descriptions and medical field situations that some may find disturbing.*

“Hey, could you come here?” Bev called as she stuck her head out of a room.

I hear a note of panic rising slowly in her voice, but didn’t think anything of it as she stepped back beyond the glass door and curtain.

“Yeah, hang on, I’m coming,” I called back launching a pair of used gloves into a nearby garbage.

It was the end of shift and report was finished with only five minutes to spare. The day had been long and arduous and I was ready to be off the unit and out in the real world.

Not that I’ll have time to appreciate it, I thought stepping into the room and seeing a blinding orange sun sink beneath the horizon.

Dark when I get here, dark when I leave, I repeated in my head with a forlorn look.

I glanced back out into the hall where a flock of residence and medical students had gathered outside the room, no doubt waiting to make the assessments.

They’re flocking this way, I thought to myself and pulled on some gloves.

“How can I help?” I asked looking around for Bev.

“We’re in here,” she called from the bathroom, “sorry, he’s just not feeling really well.”

In Bev’s arms a elderly gentleman wretched and gasped saliva into the toilet.

Bev stood behind him hands supporting his waste as he shook slightly from the effort.

“I just need you to hold him here,” she said with a small grunt, “while I grab the Nurse and let her know he’s not feeling good.”

The man wretched again, but to no avail. His body shook again.

I jumped forward eager to help as she held onto him for a second more. I could see, for a moment, her hand shaking and face growing pale.

Something was wrong.

“Is he alright?” I called after her, but Bev was already gone running out the door.

The patient shook in my arms as another wave of nausea hit him hard.

His breaths were coming in strange sporadic gasps and the shaking was getting worse.

“Hang in there, I said, planting a foot and knee just behind his legs.

This isn’t good, I thought now feeling fear raise the hair on the back of my head, where the hell is Bev?

S-s-sit,” gasped the man as he tried to turn his head towards me.

“Yeah maybe we should sit down-” I was about to say, but his knees buckled and his entire body weight landed on my ready knee.

“Hey!” I yelled, ” anyone out there? I could use a hand!”

Where is everyone?

Suddenly the patient pitched forward and belched out a fountain of green bile into the toilet.

Caught by surprise, I gave a yell and held onto him even tighter. More bile fountained from his mouth hitting the toilet and tiled wall. Light green missed with bits is dark.

That’s too much fluid, I thought as adrenaline broke through the shock.

“Help!” I screamed as his whole body weight pulled against me. Both my arms were wrapped right around the man’s waste and we leaned towards the wall beside us.

Fluid continued to pour uncontrolled from his mouth. To my horror his head flopped forward as he slipped into unconsciousness and more fluid poured from mouth and nose. Fluid was being pushed out of the tear ducts in his eyes.

“CODE! SOMEONE CALL A CODE THIS MAN IS DYING!” I screamed slamming my body against the wall in an effort to pull the bathroom call light and signal to anyone what was going on in the room.

Where are the freaking residents? I thought wildly as I staggered under unconscious weight.

“CODE! SOMEONE CALL A CODE NOW!” I continued screaming as a I heard voices begin to yell out in the hall.

Bile was draining onto the floor, running down my arms and onto my feet.

I could feel the sticky warmth rolling over my skin and had to choke down my own vomit.

“WE’RE HERE!” Someone finally responded flinging open the doors as the rest of my strength left me and we both slid into the tiled floor.

The man’s body lolled sickly over my own as I tried to prevent his head from cracking against the ground. I was beneath him, feeling the warmth of his body on my legs and lower torso.

It was at that very moment I felt the patient’s body tense, ever so slightly, as if he were regaining consciousness. For a moment I thought he was going to open his eyes, push away from me, or speak; but then his body went boneless.

A gurgle escapes his mouth as more fluids dribbled out, but then he was gone.

“No,” I croaked, realizing what I had just felt, “No!”

Someone above us wretched and there was more yelling as medical teams poured into the room.

I grabbed wildly at the man’s neck trying to feel for a pulse, but his head just flopped against my arm.

“I’m not feeling anything!” I yelled, reaching for his arm, “there’s nothing on his arm. No pulse!”

“Let’s move him out of the room,” called a nurse from the code team. Med-students and nurses alike pulled the man off of my body. But I was in shock and couldn’t let go of his head.

“He’s gone,” I said astonished to find myself sobbing as his body was pulled out across the floor. Tracks of green bile traced the spot from me to the now lifeless body.

“He’s gone.” I cried as someone pulled me up from the floor and pulled me out the open bathroom door. I looked down to see someone working on his chest, cartilage snapping along the man’s sternum as they compressed his heart.

His body was bouncing around like a rag-doll and his stomach rolled in waves, filled with fluid.

I gagged and made for the door of the room where familiar faces stood gawking and waiting to run supplies as needed.

They looked at me in my scrubs covered with filth. Their mouths moved as a hundred questions assaulted me from all sides, but all I could do was keep walking. I gagged again and the found the energy to push myself into the nearest secure med-room.

The door clicked behind me and I sank down to the floor too numb to even cry.

The only thought in my mind, I just felt someone die.

-M.E. InkOwl

Of A Healer: Batman

We worked together, moving Beth from side to side. She was approaching 85 and having had several major abdominal surgeries to remove multiple cancerous tumors her body was slowly shutting down. Severe edema made both of her legs swell to twice their size and was slowly losing her strength to stand and move.

The work was taxing in every way and as we finished unfolding clean sheets and positioning her just so Beth gave a tremendous sigh.

“What’s that for?” I asked with a grin, “you been working hard or something?”

Beth gave my arm a playful slap and between breath’s said, “you’re too funny for your own good kid.”

I laughed and gave her arm a squeeze, “well we couldn’t have done that without you Beth. You’re one in a million.”

“No,” she said grabbing hold of my hand and squeezing it tight, “you really are, I couldn’t get through this without you.”

I watched tears form in her eyes as she tried to convey her sincerity. It was touching and awkward at the same time because she was such an independent soul. I could tell it from the look in her eyes how uncomfortable she was laying in that hospital bed.

“Hey, I’ve got a funny story for you,” I said hoping this would distract her.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she answered in a gruff voice, but I saw her body slightly relax.

“The other night I had headed off to work and my son, Ira, was talking with my wife. They were clearing off dinner and in the middle of it Ira stops and says, ‘Mom, Daddy sleeps till four in the afternoon, right?’

“Without thinking my wife said, ‘Yes, Daddy has to because he works all through the night at the hospital.’ Ira stood there for a long moment thinking about this fact. Finally, he said, ‘So he sleeps during the day and works all night.’

“‘Yup, he does,’ she said with infinite patience. There was another moment of silence and then Ira’s eyes went all wide and he suddenly screamed, ‘Mom! Dad’s Batman!'”

Beth’s body rocked as she laughed at the story. I couldn’t contain myself and laughed as well. For a single moment, we weren’t in a large hospital room with whirring IV machinery and bubbling lines. The smell of sterilized surfaces and carefully filtered air disappeared and what mattered in that moment was Beth’s laughter.

A genuine look of mirth and energy filled her face as she smiled brilliantly to the room at large. It was a moment we both needed, and when it ended I helped Beth sit up higher in her bed. She grabbed my arm and with a voice full of gratitude said, “I’m so glad I have you here to help, Batman.”

“Anytime,” I said, giving her hand a squeeze, “anytime.”

-M.E. InkOwl

 

Of A Healer: Julie

She’s on her way out, the docs just told us,” she said, tears filling her eyes.

I reached over and placed a hand on her shoulder, sharing the look, sharing the fear.

“I-, I don’t know how long she’s going to be with us, but I know she would appreciate a visit from you,” she said with a sniff and knowing smile, “you are Julie’s favorite.”

I nodded and gave her what I hoped was a strong smile.

“You both have been my favorite patients to care for,” I said with a pause, “Well not you, you’re her sister.”

She chuckled, a rich and warm sound, as we stood in the bustling hallway.

Behind us elevators dinged open on different floors, hospital staff talking to one another, and family members passing by. Behind us, framed in a wide bank of windows, the sun was setting over the city, catching the summer pollution and igniting the sky. Milliseconds passed by, but they might have well been years.

“I’ll go visit, don’t worry,” I whispered as we pulled each other in a tight embrace.

“She’ll want to hear you,” she breathed in my ear.

We parted, knowing that we would never see one another again. Tears fell from her face onto the ground. And all I could do was nod my head, so I did.

I walked away.

Hitting the entrance button to the Intensive Care Unit I walked quietly down the hall, glancing briefly into each room I passed. Seeing a familiar name on the outside of a room I paused to take a breath.

Inside machinery whirred and lights blinked on and off. Julie lay on the hospital bed, a small form almost engulfed in blankets and pillows. Her eyes were closed. Dark lashes laid on iridescent skin. Purple shadows law below each closed lid and there was a hollowness to her face.

A breathing tube traveled from the bulky ventilator machine down into her mouth, giving a mechanical movement to Julie’s chest. She was beautiful, broken, yet beautiful.

I stepped close to her bedside, taking hold of a hand that was warm to the touch. They law across her stomach, as if she were expecting a visitor any minute as if she were waiting for me.

“Julie,” I said, placing my head close to her ear, “I’m here.”

There was no motion in her body, except for the rhythmic fall of her chest. I looked at her face. Only days before had there been a wide smile on her lips and a joke waiting to spring up. She had been full of zeal.

“Spit and vinegar,” is what she would have said. But now she was here, waiting.

“I just came by to tell you hi,” I paused, trying to control the rising emotions, “and I wanted to tell you something. You should know I’m a big baby when it comes to these things, saying good bye.”

I sniffed, feeling tears trickle down my face, “I always cry, no matter what.”

My tears fell down onto her blanket, wetting the fabric.

“I just want you to know that you are incredible. You’ve left an impression on me and I can’t thank you enough.”

I ran a hand across my nose and then looked for a tissue. Finding one I grabbed it and pulled my emotions under control.

“Julie, thank you for letting me care for you,” I said, giving her forehead a gentle kiss, “good bye, my friend.”

-M.E. InkOwl

Of A Healer: From The Outside

Sunlight blazed into existence as I stepped from the carefully controlled climate of the hospital. It was mid July and the days were hitting mid 90’s.

“See you next week,” someone called a coworker as they walked towards a waiting shuttle.

I waved and walked down the sloping lawn towards my won bus stop beyond the main parking structure. Behind me my hospital stood, perched upon the edge of a mountain. Blue-green glass windows gleamed in the late afternoon sun.

Glad I don’t have to come back to you for a few more days” I thought with a smile. The sun felt so good on my skin, warming the ache of a day spent in a cold, sterile environment.

I paused for a moment, taking in the main hospital, and beyond it my sprawling city. It was a beautiful moment.

Taking a turn past the emergency department, I found myself walking down the ambulance ramp that lead straight to the ER. My eye naturally began to follow the staggered windows of the medical ICU unit on the second floor.

It was almost too hard to look at the windows as they shifted the suns rays into my face. Temporarily blinded I stopped and blinked for a few moments.

A swift movement caught my eye and I started forward, suddenly curious. There were forms moving by a shadowed window.

Me being on the ambulance ramp I found myself at eye level with the window, which turned out to be another ICU room.

As I watched the movement in the room I found myself momentarily dumbfounded. There before me was a scene I’ll not soon forget.

A team of four nurses stood over an occupied bed. One of the four knelt on top of the bed, rhythmically pushing on the patient’s chest. Eyes widening I watched as someone moves a crash cart into view, and then a third person placed a rebreather mask over the patient’s face.

“Their coding him,” I said to no one but myself. I was exhausted from the day but enraptured watched the familiar dance of CPR play out before my eyes.

My body immediately went into a fight or flight response as I felt my heart rate climb, thundering in my ears. The sun lost its shine for those moments I stood transfixed, staring out at the four people stepping between life and death.

I was there, feeling the patient’s chest move under my hands, feeling ribs pop and chest recoil under my hands.

Yet I wasn’t there, standing beyond the glass, a stranger separated by what seemed an entire world.

Emotions moved deep within my body as I watched nurses switch out. I felt their fatigue, their anxiety, and stress.

But then a distant honk up the ramp reminded me of where I was and the spell was broken.

Glancing back at the I noticed the curtain was pulled shut.

I shook my head and continued following the familiar steps towards home.

-M.E. InkOwl

Slowing Down

For all you who are following this blog, The Ink Owl will be slowing down its posts for this next year. I’m planning on doing four posts a month so that I can focus on larger writing projects that need my attention.

I’m excited to briefly mention that I was able to pitch a story that has caught the eye of a potential publisher! Now I need to devote as much time and attention to this story as I possibly can.

So forgive the absence and please continue to follow, at a slower pace. As always you can check out more of my writing on GoDogGoCafe. I look forward to one day soon share this exciting new experience!

Thank you all for your comments and support! This blog has become quite a special place because of your encouragement.

Now to put my pen to paper!

-M.E. InkOwl

March On The Ink Owl

Hello and welcome to March in the InkOwl.

This month I will be focusing my posts on selected excerpts from my personal experience as a Healthcare Assistant in a hospital setting.

I am excited and nervous to share these experiences as some come with a lot of emotions attached. There are some tender memories and some traumatizing events I’ll be sharing, so forgive me for any strong language or graphic episodes that are shared.

I’d like for this to be an opportunity to share the unique perspective I have with healthcare and also show a snippet of what experiences we healthcare workers have in this setting. So prepare yourself for a interesting month.

-M.E. InkOwl

Self-love: Love, A Process

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”
― Brené Brown


Brené Brown holds a masters of social work and is a research professor for the University of Huston. For more than fifteen years she has been studying topics such as courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. You can learn more about Brené Brown by visiting her website here. Here are links to more of her published works on Amazon.com: