Transient? I Don’t Think So! Part IV: Murmurs, Mists, and Apologies.

I had slept through my first night on the neurology floor. I should stipulate that I am using the term “sleep” rather loosely. I was awakened at least every two hours. It seemed that a good way to ensure that I would be awakened soon was to say to myself: Self, put on your CPAP mask and get some sleep. Every time I would put my mask on, it was a pretty safe bet something would happen that would disturb my futile attempts to sleep…perchance to dream (perhaps Hamlet was just being an idealist).

The most frequent source of interruption was due to the patient who shared the room with me. I didn’t know much about what brought him to our floor aside from hearing family members relay the news to other family members. Over and over again, I could hear his daughter call someone on the phone: “Daddy had another seizure.” I knew enough to surmise that his neurological state was far worse than mine. He could only communicate by speaking very softly and using facial gestures. He could not move on his own. This meant that the nursing staff had to come in every two hours and shift his body in bed to prevent bed sores. This meant, every two hours, I would hear the nursing staff come in and talk to my roommate (and each other). They would also change the sheets as they were typically soiled. Every time the nurses came in, they would apologize for the interruption (and the smell). Every time the nurses left, I prayed for my roommate’s recovery and knew it could have been me in his condition. My mind would wander. What if I had stayed upstairs longer? What if my wife and daughter had not reacted so quickly? What if I had not gone into my daughter’s room that morning and my episode got worse on my way to work (or after I had punched in)? I knew it really did little good to think this way. I couldn’t change what happened. Still, every two hours of each night in the hospital, my mind would ultimately go down this road.

Another nightly interruption came from routine blood work. I used to work as a phlebotomist in my 20’s. The phlebotomist is the person who comes in to draw your blood. I knew what it was like to be called a “vampire” or “leech”. The point being that I understood their side of our relationship. They had a job to do that was part of my care. Still, I must say two things. First, for every patient whose sleep I interrupted in the course of my duties: I will go to my grave pleading your forgiveness even though I have not been in that line of work for some 20 years now.Secondly, I urge phlebotomists everywhere. When you apply alcohol to cleanse the site, PLEASE…IN THE NAME OF EVERYTHING HOLY TO EVEN THE MOST DEITY DENYING ATHEIST…WIPE THE ALCOHOL OFF BEFORE YOU PUNCTURE YOUR PATIENT! The lab results will still be accurate and your patient will be grateful.

I wound myself down again only to find another two hours had elapsed which meant my roommate’s routine was starting again. It was another round of ambient conversation, another mist of deodorizer, and another apology from the nurses. I put my CPAP mask on again and made another attempt. Two hours passed and the roommate’s routine began again. However, there was a different element in the room: sunlight. It was morning and my breakfast tray was being brought in. I resigned myself to staying up for a while a sipped on my hot cop of a black coffee that resembled coffee in roughly the same fashion that Justin Bieber resembles a musician (except the coffee was more fit for human consumption.

I could only sit and wait to find what the day had in store for me…it would be a day that tested me (literally and figuratively).

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