Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Nose To The Toes


I am lying in a hospital bed for the second day in a row.  The room is in severe contrast to the room that I was in the day before, the emergency room.  I am much more at ease today.  For at least half of the day yesterday, I do not recall much.  But I do remember the end of the day being quite serious.  Today is the second day that I’m receiving a cocktail of three strong antibiotics through an IV-line.  I am being treated today for pneumonia.  Yesterday I was being treated for sepsis, a blood poisoning, based on symptoms and my health history while waiting for blood cultures to come back from the lab.  For the third time in my life, the second in four years, I am being cared for as a result of a life-threatening situation.  Each time I ignored obvious symptoms and just “toughed it out” believing that, in time, my symptoms would resolve themselves.    Each time I was wrong, near fatally wrong.  Cancer, blocked arteries, and severe lung infections do not just go away.

 I am known to push myself to all kinds of crazy extremes, especially when it comes to time conflicts.  I live to disappoint no one.  This prior weekend was no different–eight hours of sleep through the entire weekend and two slices of pizza–five events completed.  I got through Monday with no problem and went to bed around 11pm.  Approximately half an hour later, I woke to vomit.  But it was not a violent flu-like vomit, it just poured out.  This process repeated several times through the night, each episode leaving me to deal with chronic back pain, that normally I am able to sleep through.  My wife wanted to call 911, but I argued that I would be fine.  And later on in the day, I would recover.  But this situation repeated itself the very next night.  At 4am, Wendy did not hesitate and immediately called for an ambulance.

 There is a saying, “Always make sure that you have clean underwear on, in case of an accident.”  Be prepared for it.  Well, I cannot say that I am prepared at 4am in the morning for a raid by two police officers and two EMTs.  To leave some imagination to the story, I am hoping that the “package was wrapped before Christmas” to at least some degree.  I cannot recall and my wife Wendy is of no help, as she cannot remember either.  I would hate to be pulled over in my car by the police officer who responded to my home also, and then have him respond, “If you ever subject me to that appearance on an emergency call again, and I will charge you with assault with a laughable weapon.”  At least one officer pled not to be thrown up on and reminded me that he had a gun.  One EMT mentioned that he could not handle vomit and would vomit himself.  Fantastic, everyone is a comedian even that early in the morning.  All the while my young daughters have been rustled from their beds to find two cops, two ambulance guys, oh, and daddy strapped to a stretcher.

 Fast forward to my second day in the hospital.  Both days so far each shift I have had a nurse, an aide, and a tech.  I also had a nursing student.  The first night, the nursing student could have passed for a nurse.  She seemed already into treatment-mode, had a list of things she had to get to, unable and unwilling to spend any amount of extra time with me.

 However, on my second night, in walks into my room, cue the forestry noises, tonight’s student nurse, a young girl with a beautiful smile, a timid voice, and a strongly innocent demeanor.  She may as well have been twirling around in her dress in circles singing to the birds sitting on each hand being followed by the deer, rabbit, and skunk.  All she was missing was her cast of altitudinal-challenged men with pick-axes whistling while marching through the woods in single-file.  “Good evening sir, I’m Michelle and I am a nursing student.  I am here to check you from nose to toes.”  Aaaawww, that was so cute.  Wait a minute.  Did she actually say “nose to toes?”  Am I on the pediatric floor?  Or had someone sent me a specially dressed live telegram (wink wink) to cheer me up?  Then it got awkward, especially with her age (young enough to be my daughter) for me to offer any smart-alec response like “did you say nose to hose” or “nose we see where it goes.”  But then it hits me.  One of my daughters might pursue this career.  So, I go back into dad-mode and give her a very mature, “Sure you may.”  Now that my mind had been put back on the right track, I am thinking, how bad can it be?  She is just going to check my eyes, ears, throat, blood pressure, lungs, um…, um…, okay, all was cool as she went from my belly, nose, to my toes!  My feet of all things, was what I was going to be uncomfortable with.  Even while checking the area where “nobody goes between my nose and my toes” would not have bothered me as much as letting her see my feet.  I do not even ask my wife to rub my feet.  This poor girl did not deserve this.  But she did it, and with the same smile that she came into my room with, and left the room.  She had checked me from my nose to my toes.

In my life, I have heard criticisms about many professions, that longevity with an employer can make one complacent, and the passion for the job is not the same as it was decades earlier when the employee began. 

A teacher gets to sample what her career will be like by being a student teacher.  The experience often leaves them with a false sense of security and false confidence.  This microcosm of an experience, often controlled, fuels their desires, hopes and dreams of being a teacher even further.  Then after 30 years of abusive students, public criticism for salary and schedule, and administrative disappointments, the personal achievements and pride in knowing the positive impact made on young minds ends up lost for so many.

Doctors can grow callused due to seeing as many as 30 patients in a five-hour period, their symptoms all blurring together.  Take the oncologist whose profession it is to tell people that they have cancer.  Seriously, can you blame this doctor for not having a cheery bedside manner unlike what his or her personality might have been like in high school?

You can select any profession and this may ring true.  But in a time and place that are scary enough, it was an unexpected smile and a friendly demeanor which made me wish this young woman a very long and happy career.  What I initially took as a fairy tale-like entrance will forever be a moment that I never forget.

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