By the book

It’s Tuesday at Mt Sinai hospital. I’ve been here since last Thursday. I feel grateful that every morning until today (dark, mood-fitting rain), I’ve opened the blinds to bright sunshine, and that it took this long to get a nurse that really pisses me off.

She’s not mean. She’s not even completely by the book. She did, at my request, let me sleep, like the others have, until 6:00 am rather than wake me at 4:00 to give me my IV antibiotic.  But she’s mostly by the book.

There seem to be a number of books here. Hers is a heavy black hard cover with no pictures. Some consult the well-worn Coffee Tea or Me-looking manual with the 1970’s font, soft covers, and happy faces scribbled in the margins.

I concede that I’m starting to lose it, so it may in part be me. All the other nurses, day and night, got my cheery, everything-has-to-be-seen-as-a-blogable-adventure spirit. Helen got my crank, and impatience-infused self. I’ve had 15 fucking bags of IV. I’ve been dripped into pissiness.

It’s ok that she comes into the room with gloves and a mask. I appreciate the smart infection control attitude, and I have to say the range of precautions taken has been confusing. The shit started when I asked why the infusion pump wasn’t set at 200 like everyone else set it. She told me if they kept going at that pace the vein would/could collapse. Really? What does that say about the others? Are they lax, rushed, gambling-addicted and taking secret bets on when it will blow? Imagine all the things you could bet on here?

Now it takes 45 minutes rather than ½ an hour. It’s not like I have anything better to do. It’s either lie here with an IV in my arm, or lie here without one. It’s not keeping me from jumping in with morning prancersize or the I’ve-been-here-way-too-long support group. I’m alone on a surgery floor with too few white cells. It does make me giggle when my mask triggers looks of concern and I’m given wide berth in the hall. What does she have? I want to write It’s you not me across my mouth.

This morning after Helen hooked me up, I asked about my blood. They take it EVERY morning with the IV. It’s the only marker of my progress, the determining factor in my release.

“It wasn’t ordered this morning.”

“It must be an oversight. You do it every day.”

“When the doctors do their rounds later they’ll order it if they want it.”

“Later when???? Can’t you page them? It must be a mistake.”

She shrugs. “I’m not calling them for this.”

I felt like spitting my anti-viral drugs into the toilet just to spite her - a powerful symbol of my outrage. Instead I made tea. Someone stole most of my milk again, but the joke was on them, It had gone bad.

Helen’s shift ended. She actually laughed and chatted when she came in the last time. We talked about the night’s rain and her hope that the Don Valley Parkway isn't flooded for her drive home. NO, I didn’t secretly wish that for her. I’m over it. I couldn’t stay mad.

Lisa’s on now. She gets points for clarity. She explained that a) the medicine team would get really annoyed if they paged about something as trivial as blood, and b) maybe they were giving my blood a break today since they could project the numbers based on the pace so far. A break? Hasn’t it had enough of a fucking break, lying around on chaise lounges with cocktails, refusing to reproduce? I’d get in there with a whip if I knew how.

Bad attitude, Aviva. Breathe. Namaste. Send images of love and light to the bone marrow, or whoever it is that’s been having a hard week? Month? Year? Love is the answer.

Hey, there’s the sun.

Go white!!

P.S. Big thanks to Shelly, Eileen and Jacintha who I hope I don’t get to see again, unless it’s by accident at a coffee shop. Nurses rock!!!!!


You really drive to the heart of the experience. How nurses are both people and the institution and some kind of symbol of the abstract unknowns about recovery and you experience them as all of these at once. Hope today is better, you. xxc


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