Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Night Nurse

This anecdote has been percolating for 10 months, ever since I got my double mastectomy in April 2009. Despite the potent morphine & anesthesia-induced haze during the night post surgery, I remember the details vividly. In fact, the inspiration for this blog directly resulted from My Night Nurse story (thanks, Jill, for pushing me to write it down!).

To set the scene--
I never had any major surgery prior to the mastectomy. I did talk to my doctors, friends, family, women who have gone through the procedure, as well as checked out community message boards to figure out what I should expect. Apparently the night after the surgery would be pretty rough. Best to have someone with you to keep you company and be your advocate.

My mother-in-law, Lisa, with whom I am very close, persuaded me to get a private night nurse. This way, my husband could stay home with the kids and I would get lots of proper medical attention during the night. And I did. Lots of attention. So, so much attention. I am curious if anyone else had an experience similar to mine. Read on.

So, I am squared away in my hospital room, after the hideous transition from gurney (which takes you from recovery) to bed. No one really explains ahead of time that you need to move yourself onto the bed. Without using your arms. After much shrieking and flailing and cursing (from both me and the two hapless techs tasked with moving me), I am situated. Poor Jeff, my husband, was convinced that they dropped me on the floor. Wisely, they wouldn't let him witness the transfer.

The Night Nurse (NN) arrives. She is very experienced and has been a nurse for over 30 years. Great. Jeff heads out & NN gets to work. She is busy. Folding clothes, taking out trash, bustling around the room. I just want to sleep. There is constant commotion. Moving chairs. Rustling papers. Adjusting blankets. I think, "Lady, I need to SLEEP." Finally, I drift off.

Only to be awakened by NN less than 1/2 hour later. Bright and cheery, "Let's get you to the bathroom." We make the trip to the bathroom. Back to bed. Takes a good 20 minutes. Then, "Shall we try the breathing apparatus?" What. The. Hell. But maybe she knows best. I breathe in to a plastic tube that measures my lung capacity or something. "Now for some juice!" I politely decline and firmly close my eyes. "Umm, Nurse, I am ready to sleep now."

This goes on ALL NIGHT LONG. She is constantly waking me up to do this or that. Is this NORMAL??? I have no idea. But here is the crowning moment of my experience-- at 4:45am, NN peers over me. I open my eyes and there she is, inches away. "I think you are ready for your Sponge Bath!" She is positively giddy.

Me (groggily): "What time is it?"
I peer out my window, where it is pitch black outside.
NN (brightly): "4:45am! I think you will feel SO much better."

Me: "No thanks. I just showered 15 hours ago."

NN: "Oh, but you will feel great after a sponge bath."

Me: "Really. I don't want one."

NN (cheerful as could be): "Let me get you ready for your sponge bath!"
And proceeds to busily bustle around the room, getting all of the items organized.
I guess I am getting a sponge bath, goddammit.

Sure enough, NN gets to work. And let me tell you, attention was PAID. To. All. My. Parts. I know I was whacked out on morphine, Percoset, anesthesia and a bunch of other hardcore drugs, but this was ridiculous. This lady was thorough. I wonder to myself whether NN knows Maria, the Brazilian waxer at the local spa. That kind of thorough. And really, does anyone actually need a sponge bath before 5am?!

NN (sweetly): "There. All better?"

Me (shell shocked): "I think I am ready to go back to sleep. G'night."

There you have it.

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