I was premed, needed a job, and there was an up-scale nursing home right in the pathway from school to home. Connect the dots; Change a few bedpans, play dominos with the old guys and collect a paycheck. Easy enough.
The interview as a orderly was as intense as dealing with the CIA or Interpol. I have been looked at before, but not with this much intensity. The two viewers were staring at my long sleeved shirt wondering if they might find needle tracks or psychopathic tattoos. Deep whiffs were taken to see when I taken my last toke. This nursing home had never had a male nurse’s aide before and this clean-cut country boy wasn’t to be the first. A male infidel for crying out loud.
What saved the day was interviewer number two, a nurse, suggesting that having a man around might be helpful in lifting patients and handling troublesome men patients. So, I was not hired for my intellect or charisma, but rather for the load I could tote.
The first few days were not good. I was trained on one floor, but would actually work on another. I wore a white short-sleeved polo shirt and white pants. Taking care of the men was easy, but my approach with the old women was not working. Around 8 o’clock in the evening, I would enter a woman patient’s room and ask her if I could help her off with her clothes and get her into bed. When I couldn’t get to first base with my female patients, I thought about it for a bit. Had I ever been successful with that line, whether it be the backseat of the Ford or anywhere for that matter. The answer was no, the story of my life.
I am a quick learner. Upon arrival for work at my new floor, I now wore a doctor’s coat with a lanyard and two plastic badges. Neither meant much, a picture of my driver’s license and the other my parking permit. The look implied that I was probably at least a neurosurgeon.
My approach or rather my bedside manner improved immensely. I would walk in with a bit of a frown, stare at the patient for a moment, take her pulse, and ask if they were treating her well, Any pain?
Soon, I was their favorite doctor, “You should get some rest now. Here, let me help.” A charlatan if there ever was one.
Memory rides only if carried by emotion. Here are three memories.
Several weeks after my arrival, I heard a call for me to go to Mrs. Williamson’s room. When I arrived, I found two aides and a nurse in a physical commotion with the patient. Mrs. W was one that had been completely taken in by my pseudo-doctor routine. Instead of going in physically, I took my little charade on the road.
“Ladies, ladies. what is going on here?” Although it was very pompous, it worked. Everything stopped. The nurse surprised at my approach and holding on bravely said, “Mrs. Williamson needs this pneumonia vaccination and we are not having any luck.”
As I stepped through to hold the patient’s hand, the aides stared at this theatrical performance dumbfounded. I had been called to help wrestle an arm free for a vaccination. I have always been full of myself and here is a prime example.
“Mrs. Williamson,” I said with a touch of painful worry and a tad of consternation. ” They say that you haven’t taken your shot yet. That really worries me.” Holding her hand and leaning over to whisper, ” If you were my grandmother, I would tell you to hold my hand and get this done.” She pursed her lips and held on to my arm. Done.
On the way out, one of the aides that was present at the shooting , leaned to me with a smirk”, ” That has to be the biggest piece of crap I ever saw.”
“I’ll bill you in the morning,” I said with a dorky smile.
Some weeks later, I was walking by the women’s showering room, I heard a cry of help. Not really inclined to enter just any woman’s shower room, I waited at the door for another invitation. Another cry of help came quickly. I rushed in to find Tory, a cute little nurse’s aide, pressed in an awkward position, trapped in the corner of the shower. The avalanche slowly sliding down on her was a slippery, obese Mrs. Johansson. Mrs. J as we will grow to know her, was bare naked and slick from the constant flow of water from the shower head. Her big bottom had slipped off the plastic showering chair.
I jumped in lifting, trying to stabilize the situation. I must say the three of us became quite familiar with one another as we tried to get the plastic chair with wheels to return to the scene of the crime. Every time I gathered up a large portion of Mrs. J’s slimy pink body to lift, a bunch of the rest of her popped out somewhere else. By now both Tory and I were tangled up beneath this glob of humanity desperately trying to re-seat mama J . Finally we slid the chair beneath most of her.
The head nurse flew in with another aide, they stopped . In fact, time stopped. The picture in front of them was of a shower raining down on a naked and obese woman with a soaked orderly on his knees with his hands around her buttocks. Tory tucked in between the both of us. Tory’s hair soaked and stringy, her image was of a full-length wet T-shirt contestant. I guess you had to be there.
The nurse said quaintly, ” Do you three always shower together?” I turned to see her, but it was hard to see her with water droplets dripping freely from my eyelashes.
Mrs. Anderson had been a patient for four years, not able to care for herself all during this time. Also, she had been silent all four years., nearly catatonic. Her level of dementia was fairly severe. Since she never spoke, we were not sure how severe. She had a catheter that drained into a plastic container attached to her wheel chair. Each night as I emptied the container, I also poured a half a cup of urine into a paper cup. Since her blood sugar was fluctuating, we checked for the amount of sugar in her urine, common in those days.
This night I set the cup on the corner of her wheel chair table and worked to re-attach the plastic container near the base of the wheel chair. When I looked up, Mrs. Anderson was holding the cup out to me, ” yum good.” She had drunk the sample and was looking for more.
At the nurse’s station, “Did you check Mrs. Anderson’s sugar?” I thought a minute how Mrs. A enjoyed her fresh-squeezed urine.
“In a manner of speaking, yes.”
“I believe so…”