30 March 2007

dead, twisty trees, dysentary, and lemon jelly:

i went to another tasting last night at the cork and olive. it was nice and the same guy was playing live music. i almost enjoyed that more than the wine. almost. his name is shane and i hope to hear him again in the future. he played a lot of dave, some tracy chapman, and bob marley. when he does 'no woman no cry' i want to fall at his feet and weep- i didn't though. i was also able to make a getaway with a case of some good reds. i'm pretty excited about that and will give my kindergarden critique as the corks are discarded. the crowd at the shop last night was pretty modish and i didn't seem to tow the line as far as fashion went. i was in flippies, jeans, and a t-shirt. whatev. i could buy them and sell them... just kidding.

it was on to color me mine after the tasting and i'm quite excited about what i'm painting thus far. it's a dead, twisty tree with birds flying over the side of the plate. it's hard to explain, but i'll post it when it's finished.

plans for kenya are moving along swimmingly so far. i'm excited about this summer and can't wait to see what god's going to do. if i'm lucky, maybe i'll contract some curable disease whereby ensuing drastic weight loss before i return home... it's not why i'm going, i promise. if that were the case, i'd go to fat camp. all i'm saying is a little amebic dysentery would do just the trick.

the journey of desire, so far, is a great book. i remember starting the book long ago, but i was dead inside then and so talk of following my passion was as useful to me as a airplane mechanic manual. it's making a lot more sense now. i suppose i had to get to the point where i was living outside my desire in order to feel what i wanted. i stumbled upon this webside called 'simplystrengths.com' and it looks pretty neat. i've yet to explore all of what it's about, but i'm going to check it out on my free time.

humm... anything else... oh, last thing. i downloaded a funky group the other day and can't get enough of them since. they're called lemon jelly. there's something about their style that leaves you just a bit above the earth and happy to be alive. i recommend checking them out and maybe even downloading them. if you have but one song to download let it be 'elements' from lost horizons. that'll give you a snapshot into their world. don't say i didn't warn you, and enjoy.

14 March 2007

everyone always misses

i honestly think and write about more than just work, but when i've been there for nights on end, that tends to be what comes out of my noggin. that's actually a big problem for me. when you are always at one particular place, you begin thinking that that's how the whole world functions. when i went to christian college, my mindset was inside that bubble (it wasn't a bad place... even though they kicked me out). i simply thought that FCC was a microcosm of the rest of the world... then i lived in the world and changed my mind.

the problem with being at the hospital so much, or any place for that matter, is it becomes your reality. you tend to start thinking that everything functions by the laws and workings of whatever structure you're surrounded by. this is where my job gets to me. don't get me wrong, i love my job, i just hate getting in that mind trap. i don't want my whole world to be about filling out forms properly (something i don't do very well), nursing documentation, and making patient's and family members happy.

last night the second floor called down and asked if anyone could come up to the floor and try and start an IV on a patient with bad veins. i always love a challenge and the nurse that called down doesn't particular care for me, so i decided to go and give it a shot (no pun). i figured that if i was willing to come start her patient's IV, then she would see that i'm not really a bad guy. i'm just not a pushover like my personality leads me on to be.

when i got to the floor, she seemed surprised that i came up, but she expressed her gratitude and told me that this patient was 'a really hard stick' and i should start praying. i told her i did that on my way up. she looked suprised a second time (note to self: investigate why people are suprised when they find out i'm a christian.) i went into the patient's room and sat at her side and began to talk to her. i figured it'd make her more relaxed and i could tell she was anxious. she told me about her illness and how it was really trying her patience and fortitude. then i asked what she did for fun when she wasn't causing problems for nurses. she chuckled and told me that she and her husband liked camping. she said that they sold everything they had about 10 years ago and traveled by RV around the states. she said that it was the best decision she ever made.
i agreed with her and, without getting into much detail, i told her that i had recently simplified on a much smaller scale. i said it felt good to not be so bound. i told her about my upcoming trip to kenya and my reasons for going. then she gave me the biggest complement i'd ever received: "you seem like you have God in you."

with that, i placed the tourniquet on her arm and picked a vein. she told me that everyone always misses and it always hurts bad when they do. i told her that i'm not everyone (and prayed one more time), and started her IV. as soon as i was in the vein, she began crying.

"i'm sorry," i said. "i tried to be careful."

"i'm not crying because it hurt. i'm crying because He answered my prayer. i didn't even feel you start the IV and what's more, He sent one of his precious people to do it for me."

she kept crying tears of happiness and i was left wondering: who am i to be the person that answered this lady's prayer? i'd become despondent over the last few days at work because it had been so busy and i had not made that many people happy (if you can't tell by now, i'm a people pleaser at heart.) i'd begun feeling overwhelmed and, in an instant, she changed all that.

09 March 2007

redemption for my spending

i love meeting new people. if i could figure out a way to make it into my paid occupation, i'd do it. i suppose that is kind of my job now, but it would be nice if the people i was meeting weren't sick... i guess i did that when i worked for starbucks, too, but i made $7 an hour. i want my pie and eat it too.

i hung out last evening with liz, shay, and my newest pal maggie (actually named 'ashley' but her resemblance to maggie gyllenhaal was so uncanny when we met that i instantly ascribed her the alias.) we were jiving it up at sangria's tapas bar in hyde park.

[side note: my mom just interrupted this very important message with a phone call. i told her about my night and she sounded shocked. "shane, i can't believe you went to a topless bar!" - "not topless, mom. TAPAS. it's spanish food..." - "well, i guess that's okay, then" she said. glad i have her approval.]

we found that we shared a love for food and an undue apprehension toward carbohydrates.

[another side note: the starbucks barista must work for the dark side because, just as i was typing the above sentence, she offered me a sourcream doughnut sample. it's bad enough that she had to shove the tray in my face {spilling crumbs on my MacBook} but the smell is still in the air and she walked away over three minutes ago...)

anyway, i need to get to my point before i start writing about something completely different (i'll never be able to write a book - i've got the ideas in my head, but it would be 1,000 pages before i came to an absolution...) our bill came and, long before we began our night, i decided to pay. i love paying the bill sometimes and with certain people. it's the people that don't expect it that appreciate it the most. what i was shocked about was that a pitcher of sangria was $34. who doesn't ask how much something is before they order it? i'll tell you who does. me, liz, shay, and maggie - that's who. between the sangria and endless orders of tapas, our bill was over two hundred dollars.

"who cares" i said. "i'm loaded. selling that lexus was the best thing i ever did. it cost more to drive that thing for a week!"

and, honestly, it did. i miss the car, but i don't miss what it brought every month. i was feeling pretty bad about the extravagant meal, though, and so paid off a credit card this morning (only one more left[!])

if that ain't redemption, i don't know what is.

03 March 2007

what's up with my friends not answering their phone?

As I sit here in Starbucks, I hear this song over my head playing in it’s warm, muggy tone saying: “Jesus was sailor when he walked upon the water… He was broken before the sky was opened…”

I find it interesting that Starbucks, a Mecca for today’s culture, plays this song. Not really surprising, just interesting because although Jesus was controversial, society doesn’t seem to reject him as a person. I’m not saying that they accept all that he was, but just that there’s not contempt for him like there is for televangelists. I hear no songs about Muhammad, Mother Teresa, or Ghandi. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that this means much at all. I just find it interesting. Greater still is that this song was followed by Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Ice cream” (does it get better than her?)

There’s a bit more about this that I would like to say, but I only want to produce original thoughts here and so will leave it at that.

Sitting in this very seat last night, I came here to read, drink coffee, and just be. All of my attempts to meet up with my old Orlando friends failed (i.e. they didn’t answer their phone when I called) so I ended up here. Just as good a place as any, I suppose.

Shortly after I got here, I ran into a guy that I have crossed paths with far more often than is common for this semi-large town. When I worked for Barnes & Noble 7 years ago, he was a cafĂ© regular. When I worked for Starbucks thereafter, his caffeine addiction thrived. And when I worked for Banana Republic, that’s right, he frequented there as well.

So, last night, we got to know each other not as server/customer relationships are bound, but as two coffee-loving strangers ready to talk. I found out that he’s preparing for residency in internal medicine and that he’s passed two of the three board tests needed for practicing medicine (if I understand him correctly.)

He lit up when he talked about his family and home country of Syria – about his recent visit there and how it rejuvenated him. We come from vastly different backgrounds and yet we seem to see people and life very similar.

It was a suprisingly delightful evening. I’m glad nobody answered my phone calls.

01 March 2007

coffee and suicide

On my way into work Tuesday night, I was trying to resist being overwhelmed with dread. I had to be in charge and, if you don’t understand what that means, let me just say that I feel unqualified at best to fill these shoes. There are two full time charge nurses and when they’re both off, I’m the only idiot that doesn’t refuse the charge hat (there’s not an actual hat, but I suppose if there was, it would be a bit more fun).

There were three nurses on and we worked as a trio last week as well. With one of the nurses having recently fractured his pelvis dirt biking (a pass time sent, I believe, solely for the purpose of population control) and the other nurse having JUST gotten off orientation, I felt I was boarding the Titanic.

That night last week didn’t play out very well at all so I was pretty despondent about having these same deck of cards. I did my usual prayer time before I go to work begging God to keep me from killing anyone (this includes co-workers. In fact, they are more in danger than my patients, at times.)

A little bit after 9, I got a guy in from a psych facility in need of medical clearance. He stopped taking his methadone about a week prior and was experiencing withdraw symptoms and a great deal of pain.

“Why did they baker act you?” I asked.

“Because I told them I’m going to kill myself. They don’t like that for some reason,” he responded.

“Why did you want to kill yourself?”

“I didn’t say that I wanted to kill myself,” he said. “I said I AM going to kill myself. It’s not a choice of whether I want to or not. I have to now. I’m not going to live this way any more. I refuse to. I’m in so much pain every moment I’m awake I can’t stand it. So, when the time is right, I’m going to end it. But don’t worry, I’m not going to do it in here [he saw me eyeing his shoe laces]. This isn’t the right time or place, but mark my words, it will happen.” Hearing the certainty with which he spoke gave me goosebumps.

I continued triaging him and gave the chart to the doctor. I kept thinking about what he said and thought about suicide. I was brought back to the time in my life a little over a year ago when I thought about suicide on a regular basis. I remember seeing images of guns to my forehead like a flash from nowhere – this would startle me to the point of flinching and I’d be left wondering, ‘where did that come from?’. I’d decided that, if it was going to happen it wouldn’t involve a gun. That’s not my style. But still, the images of the guns would visit me while I was busy at work and sometimes while I was dreaming.

I remember one morning I got up at about 4am and was supposed to run about 8 miles that day. I dreaded the running schedule and hated life so much. Before I was supposed to leave the house I sat on the edge of my bed and wrenched in tears until my body physically hurt. I’m surprised that I didn’t wake up my roommates who, at the time, were quite worried about me. I knew that I couldn’t run in that state and so kicked off my shoes and fell back in bed. I continued to cry for maybe an hour and finally begged for God to take my life as I slept. I thought that would be the perfect out to my problems. I wouldn’t have to cut myself, my family wouldn’t have to deal with the issue that I ended my life – it would be natural (as natural as a 23 year old dying for no reason could be). I just didn’t want my own blood on my hands, figuratively speaking. When I finally fell asleep, I dreamed that I walked into a live power line that was down from a storm. I felt my body surge with energy and then everything turned white and I looked up (kind of like that guy did when he was being sucked up by the UFO in ‘Fire in the Sky). God said “I can take you now, in your sleep, or you can stay. Your choice.”

“I’ll stay,” I repeated a few times. And I did. I woke up. I got up and shortly thereafter began the slow upward climb out of darkness.

I could feel this patient’s pain and I wanted to connect with him, but he didn’t seem to want to connect with me, so I let him rest in his bed. I went about my business and busyness putting out fires wearing my little charge hat (again, not an actual hat.)

When it was getting close for him to leave, I went and told him about the transfer back to the psych facility. Noticing that he had been keeping his eyes closed, I asked him, “how’s your pain. Is it any better?”

“Are you fucking kidding me? Is it any better? No it’s not better because you’ve not given me anything for my pain. I’m just sitting here like a number – like a part of a herd of cattle just waiting for you to push me to the next place. ‘Is you pain any better’ – you’ve got a lot of nerve you little punk. I told you when I got here that my pain was excruciating every hour of every day. But you can’t comprehend that and so you think that I’m a medication seeker. You think that everyone who comes in here is after narcotics so, because I look like I’ve had a rough life, you think I want Demerol or Dilaudid. Well, I don’t. How about a fucking Tylenol? Something to ease the pain… you people, man. All you do is see people as numbers.”

The whole time while he was talking I was sitting on the edge of his bed looking directly in his eyes thinking, “God, use me.” Every word he said (and I’m sorry if my candor offended you) was dead on. He had no reason to live, no reason to believe that I was anything more than the sum of my surroundings. I failed him.

I brought in some Tylenol (the only thing the doctor would order for him because he was a ‘seeker’ [his word]) and I sat the med cup and two juices on the edge of his bed.

“Here’s two Tylenol if you want them. I’ll leave them here,” I said quietly as I left the room. I could sense that his eyes never left me when I was in his room… He wasn't somebody i wanted to loose the approval of.

After leaving his room and for reasons I don't quite understand myself, i sat down and wrote him this note:

"You’re completely right. Most patients are seen as numbers and with that I cannot contend. What I am about to say I mean with all of me: I am truly sorry that your life is so miserable. There’s little more I can say that that. I’ve not had to deal with chronic pain and I cannot empathize with you, only listen and try to understand. You may not believe that what you said made it in my brain, but it sank in so much deeper than that. You think that I see people as numbers and I have no desire to try to change your mind, but please know that not everyone sees people that way. My heart’s desire is to try to love people like God does and many times I fail. I did today. My role in the ER today was to evaluate weather or not you were in a medical emergency and clear you for transfer. often empathy is lost in the mechanics of a job I’ve done for years. Sometimes its impossible for me to treat everyone holistically. That is where I fail, and for that I am truly sorry."

After he read the note, he asked me to forgive him. I said ‘ditto’ and we started talking. He wanted a ciggy and some coffee, so I brewed my special Starbucks Casi Cielo and bummed a pote from my co-worker. We sat outside in the 3am fog and he told me why he wanted to die so badly. He told me of the jobs and the money that he’s had the privilege to have in his past. He told me the horrific story of the car accident that preceded his life of pain. His wife that tried to run him over.

“Wives don’t try to kill their spouses for no reason,” I said, trying to be the devil’s advocate.

“You’re right, they don’t. But she's in prison now and I'm sitting outside drinking coffee.”

I shared with him the story of my depression. Sure, it didn’t seem as made-for-TV-movie as his did, but he listened all the same.

“So why didn’t you?” he asked.

“Well, at first I didn’t have the balls, but just when I was getting the courage to follow through, God opened my eyes to the truth of it. That it never ends pain, only starts it. So, I stopped wallowing in my own selfishness and here I am talking to you… there’s a reason I’m your nurse you know. You’re not supposed to go through with it. You know that. You just have to believe it and I’ll pray you do – sooner rather than later.”

To that he smiled and finished his cigarette. His paddy wagon arrived to cart him off to the pscychiatric ward. A place that he no more belonged in than you or me. Before he got in the van, he shook my hand and said, “Thanks for everything. You know, when you hit the fuckin’ bottom, you’ve only got one place to look.”

And having said that, he pointed upward.