This is the tale of the toughest man I ever met, a 90 something who fell off a ladder. Yes, a ladder. Why a 90 year old would be on a ladder defies the imagination as well as gravity, but understandable knowing that he also still rides a motorcycle. He was in amazing shape, a wiry muscular frame and sharp as a tack. With piercing blue eyes, he saw everything and used everyone's name.
The fall dislocated his shoulder. After a difficult series of manipulations with minimal medication, at his request, he shrugged the whole thing off like it was no big deal. He was chatty and engaging. He wore a WWII service cap. My partner asked him about his service, and he told us the where and when he had served. Her recounted the story of his most memorable WW2 experience like it happened yesterday, and not over 70 years ago.
"You see a lot of things. You think about them every day".
I was riveted as I rested my arms on the side rails and leaned in to catch every word. B, my partner, was on the other side of the cot, equally attentive. Without taking my eyes off him I slowly reached my hand toward the monitor to silence the alarm as he quietly told about his closest call, an explosion that destroyed his hearing but left him otherwise physically intact.
"The other man (note he did not refer to him as the enemy) was as close as you and I were. I had my gun. He had a grenade. We looked each other in the eye, that look... we each knew what the other was thinking. In that second we both knew that he had to kill himself to kill me. As he opened his hand, I launched myself backwards. It was miraculous, I came out of it not hurt...but with a lot of him on me."
How do you get past something like that?
You live to age 90, being grateful every day for your life, and living it to the fullest by riding motorcycles and falling off ladders. And teaching life lessons.
Because no employer is going to own me, ever again, I work a couple of jobs per diem.
Because I choose what days and shifts I work, I have ALL the control.
Because one of the jobs is a busy ER with lots of millenials and plenty of call-outs, I could work 16 hours per day if I wanted to. Because I have I life, I don't
Because last summer I was feeling sassy and clever, I decided to just work a couple of 12 hour shifts a week in order to have more time off. Because my boss put me on a lot of weeks with 2 shifts at the beginning of one week, and 2 shifts at the end of the next, I had me some 6, 8, 10 day-off stretches at a time.
Because 12 hour shifts are Satan, and because it just reinforced that I really am too old for 12 hour shifts, I went back to 8 hour shifts.
Because my boss appreciates my flexibility, she is fine with my working 8's. Because there aren't many per diem's who work straight evenings, it gives her more flexibility in covering short shifts.
Because I am planning to retire in the next couple of years, and I have downsized my living situation, I am also going to downsize the number of hours I work.
I think this summer I will do 2 shifts per week. 8 hours. No weekends. No commitments
Hannah is a superstar nurse also with big brass balls. Once, during a code the patient had no IV access. She said "I'll just put in an IO", picked up that IO drill and in less than a minute the patient had access. It was her first time. Ever. And she got it true with no coaching. Every time I saw her for the next month I raised my hands in a "big ones" gesture. She's also a nice person. I mean, really super nice. Everyone loves her.
One of my favorite docs will get right in there and pitch in, often doing stuff she doesn't have to do. She will do IV starts, get meds and fluids, transport patients to CT if the nurses are busy. She has been known to put patients on the commode or bedpan. She is a doer. Some nurses take it as a sign that they are not doing their job fast enough to suit her, but it's really not that…she just doesn't see the benefit of sitting around waiting for shit to get done if others are busy and she has the time to do it.
I ran into her in the med room, pulling stuff out of the Pyxis.
"Oh there you are, doing everybody else's job again"
She turned and smiled, leaned against the counter and said, "You know, there are times when I would have been very happy to be a nurse. But it would not have worked. I'm just not a nice person"
I laughed. "You are so!" She is a straight shooter, is not all fuzzy and warm, but I like and respect her a lot.
"Not really, I want to be like Hannah. She talks to every patient like they are cupcakes and fairy dust, no matter what evil thing they say to her. Same as you, you're nice".
"What I am is a good actress".
"Well, then you are a GREAT actress".
Happy Hallmark Holiday Nurses Day to me, and to all the nice nurses out there. Also to those with big, brass balls. And a huge thank you to all those individuals, in every corner of the health care universe, who support us so we can get the job done.