Nurses are notorious for being poor patients, and it seems to affect our families. Typically, we avoid urgent care centers and emergency rooms like the plague. One coworker recently told me her daughter walked around on a fractured foot for days because she thought it was just bruised. I superglued Avery’s head a few years back, after a particularly rambunctious wrestling match with Lucas near a dresser of drawers.
When my mom complained of a stomach pain a few days ago, I recommended hot tea and gas medication. I talked her into a fetal position on her knees and encouraged her to pass some gas. Later on, I got my hands on her stomach. She gasped as I touched the spot – McBurney’s point, the telltale pain indicating appendicitis. Still, she wasn’t running a fever or vomiting, so I told her to get some rest. If it still hurt the next morning, I wanted her to see her primary care doc. Sometime between my kiss goodbye and her appointment the following day, the fever and vomiting set in. Yesterday afternoon I got a text at work, letting me know that my mom and dad were downstairs in the emergency room. They’d been sent straight over from her primary doctor. Her CT scan looked negative at first, but it was eventually decided that the appendix had to go.
It felt so surreal, taking care of my own patients and calling all over the hospital for updates on my mom. Is she in pre-op? Who’s doing the surgery? Make sure she doesn’t get too much Morphine; she’s tiny! I knew I couldn’t look in her chart or ask for favors, but I wanted so badly to know that she was okay. We reserved her a nice room on my floor, with a guest room.
I gave report on my patients at shift change and met my dad and brother downstairs. We grabbed a bite to eat and waited for an update. I applied cover-up to a huge zit, chewed a piece of gum, and zoned out on a lobby TV. I’d never watched Burn Notice before. Finally, the surgeon came out and shook my hand. He mentioned that the surgery was a bit more complicated than expected, because my mom’s appendix was “long and curly.” She’s barely five feet tall, so we might as well give her credit for growing something large! He assured us she did great. It was over. Time to exhale. I take care of these patients everyday, but this is my mama! My mama with zero surgical history.
I settled my family into her room and headed to the recovery unit, where the nurse let me sit with Mom until she was ready to go upstairs. She smiled at everyone and apologized for keeping me up late, just like herself. I tried to hide my yawns, but she watched me like a hawk. I’d been there sixteen hours at that point. Once she arrived on my unit, I let the staff take over. I seriously have the best coworkers for which I could ever ask! My family eventually kissed her goodbye for the night. She was feeling fine and I’d won the debate on who was staying the night. Girls’ sleepover!
I headed home to shower and nurse the babies and kiss Chris. I also crept into Ames’ room and watched him sleep for a few minutes. He woke up and I sang him back to sleep. Every night, I sing the song my mama used to sing to me – the words from the children’s book I’ll Love You Forever. He went back out like a light. I packed a bag and headed back to the hospital.
Mom and I discussed the night a bit, and I told her what to expect. You don’t get to rest in a hospital. If you want us to leave you alone, get better and go home! She’d have her vital signs checked several times, and she’d have to pee before the sun came up. I held her hair and blew on her neck while she dealt with some nausea. It felt eerily sweet. It was just last spring that I was on the other end, with her caring for me when the babies were born.
I made my bed in the guest room and told her to call me if she needed anything at all. There were no windows in that little nook, and it was cold… I SLEPT THROUGH EVERYTHING. Like a brick. Oops! Turns out her night nurse had handled her like a champ (duh), even catching a few iffy vital signs. Mom needed a little more fluid on board, but she was going to be just fine. I stumbled into her room apologetically, and she just smiled at me. She asked me how I felt and how I’d slept, like it mattered. She was hungry. I was proud of her. I had a headache.
My friends came in, bearing Advil and coffee. I threw on my scrubs and applied my makeup in the bathroom – those fluorescent lights helped the huge zit situation out quite efficiently! I made it into the team leader office just in time to welcome a new hire for his unit orientation day. I had to apologize a few times for a slow start, but we made it through the day just fine. I grabbed one break to visit with my mom and take her for a walk, where everyone commented on how much we look alike and my mom whispered, “Sorry.” Like I don’t want to look that great when I’m ___ ?
She discharged home while I was in a meeting. I got a text from my dad and smiled. He’d already gotten her tucked in for a nap, with a cheeseburger and a pain pill. He thanked me for being a good host during her hospital stay. We visited her this evening, and she was up and walking around the house. What appendix?
An eventful few days, to say the least…
Work and family collide!