Monday, November 3, 2014

Nurse, Can I have Some Ice?

Cancer Care

Last week, I wrote about my surgery. This week, in Part 2, I review the level of nursing care I received the hours and days after surgery.

When you are weak and confused, as is often the case post-surgery, you are at the mercy of those who care for you. This is the case when you are recovering in a hospital bed. I was designated as NPO, nothing by mouth (no food or drink) A few impressions remain in my mind, in my memory, of the level of care I received while recovering in the hospital. While the details might not be completely accurate, since memory is not completely reliable, the general impression is, and this holds as much power as the way things were or might have been.

Black female west-Indian nurse’s aid: she was proficient and cheerful, and did a good job washing me (although my wife, a nurse, disagreed, and said she didn’t). I was happy with the way she performed her job, chiefly because she seemed to care.

Filipino male nurse in his late 20s: Although he was cheerful and pleasant, he was hardly around. When I rang the call bell, which was rarely, another nurse covering for him usually answered and said he was “on break.” Although I was on pain medication, and my sense of time might have been distorted, unreliable, he seemed to be on continuous break. Given that I was not allowed any food or drink, I was constantly thirsty, and wanted a few pieces of ice, which the nurses meted out to me in tiny doses, it seemed important to me that I receive some assistance in this matter. My needs and his needs rarely coincided, it would seem.

Female Chinese physiotherapist in her late 30s: The day after surgery, she told me rather forcefully that I had to make my way to a chair and sit there for 45 minutes. She returned about an hour later, and said that I now had to return to my bed. I would say that she spent no more than 10 minutes with me. She offered neither encouragement nor support.

White female nurse in her late 20s: She was pleasant, but did not want to do much for me. As an example of her enthusiasm to help, she gave me a towel and told me that I could shower unaided. I did as she said, but it was with great difficulty.

General impression: Only one nurse identified herself and her name on the white board; the majority walked in unidentified and took my vitals, sometimes explaining why and what they were doing, other times not. My presence in the room was hardly acknowledged. On the weekend, there was a party atmosphere, with much conversation about the upcoming Christmas holidays, discussions of holiday recipes, punctuated by peels of laughter coming from the nurse’s station, which was situated in front of my room. Somebody was having a good time, but it was not me; as much as laughter is good for the soul, in this case it prevented me from sleeping.

I wonder, based on my one experience, how anyone could rest and recuperate in a hospital.

My wife, a nurse for 20 years, said that this was unprofessional and I ought to have complained, at least about the noise the nurses were making. Of course she is right, but when you are sick, complaining is a difficult endeavor. As to the over-all care I received, she said that it was adequate, but by no means exceptional. Again, she is right.

Next week:  Part 3: Please Leave, Doctor: I Am Feeling Nauseous

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