the night shift

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This story revolves around Amrutha, who experiences a new world post her marriage and is thrown out of her comfort zone by some bitter experiences. She takes baby steps to empowerment while the chains that bind her to her upbringing pull her down occasionally.

Submitted: November 21, 2016

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Submitted: November 21, 2016

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Faulkner Ward stood all enveloped by the depressing cold of the night. As she walked into its formidable darkness, she realised that her recurrent feeling was getting stronger – that of a slaughtered lamb. And here she was.....in the pitch black of night...ready to embrace an entire unit of vulnerable patients and make sure they remained stable throughout those wee hours.....
 
When Pete opened the door of the Acute Mental Health Ward, he missed her vulnerable trait – the pale, slaughtered look.
 
“ I’m glad that my talks on empowerment are finally working on you...I’ve heard only good things of late about your work...” He said, beaming.
 
She gave a forced smile but his compliment was doing wonders to her crestfallen psyche, warding off her negative feelings temporarily....
 
The Ward was quiet in comparison to a day shift. As she walked into the cramped office, she realised that the handover had begun....they didn’t wait for her come....after all..... she was an unqualified novice, yet learning the intricacies of a nurse’s job....all her life, she was learning and had yet not stopped it....she learnt different stuff all along....hence proved a vulnerable victim when it came to applying her knowledge....
 
That night she shared the duty with Janet, a qualified nurse and two other bank shift workers, unqualified like her, Pete and Shadrek, who were on the road to becoming qualified nurses in future.
 
As she leaned on the office table and tucked her bag away in the cupboard, she could sense that the night was going to be a busy one. Clara’s handover went on in full swing, occasionally warning the night staff that the quietness around was just a facade.....
 
“ Xena is still at her hallucinatory best, refusing medications and threatening the staff members for stalking her. Merlin’s health is failing and she is constantly wetting her bed. Patricia Scott is talkative and annoying, and she seems reluctant to retire.....Lindie is on a high....Richard goes around claiming that it’s his b’day and demands a peck on his cheek from everyone....”
 
The quiet room suddenly arose in muffled smiles until Janet had an outburst of laughter.
“ Amrita, make sure you don’t give him one when he asks you....”
 
 
She blushed at that remark, not sure what she meant. Janet, she felt, seemed to notice her nervous predicaments on the ward and took pleasure to poke her or boss her around.
 
“I wish your husband was on duty tonight, Mrs Raman,” Clara commented, “ He would have had an eye on our ward, especially!”
 
And they all laughed. As Clara, Grace and Odufuye left, they looked relieved to go back home, leaving a seemingly disturbed ward in the hands of a veteran, two wannabes and a novice.
 
She chose to stay out of the office, away from Janet’s prying eyes.The female dormitory appeared settled with everyone resting on their respective beds. Even Patricia Scott. No she wasn’t smoking either. She looked fast asleep.
 
“ Amrita, I’ve put you on close obs with Xena at half nine. I’ll do it meanwhile,” Janet walked into the dorm with an observation paper and pen.
 
“ She looks asleep, but we need to persuade her to have her tablets. She can’t get away like this. It’s been two days.....,” She said.
 
She narrowed her eyes and asked: “ Are you CNR trained?”
 
“ Yes, last month,” She replied with a shudder.  That would mean Xena will be restrained and injected, if she plays up again. Janet was always a tough taskmaster. Amrutha wished she had half the nerves of Janet.
 
She sat on a sofa, close to Xena’s room, recalling the CNR techniques she had learnt the previous month.
 
 Never been an athletic person in all her life.....her long fingers could hold a pen and write or pick up a paintbrush and paint portraits. She may excel in reading Xena’s mind rather than putting her to task.
 
“ Merlin needs your attention, Amrita,” Janet called out to her,” She has wet her bed again....gosh!”
 
Amrutha needed help to replace Merlin on to a sofa. Pete and Shadrek came to assist her. That was a tedious task, Amrutha’s first ever. The stink of urine was slowly filling the dorm....Merlin’s clothes were soaking wet....Amrutha had to help her into the bath, and give her a good wash and bring fresh clothes to her.
 
The bed linen and pillows were put to wash while Pete helped her spread fresh linen on to Merlin’s bed. He used to teach her how to tuck in a bed spread neatly.
 
Wasn’t she proud when she applied that little skill on her bed at home! Such small things amused her and she loved showing them off to her husband.
 
“Ah! Here comes the doctor’s wife! She’s perfectly happy doing the laundry,” Janet greeted her as she stepped into the dorm with a pair of fresh pillow cases. Pete and Shadrek were smiling at the remark.
 
“ Are you a perfect housewife too?” Pete pulled her leg.
 
No, she wasn’t one. Amrutha felt so. She wasn’t perfect at any chore. She is habituated to hanging in a limbus. She decided to take some rest.
 
She chose to have a cup of coffee in her favourite spot, the ward meeting room. Important meetings were held there, consultants, SHOs and other service professionals discussed case studies in that room. She occasionally brought in cups of tea and biscuits to them and heard excerpts of conversation on various mental illnesses. Her husband’s colleagues were very cordial to her and she often felt special and proud of being Mrs Raman....but was he at all?
 
Her slaughtered feelings got the better of her once again. Eyes closed, she recalled the events of the day....A major showdown at home followed by a breaking of her glass painting and her diced up identity which she witnessed in every broken piece....
 
It was a team of three – her husband, his mother and his sister– trying to explain to her that she was over-reacting to situations with her tears and making them feel guilty. Was she the one who reacted? Or were they? She always found Vandana a bit clumsy in kitchen. She used to leave a tea cup in the sink or leave turmeric stains from a spicy gravy ......never bothered to clean them up....After a day’s work in the kitchen Amrutha was annoyed that her job wasn’t over yet, thanks to her sister-in-law.....she had left a pile of plates and two dirty cups in the sink....she had brought them down from her room upstairs....her b’fast and lunch leftovers.....and the spicy stains were glaring at her from the sink....
 
”Van, Can’t you at least wash them first hand? Look at the amount of cleaning needed for those stains,”  Amrutha called out to Vandana in a fit of anger. ....
 
”Look you are just a servant in this house!Your purpose is to cook and clean the house for us. Did you hear that?” Those words were her sister-in-law Vandana’s...
 
.Amrutha broke down at the remark.....harsh as they may sound to normal ears, it was not meant to be like that.....or that’s what she was told...after the showdown.....by then words were used like swords....and she was bruised brutally....
 
After the initial argument the team of three got together in the bedroom and Amrutha could hear her mother-in-law mourning....Vinod was trying to comfort her while Vandana was acting like a moderator.
 
“I came here to see that my children are happy....this is what I get for marrying her to my poor son....oh! she  couldn’t  find a job in this country......my son managed to put her up in his hospital finally...is she ever grateful for that?”His mother was shouting at her in between her sobs.
 
The discussion was flying off the tangent. It was obvious to Amrutha that the mother had begun expressing her suppressed feelings. The sister seemed pleased that her brother was supportive and constantly remarked:
“Etta, I can always move out...I don’t want to ruin your married life”
 
“No one is going anywhere....I won’t let her split us!” Those were Vinod’s words of ‘conviction’.
 
A flabbergasted Amrutha spent the rest of the afternoon in solitude pondering over what exactly went wrong for such a strong display of emotions and expressions! After all, a pile of plates and turmeric stains! She did the washing up finally before going to work.
 
“Hey! There you are, hiding!” Pete broke into her reverie with those words.
 
“  You are clever to hide in here.None of the clients can find you. None of the staff members too,” He laughed, his hands covering his mouth and his body bending like a question mark.
 
Pete was a student nurse who built  a good rapport with everyone in the ward with his pleasing demeanour. Even Amrutha found him comfortable to talk to always. Sometimes he looked preoccupied and often gave her interesting tips on ‘empowerment’.He once noticed that she was making the morning shift organised.He also praised her paperworks whenever she did reports on the day’s happenings.
 
It was on a morning shift that Amrutha started off as a support worker in the ward. Five months ago, at 6.30 a.m she was amidst a group of strangers being part of something they referred to as ‘handover’.  She was a complete novice then and working in a psychiatric ward was the most unexpected turn in her life. The small, cramped office made her claustrophobic at first as well as the pindrop silence in the room as she entered. She readily felt some uneasiness from other staff which, later on, she realised, was due to her total lack of experience in the field added to her easy entry into the job as  a doctor’s wife.
 
The stone-faced man in that room turned out to be the friendliest man ever, Peter. Even now she had difficulty picking up some of his accent, but that was fine. She began to enjoy the morning shifts  though  they were mostly busy with ward meetings and visitors. Whether the others noticed or not,  Amrutha made sure the shift started off in an organised manner and the charge nurse during those hours was Susan, whom Amrutha secretly adored for her professionalism in her job and empathetic attitude.
 
“ It’s 9:30, I got to do the close obs now with Xena...,” Amrutha checked her watch.
 
It was Pete’s turn to relax with a  cup of coffee there.
“ Catch you later here, hope it goes smooth...”
 
Amrutha yearned to be in Pete’s position and felt pity for herself now....As she entered the dorm, she could hear her heart pounding......and Janet was already waiting impatiently for her by Xena’s bedside. She also met a furious Xena calling out names and chanting illegible ‘mantras’ inbetween.
 
Xena set her eyes on Amrutha and cried out:
 
“You f***ing Indian b****! You are a wicked witch!”
 
She turned to Janet:
 
“You think you and this witch can inject me? You think i’ll drink that poison? This Indian witch has cast some spell on it...no you don’t know her....she’s dangerous...”
 
 
Amrutha shut off her senses temporarily, she expected the worst from Xena as she had a fetish for Amrutha’s jet black hair and deep set eyes. Still she secretly froze at the remark as that was made amidst 14 other females in the dorm. She sensed that Janet would have burst into laughter had it been a lighter situation...she had a smile at the corner of her mouth....
 
Janet was ready with the syringe and Amrutha realised she had to put her techniques onto practice now....All the commotion had Pete and Shadrek come running into the dorm. In a split second, Xena acted on Janet with a glass globe, hitting her head with it. The hit was not so bad as it could have been because Amrutha caught  Xena’s hand and tilted the globe away. Luckily, it landed in Xena’s bed and a breakage was avoided. With another twist of her hand, Amrutha brought the belligerent lady under her control, in the perfect CNR method.
 
 
A few seconds later Xena was put on the floor with Amrutha, Pete and Shadrek restraining her while Janet injected the medication into her. The patient was sedated in the process and she was left sleeping in her bed. The glass globe was removed from the scene to avoid future accidents.
 
 
The next one hour was Amrutha’s turn to observe Xena.  She did that without the usual doubts and fears and with a new found confidence....Janet’s words kept ringing in her ears...
 
 
“  Had it not been your presence of mind, Amrita, I would have been at the A&E now and the rest of the shift would have been a nightmare! Very well done, Amrita, I’m so grateful to you...”
Pete  and Shadrek also complimented her for her timely action.
 
 
That night continued peacefully later on.....no more events to break its tranquillity....to Amrutha it provided the much needed solace and acknowledgement for her small deeds and hence she was sure that night will remain in her good memories for a while....a small achievement as it may seem to others but for her it was one of those little happy things that featured in the course of life and made it enjoyable to live...
 
 
The handover for the morning staff lasted a little longer as it mainly discussed the eventful night on the ward the previous day. Amrutha was praised to the skies by Janet and the others. Suddenly they had all started looking at her like a veteran on whom they all can rely.....
 
 
Vinod stood waiting for her outside as she got out of the ward. “ Is everything all right?” He asked. She nodded.
 
He was putting up a very grim face to her throughout the journey back home. “ Is everything all right at home?” Amrutha enquired. As she waited for an answer, a gush of emotions reddened her face....the pale slaughtered lamb emerged from its hiding and Amrutha was ready to adorn the look of vulnerability.
 
“Not really. Mom is very upset with you,” Vinod replied,” You made the situation worse y’day..so you have to set it right today...say ‘sorry’ to her.”
 
With a pang of regret, Amrutha realised that the smooth course of her life is being disturbed again. She hates when life becomes too eventful. Because one never knows if all events happen for the best. She got out of the car, hoping that things fall into place soon.
 
  ************
 
 
 


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