A Terrible Compromise

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Health and Fitness  |  House: Booksie Classic
Life can suck, which is why I prefer fiction.

Submitted: March 05, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 05, 2015



There is a part of my life I don’t talk too much about.  Not that I’m ashamed.  I’m quite proud.  It’s just that there are a lot of bad memories.  Not about me.  About other people.  For 12 years, I was a registered nurse.  I’ve seen people vomit their teeth out of their stomach after eating the steering wheel a few minutes before.  I’ve seen what the human skull looks like after it has been penetrated by a bullet.  Memories like that haunt me to this day.


Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Ever had an HIV positive patient bleeding out of more than one orifice?  He had just been brought out of a very long surgery when everything went wrong.  I was amazed at how calm and professional the surgeon was when he realized he was going to have to take the patient back to surgery.  The crew in the operating room had to wear what looked like spacesuits.  It was very uncomfortable.I decided that day, if my life was on the line, I wanted that surgeon and that crew to be on call.


Eye Of The Tiger

Ever had someone cough something into your eye?  Wear goggles around the juicy ones.


Better Late Than Never

There was the time the otherwise brilliant anesthesiologist didn’t want to deal the struggling patient.  He had been up all night with this case and was having his own serious health problems.  This guy was the best, he is the one I used until he retired.  I slammed the intubation tray down on the table when I lost my temper.  He looked at me and said, “I guess you really want me to reintubate her?”  We did.  The lady died the next morning.


The Tears Of A Clown

If your money ever gets taken by a carny at the state fair, and you decide to retaliate by blowing him up with a pipe bomb, make sure you know what you are doing.  The article in the paper about how it blew up while you were making it will probably get posted on the wall at work.  We did do our best to put his hand back together.  Good thing for him he had another one.


Love Hurts

I always prided myself on being able to control my patient’s pain.  It is an important part of recovery from surgery.  Sometimes people need more morphine than what is considered appropriate.  There are ways to make that happen. 

It can go the other way.  A drunk had just killed two teenage girls in a car wreck.  In the process he bounced his face off of the windshield.  Usually people who fracture a lot of facial bones are good candidates for pain medication.  According to the blood pressure values I was writing down, it wouldn’t have been safe for me to give him any.  Poor guy had to be completely awake and in severe pain while he thought about what he had done.


Brand New Cadillac

Even if you are good enough to start for the Washington Redskins, you shouldn’t get so drunk you drive your Cadillac right into the fire truck that is parked in the road, lights flashing.  If the only human damage you caused was your own shattered leg, you should consider yourself lucky.


The Bare Necessities

If you are going to ride a 3-wheeler way too fast down a dirt road, wear more clothes than just gym shorts.  Dirt roads tend to have rocks embedded in them.  When your mostly naked body goes rolling down the road at 35 miles an hour, you will look like the lawn guy worked you over with a weed eater.  There was not one square millimeter of flesh anywhere on his body that wasn’t bleeding.  More clothes wouldn’t have prevented any of the fractures.


Deadman’s Curve

When the operating room staff wheeled the fresh amputee into recovery after his motorcycle accident, I pulled the covers back and said, “You didn’t tell me you did something to his other leg.”  There was what looked like a brand new cast on the remaining lower limb.  The OR nurse said, “No, he broke that leg when he wrecked yesterday.  He got back on the motorcycle today…”

People should learn from their mistakes.



The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Once I took care of a man whose entire body was covered with grapefruit sized tumors.  It was obvious he was close to death.  A surgeon had decided an expensive vascular procedure was required in order to restore the circulation one of his legs.  That was wrong on a lot of levels.  But life is complicated and you have to be careful how you judge people.  I have witnessed the same surgeon save lives in the middle of the night, more than once, when both of us would have rather been sleeping.


Under My Skin

The weirdest thing I ever saw in healthcare was the skin of an elderly man.  You’ve seen how mud cracks when it dries.  Sometimes you get plate sized chunks surrounded by cracks.  That’s what his skin looked like.  The chunks were about an inch in diameter.  The cracks were pink.  I could see his arms and his head, all the exposed skin looked that way.  I googled a bunch of skin condition photos but couldn’t find that one.


Forrest Gump

Someday I’ll write a crazy fictional story about a hillbilly preacher who becomes governor of my favorite state.  He’ll still preach at his church on Sundays while he is governor.  When one of his parishioners needs emergency surgery one Sunday afternoon, he will drive for three hours and sit in the waiting room another two hours.  After he sees the lady for a few minutes, he will drive back to the capitol. 

Later he would be forced to resign, for doing exactly the same thing the men who went after him had been doing for many years.  If you say no to the good ole boy network, they will take you down.  


Steeler’s Wheel

The guy who had been a successful athlete early in life, then a successful businessman in the middle of life needed minor surgery.  When you are groggy from anesthesia and you need to pee, that can be a problem.  For one thing, it can be difficult to stand.  For another, anesthetic agents affect smooth muscle tissue.  Translated, that means that it might be really hard to pee.

I put my hand on his shoulder to help him up from the stretcher.  I could feel through his gown that he was just as cut as he was 15 years earlier when America was watching him on TV.  Once an athlete, always an athlete.  We made it to the bathroom.  I waited, but didn’t hear the sound of success.  He said, “Serge, I don’t think I can pee.”  I helped him back to the stretcher.  Everything worked out okay a little later.

Two things amazed me about this man.  First was his physical condition.  For a 40 year old man who spends his days sitting in meetings in a conference room, he had the body of a 20 year old athlete.  That didn’t amaze me as much as the fact that he knew my name.  I hadn’t even introduced myself to him.  He heard his nurse say, “Serge, do you have time to help him to the bathroom?”  Keep in mind, he was so groggy he couldn’t walk by himself.

Way off topic, but this dude impressed me as an example of someone who will be successful, no matter what.


Every Breath You Take

Breathing is not optional.  If you stop doing it anywhere near a hospital or an ambulance, they will put a white plastic tube down your throat and connect it to an air pump.  The tube is called an endotracheal tube, or ET tube for short.  The air pump is called a ventilator.  You don’t want an ET tube.  You don’t want a ventilator.

Imagine this is happening to you, and I am your nurse.  You are helpless and flat on your back.For one reason or another, you are in a world of shit.  Among the other bad things happening to you, nasty crud is accumulating in your lungs. 

Periodically, I will squirt salt water down your ET tube, then connect it to an ambu-bag.  Think of an ambu-bag as a football you can squeeze and blow air out the end.  I’ll bag you a few times to force the liquid as far into your lungs as possible.  The salt water will help break up the thick stuff you can’t cough out.  I will snake a small, flexible plastic tube as far down the ET tube as I can.  The tube is connected to a suction line.

When I turn on the suction, hopefully I can get all the phlegm out.  That way your lungs will be able to do a better job of oxygenating your blood.  Suctioning must be done regularly.  It is painful and traumatic.  I take my time and do it right.  I will suck all of the oxygen out of your lungs.  I will exhaust you, and make you pray for death.  There is no substitute for good health.


Shattered Dreams

What I meant to do before I rambled on was to tell Karen’s story.  She is a beautiful young lady whose body had been terribly shattered in an automobile accident.  She will never be the same.  I got to know her shortly after her accident, then I saw her from time to time as she had various surgeries to address her many problems.  This day, she was having an ankle fusion. 

No one should ever need to have their ankle bones fused together.  If you have a healthy ankle, that would be the last thing you would want to do.  Karen did not have a healthy ankle.  Her ankle was completely fucked up.

It was sad to take care of such a wonderful person who was in such a terrible state.  She will never be able to walk normally on that ankle.  At best, she will hobble around with a cane.  The fusion was the last chance to save the foot.  Amputation would be next.

I don’t know what became of Karen.  Soon afterwards, I did what everyone who loves nursing eventually does.  I got the fuck out.  Back to computers where I belong.  I have two words to say about the IT business:  Easy money.


I wrote this for two of my fans.  One who is living through this from the wrong side.  The other likes to roll around in this stuff and get the smell of it on her flesh.

© Copyright 2020 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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