Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Is This the Prize for Having Learned How Not to Cry?

I don't have any photos of me actually working at the clinic, but this recycled photo was taken at that same time.

I've been on kind of a roll with the writing lately. I was dormant with it for so long, that now I feel very much awake and full of ideas. I work them out a lot when I'm running or riding my bike. I seem to think better when I'm moving. So, I'll be posting bits and pieces of some of the new stuff I'm working on and the old stuff I'm reworking.

I wrote a little about Stinky's illness yesterday. I worked at the clinic at the same time and many nights I slept at the hospital, woke up, and walked down the hall to work at the clinic all day. So, I started working on a piece about advocating for patients and then suddenly being on the other end of that. Some of it is fiction and some isn't. Here's a bit of it:

My primary doctor told me that my main job was to make "nicey nice" with the patients. That doctor was an incredible gynecologist and surgeon, but not much of a people person. I was actually, surprisingly really good at making "nicey nice". I was never disingenuous or condescending. The tough part was distancing myself enough so that I didn't absorb every heartbreaking situation I experienced, or I'd end up in the fetal postion sucking my thumb at the end of eash day. It was a line I found myself crossing over way too often. Usually, I just tried to find out a little bit about the patient and help them the best I could. So, when my doctor would leave a room and say, "Hey, can you help me out? I've just explained her limited options to her about a hundred times and she doesn't seem to get it. Can you go in there and help her understand and come up with a plan? Thanks. Oh, and we need that room, so do you think you could do all of that as quickly as possible?" I would do just that.

Making "nicey nice" included many different scenarios. Once on the way to entering a room for an older woman's appointment, her daughter-in-law stopped me and said,"Hi. I'm sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to fill you in. She just spent all of last year fighting cancer, and she has reached her saturation point with being poked and prodded. If there is any way you can help her calm down for this, I'd really appreciate it." I got lucky with that one. When I checked out her chart, I recognized her last name. Both of her sons were lawyers in town and hung out at the coffee shop where I used to work. While my doctor poked and prodded her, I asked her if she wanted to hold my hand (which she definitely did) and then said,

"So, lets talk about how great your boys are..." That took her mind off of everything else and she handled the procedure really well.

Since I could speak Spanish and there were only two interpreters in the whole hospital, sometimes I would get yanked out of procedures in order to translate. It could get tricky, especially when someone pulled me out of a room and sent me down to the infertility clinic to talk to an EXTREMELY traditional Mexican couple about how to prepare for a semen analysis. For the life of me, I couldn't remember the Spanish word for mastur*bate* right off the top of my head.

Sometimes making "nicey nice", was really more like making "meany mean". I was doing a blood draw on a pregnant prisoner and before I even put my gloves on she said, "Just so you know, you'll never find a working vein. I've been slamming crank for so many years, I bet I've blown every one I had." I resisted the urge to put 12 gloves on each hand and started checking her arms. I found one on her left arm. It was just a little deeper under the skin than I normally had to go. As she watched me stick the needle in and fill the tubes, she suddenly got way too excited. "Wait! Where the hell did you find that!?"

"Are you kidding me? I'm not telling you. It's one thing to screw yourself up with that crap. I'm not going to help you poison your poor baby."

Okay. That was just a VERY rough draft of a part of the story I'm working on. I'm sure it will change and morph a hundred times and hopefully, it might even be readable after a while.


Tara said...

Wow, that sounded like you had to have nerves of steal to work for a doctor. Especially with that prisoner. I know I'd find it hard to keep emotions out of the cases you described.

booda baby said...

I'm probably going to get sick of reading myself saying this, because it could seem like such a meaningless word, but ... NICE. Nice tone, nice notes, nice quick picture being painted. Nice balance of good humor and good seriousity.

Nice. Once again, I'm really happy you're writing. Yours is a highly readable voice.

Pamela said...

Mean? that was nice.

A said...

I really liked it - very nice

Ananda girl said...

I enjoyed that. I could not tell the fiction from the reality... great!

I don't think that I could do that job. I would get way too invovled with the patients. But I can see how you must have been very good at it.

NoRegrets said...

hmm... thought I'd catch your new post. but bedtime is calling.

Churlita said...


Yeah, a lot of it was hard, but it was also the most rewarding job I've ever had. It's an amazing feeling when you can make someone's worst experiences a little better.

Booda Baby,

Thanks for the niceties. I love seriousity. Is that in a dictionary, or are we going to have to add it?


Believe me. That was as restrained as I could manage. I would have been in BIG trouble if I had told her what I was really thinking.


Thanks, Anne. Is it still raining in Texas?


I did get very involved with a lot of the patients. I just had to try REALLY hard not to take it home with me.


Sorry. I must have just missed you.