May 24, 2006

Adam and Eve - Part 4

The angel on my shoulder says I'm not done yet. Some events have been modified to protect identies. These articles are in no way a reflection on present or past employment.

Adam and Eve – Part 4

How often do you see a very old man drinking Pepsi? Look closely. He’s not drinking it. He’s holding the bottle with a reverence. He sits it on the table beside him and glances around to see if anyone is looking at his prize. There’s a cup of ice nearby, but he wants this luxury to linger within his reach. This old-man-Pepsi-thing was a mystery to me until a few days ago (or was it months ago?) when I noticed a bottle of Pepsi on the bedside table of an aging patient.

“There’s more in the drawer,” he says.

“You want me to get you some ice?” I ask.

“Sure. That would be nice.”

“Did you look in the drawer?”

“Yes. You have six more bottles of Pepsi.”

“My daughter brought those for me. She can get more.”

But for now, it’s a ritual at medicine-time in the no-name nursing home where I work. I hand him his medicine and the small cup of ice to go with his Pepsi. I carefully pour a small amount of Pepsi over the ice. It sizzles, and the man nods.

“Ahhh", he says after one long draw on the straw. "I never knew about this stuff. It’s good stuff!” He sits the half-empty cup on the table.

Hours later, water has displaced the ice and the sweet mixture is divided into clear and gray. He 'refuses' (a medical word) to take his glasses off. He’s still glancing at his beloved bottle of Pepsi.

When some millionaire gives me my grant to create the "Adam and Eve Care Center", there are a million things I’d do to make a difference in the lives of those who fought our wars, survived pandemics and the Great Depression. They never knew a day off from work. They were too poor to afford the luxury of a Pepsi or a mouth-watering banana split from the Dairy Queen.

When I open my Adam and Eve Care Center, there will be a pop machine that takes only dimes. A cold bottle of Pepsi will only cost one dime. All the old men will get Pepsi with their meds, and the women will get a piece of dark chocolate candy with every meal.

They are our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents of yesteryear who feel alone and isolated from an era we will never know.

But, back to the present.

It’s now 10 a.m. in the no-name nursing home where I’m rushing to get 9 a.m. meds passed to 25 patients before the new admission arrives from general hospital.

The aides can’t keep up with the call-lights because therapy is waiting for several residents to be cleaned up and pre-medicated with pain pills.

Showers took longer than usual this morning when “Mary” screamed and kicked and fought like a tiger in the shower room. She almost fell out of the shower chair and several aides were scratched badly.

I had to stop to make out incident reports (management dictates this be done immediately), clean the scratches and apply antibiotics. The aides were very upset and vowed to never give Mary a shower again. The Director of Nursing wants to know why we can’t keep up as she hands me a training log to have each employee sign on how to safely give showers. Dr. Iwantedityesterday is on the line, and the fax machine is overflowing with lab reports that need review for critical values.

As I reach for the medicine for the patient in Room 218, a family member comes to the med cart demanding to know why his mother is not out of bed and her unopened breakfast tray is still sitting on the table beside her bed.

I agree that sounds like a good question as I continue to punch out meds for Room 218 and glance quickly around for the aide that was suppose to have fed his mother this morning.

“I’m so sorry. Your mother had a cough and small fever today, so we decided to keep her in bed. It was unusual for her to stay in her room for breakfast and someone forgot to help her with breakfast.”

“Well, if that’s how this place is going to treat my mother, I’m taking her out of here today. I want to speak to your supervisor~ *%!!* “

“I understand. Actually I’m the supervisor. But, I’ll take you to the Director of Nurses.”

As we head for the front office, I notice the medics rolling in a cot from the ambulance. That would be my new admission. The patient is very quiet, but I notice a look of pure terror in her eyes as they pass by. I want to stop and give the little old lady a hug and say, “It’s all right, honey. We’ll take good care of you,” but if I stop, the man walking beside me will start afresh with his outburst. So we walk on.

At the director’s office, I try to catch her attention as she slams the phone down and turns to the assistant director of nurses.

“Well I never! Someone called the Ombudsman and complained that we didn’t pass ice water yesterday and we let a call light stay on for over 15 minutes. Who would tell a lie like that?”

“This young man would like to speak with you,” I interrupt.

As I leave the angry man with the Director to discuss the despicable way his mother has been treated, I overhear her assure the son that this has never happened before and those who did this will be disciplined or fired.

When I return to the unit, I’m met with 12 of 20 call lights blinking above the doors and two aides sitting at the nurses’ station.

“They’re not our lights. We answer “Lisa’s” lights all the time. She’s lazy and takes a smoke break every five minutes. We aren’t going to do her work anymore!”

Another family member is standing at the nurse station (overhearing everything). She looks at me and nods with understanding but with urgency in her voice. She asks when her father will get his pain pill. He asked for it over an hour ago. No one had told me he wanted a pain pill. I hurry to open the narcotic drawer.

Just then an ear shattering alarm goes off and all the fire doors slam shut.

The fire drill is announced and everyone rushes to get everything out of the halls and close all the patient room doors. We are being timed!

The medics hurry by pushing their cot at a fast pace. They aren’t gong to be detained by a fire drill today! Yanking open the fire doors, they high tail it out the front door. And, I will be given a bad mark on the fire report for allowing one of my fire doors to be opened.

Fighting back tears of frustration, I am consoled with the words. Adam and Eve Care Center. Or should I call it, The Adam and Eve Place?

Both seem like sweet music to my ears. I stand a little taller. My aching back eases slightly, and I smile a great big smile as I walk into Room 218.

"Here’s your morning medicine. Would you like a cold Pepsi with that?”

Take Care on the Journey,

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