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Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado

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Nurse Stories, Part Twenty-Five: You Win Some, You Lose Some...(By Kerry Weaver, R.N.)
By Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
Monday, November 01, 2004

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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A nurse shares some stories about some of the most memorable patients she has cared for.

I love my job as a nurse. It is both fun and challenging, and nothing brings me more satisfaction in making a huge difference in a person's life, especially when that person happens to be sick or injured.

This is Kerry. I haven't written here in a while because I have been so busy with my work. I work many hours, and I don't have many days off. If I do, it's a miracle!

I don't know if you remember me, but I was the nurse who was bitten by the brown recluse spider over the summer. I was bitten on the arm, and I was out for over two weeks getting over the durn thing. I still have a nice crater-looking scar on my arm, and once in a while it still hurts, especially if I accidentally bump it against something; but at least it isn't seeping or open any longer. It just looks terrible is all, and it is a grim reminder of what happened when that little hummer tangled with me. I never knew until I was bitten that a tiny little arachnid like that spider could do so much damage; but when it comes to brown recluse spiders, they are nothing to mess around with. They are among the most poisonous spiders around, aside from the black widow, which is just as bad as the brown recluse, if not, worse.

Of course, my encounter with the spider was quite remarkable and memorable (even have the scar to prove it!), but I have had other experiences that proved to be just as unforgettable. I remember one little kid, a little girl (she is the daughter of my supervisor, Louisiana), who had a stroke on her eighth birthday (her birthday is on Christmas, of all days, and she nearly died), and I also remember another little kid, a boy (the little girl's brother), who had an episode of status epilepticus, or severe, prolonged seizures that go on without abating; and he nearly kicked the bucket as well. We had to work furious and hard to try to save his ass, and we figured that he was going to be a goner, but God had other plans; and the kid lived. He is still doing quite well now; I see him on occasion, and whenever I do, all I can do is shake my head in disbelief because here he is, as big as life, in front of me (he isn't very big in the first place, as it is!), and I can remember seeing him lying on the gurney, blue as a blueberry, and shaking so hard in his seizure I was scared that he was going to fall right off the gurney. It was quite frightening to see this kid in the shape he was in, but we managed to get the seizures finally under control, and a few days later, he was awake, asking for a drink of Coke to soothe his raw, sore throat.

I also remember this young woman from Africa who somehow contracted NecFac (necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as "flesh-eating disease"), and we had to use all of our skills and wits to save her. She nearly died, not once, but several times, and by the time she recovered, she was a quivering, skeletal mess who looked like she had AIDS or something just as bad. She was cachexic, and she was in a great amount of pain; and nothing we did could satisfy her. She was always in tears, it seemed, and she was always begging for relief from the blinding pain that was coursing through her thin body. It ended up that she had to be tube-fed for a while (she did NOT like that, and she was famous for pulling out her tubes; we affectionally referred her as "Houdini"), and then, she ultimately had life-saving surgery to stop the pain. Of course, she was left permanently disabled from the surgery (damage to her leg), but now at least she doesn't hurt any more, and she is walking again (on a walker, but she is still walking).

The woman continues to do well to this day, and she has three small kids and is married to a wonderful husband who is also a nurse (he works in the Burn Ward; this was how the two of them met; she was a patient in the Burn Ward, and he was one of her nurses).

Okay. That is some of the success stories that I have encountered in my career as a nurse. On the other side of the scale are the tragic, unsuccessful cases that ended horribly, be it by death, permanent disability, or brain damage that altered this person's life (or the lives of their family members) forever. I remember one little boy who was burned when he knocked over a lit jack-o-lantern, and despite our best efforts to save his young life, he ended up dying from his burns, and also a massive staph infection (he was only three), and I also remember a man who was pulled from the water, unconscious and not breathing, after a boating accident, and by the time we had revived him, precious oxygen to his brain had been lost, and now, at the age of twenty-two, the man is now living out his days in a nursing home, unable to see, unable to speak, or even take care of himself. He is more like a big, overgrown newborn baby, unable to do anything for himself; and is now wearing diapers and eats by way of a tube in his nose. I also remember an elderly man who was savagely beaten by teenaged punks, and just about every bone in his frail body had been broken. We couldn't save him either; he was just too far gone when he was brought to our E.R. The man had been robbed, and the teenagers were scared that he would call the police on them; so they beat him head to toe with his cane and also their fists and feet. They really did a number on this unfortunate fellow, and it still sickens me today each time I think of it.

Just as heartwrenching are those people whose lives are ruled by abuse or drugs. I have seen far too many kids with scars or other visible signs of injury after their parents beat the crap out of them for being too noisy or crying, and I have seen young rape victims who are in shock while we care for their mutilated "secret places" and try to offer reassurance and comfort to their shattered psyches. I also have seen 330 pound plus men bouncing off the walls in a drug-induced psychotic episode, and it takes at least six people to try to hold him down while Louisiana, Genevieve, or I zap him with some Haldol, in an effort to calm him (often we end up on the receiving end of his flying fists or feet, or we are cursed or spat upon), and I have seen people so drunk you can smell the booze reeking off them even before you actually SEE them, or so drunk they can't walk without falling over themselves.

You really deal with the sad part of life when you are a nurse: you deal with people who are sick or injured (or even dying), and you deal with people that society has forgotten: the elderly, the disabled, the homeless or those afflicted with AIDS or are strung out on drugs or booze; yet, you must put any prejudicial feelings you may face aside and try to help these people, no matter how hard it may be. They may not be much to most people, but they are people first, and they deserve to be helped or taken care of, too, just like any other person whose lives are better.

Nursing, as a whole, has been a challenge and it is full of drama, danger, and never-ending excitement. I have always wanted to be a nurse, ever since I was a small girl, and now, as an adult, I am living out my childhood dream; and I am caring for others. It may not pay much (or as much as I would like), but I am caring for others, and I love my job. I enjoy the excitment and camraderie that nursing brings, and it is exciting to help people when they are most in need; and it is especially satisfying when you pull a person back from the brink of death, or save a person in which all hope was otherwise lost. Yes, nursing can be a thankless job a lot of the time, but there is nothing sweeter than seeing a child open her eyes after being down and without pulse or breath, or seeing a cancer patient who was thought to be terminal standing in front of you, thanking you for giving her a chance at life and saving her. That is, no question, the most gratifying part of my job, and that is probably why my nursing career means so much to me.

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Reviewed by Walt Hardester 5/24/2007
I've been retired from the field for a few years now Karen, but I do sometimes miss the drama, and never-ending excitement....not to be confused with
Reviewed by Simon Thurlow 11/3/2004
A wonderful write but it seems I am going to have to do some back-reading on the other 24 parts to make sense of some of this.
Reviewed by Michelle Kidwell Power In The Pen 11/2/2004
Excellent write
God Bless
Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner 11/1/2004

i agree with judy on the fact that nursing is complicated. you love it and you hate it; a nurse wonders if it is worth it...anytime you touch someone, and save them, it is definately worth it.

great write--enjoy this series

(((HUGS))) and love, karla. :)
Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 11/1/2004
Another fine write from you Karen!!

Love Tinka
Reviewed by Judy Lloyd 11/1/2004
The rewards of nursing is indeed a complicated thing. My husband was bitten by a brown recluse spider. Some of the effects still linger after 25 years. Brown recluse bite is far worse than the black widow. Neither are pleasant. I saw a whole lot myself as a nurse things that will curl your hair. I know enough that stem cell research as proposed by Kerry will not work. But this is another fine article written by a talented author.

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