Apparently one should never blog when pissed as proverbial newt – thank God for spell checkers cos there is no way in this gods earth that I can spell proverbial when drunk.. or even sober and this will probably offend just about everybody so unless you are a doctor or nurse, stop reading now, we (ex)nurses use humour as our coping mechanism, it stops us from going crazy in the middle of so much tragedy (plus it’s cheaper than therapy).
When I was gainfully employed as a nurse on intensive care unit about a third of my patients died.. it wasn’t my fault, honest your honour, I’d pull out all stops to keep my patients alive, simple little things – like stopping the cleaners from unplugging the ventilator so they could plug in their damn vacuums and hoover the room, and like stopping the patients from lighting up cigarettes under the blankets during the middle of the night and literally going up in smoke because of the high O2 supply, I would do everything in my power to keep them alive – at least to the end of my bleeding shift (!) but some folk are obstinate buggers and frankly don’t give a damn about my feelings and just insist on dying during my shift where-upon I’d have to ‘lay them out’, at least that’s the term we used. This involved removing all the lines and cables and tubes and leads and wires and paraphernalia (thank you spell checker) that we had attached/inserted in them and then wash the body and wrap them in a gown and attached the traditional ID label to toe. Sooo…
Things they don’t tell you in nursing school
1. Make sure you check the patient’s cupboard (and mouth) to see if they have dentures. It seems there is only a small window of opportunity to put dentures back in the mouth or then they never fit properly again, I’ve been caught out by this on more than one occasion, the last time was when the patient was already away to the morgue and I had to force them in and then wrap bandage all around head to close keep mouth closed again, jaws without teeth never look right.
2. Bodies make noises even when they’ve been dead for quite some time.. sadly sadly sadly it is practically impossible not to laugh out loud when you are listing the patients belongings in the Death Book and the bodies let off a big fart. Noises from bodies happen with regularly frequency, the usual ones being farts and burps but occasionally big sighs as well – which is excellent as the Student Nurse with you usually faints at that point. And sadly, as I’ve rolled big patients over onto their side so the other nurse can wash their back we have heard long fanny farts.. When a patient does that I will usually say something like ‘that’s been in there since 1947..” at which point we are wetting ourselves laughing and I can’t hold onto the body and it’s in great danger of rolling out of the bed.. And sometimes you can be sitting by the nurses station a few hours after the person has died… 4am in the morning…quiet everywhere.. and all the sudden there a long drawn out fart from behind the curtain… and you wonder if that’s the body …or if there’s a nurse in there as well..
3. Student nurses are easily spooked. It’s amazing easy, when behind the curtains to spook the student nurse helping you lay out a body, they are usually very nervous right from the start and you tell them stories about patients coming back to life and breathing again even when officially declared dead… this is usually most effective late at night and it’s dark and then you say “OMG he moved!” and the student nurses freaks out… and you say you thought you saw his chest move and the nurse is starting to panic and then the coup de grace is to discretely and gently push the bodies elbow slightly so his hand moves ..at which point the student invariably runs out of the cubicle screaming whilst you have tears of laughter rolling down your cheeks..
4. Dead bodies don’t magically disappear from ICU and materialise in the mortuary via Star Trek transporter. The porters come up with a special trolley that is hollow, the body goes into a compartment in the trolley and the top of the trolley is covered with a clean sheet so it looks like an empty trolley to members of public walking past in corridor. However, rigor mortis seems to set in amazingly quickly, you probably want the relatives to see their relative and say their goodbye’s ASAP because if you leave a body in a semi reclined position on a few pillows with their hands together on their chest then what invariably happens is that you can’t actually straighten them out flat afterwards… This has caused me problems when grieving relatives have spent ages saying goodbye to their loved one and then when I come to transfer them into the porters trolley they won’t lie down flat, nor can I move their arms down to the side. There have actually been occasions when a student nurse has left the patient in a sitting up position as the rellies were there and then once they went we couldn’t flatten him and get him into the porters body-trolley. Then what you have to do is leave them in the bed for a whole shift and gradually the rigor mortis resolves. You thought I was going to say we bash the body with a mallet to get it into the trolley, didn’t you… we never did that, we used rolling pins.
My old nurse tutor, Mrs Threadbare (as everyone referred to her) would turn in her grave if she read this but every experienced nurse will probably say ‘yup, been there, done that’ 🙂
You see, it’s the little kid inside us that stops us from going crazy.