October 9, 2008

The Night Nurse


During my entire hospital stay at Penn, I was blessed to have the same night nurse, a woman named Helen who had a badly sprained ankle, which she dragged behind her like a dead body.

As I staggered back to the maternity floor from the NICU at 1am one night, I stopped at the nurse's station, where I found Helen playing a game of solitaire on her computer.

"I'm going to try to get some sleep now," I told Helen. "Do you need anything from me before I head to my room?"

My question was met with a blank stare, so I clarified my request.
"Do you need to take my temperature or look at my vagina?" I asked.
Helen said that both my privates and my vital signs could go unsupervised until morning.

"Perfect," I said, "See you later."
I woke up to a flashlight shining in my face. The clock read 1:15am.
"I need to take your blood pressure and your temperature after all," giggled Helen.
I opened my mouth and stuck out my arm.

At 2:45am Helen remembered that she also had to draw some blood.
"I'm not very happy about this," I told her.
Helen apologized and asked where I wanted the tourniquet.

I pointed to my favorite vein, but Helen "didn't like the look of it" and selected one in my wrist instead. After digging around for five minutes, she decided that my suggestion wasn't a bad one after all.

At 4:37am, Helen brought in a large Styrofoam cup of ice. She woke me up to ask me where I wanted her to put it.
"I don't want it!" I screamed nicely.
Helen said she was sorry for trying to make me more comfortable. She left the light on and the door open on her way out. I counted to 10. Ten times.

Helen's shift ended at 7:00am. At exactly 6:58am, I buzzed the nurse's station.
"Yes?" said Helen, poking her head around the door.
"Before you go," I said, "Could you get me a drink of water and a handful of saltines....and a towel and two washcloths please?"

I could hear Helen's leg scraping down the hall to to the ice machine. I tried not to smile, but it was hard.

17 comments

RaT Babies said...

Go you good thing!! Baby Spike (Jacob Nathaniel) arrived 10/9/08 so we are thrilled. Hope & pray that you both are making good progress

andiewade said...

oh night nurses. i guess they learn in nursing school that waking up a sleeping patient makes them more comfortable. a nurse woke me up @ 4am the first night after i had delivered my first baby. i figured she wanted me to try to breastfeed so i asked "is she hungry?" the nurse said "oh no. i just thought you'd like to hold your little girl." i blinked a couple times, said no, and rolled back over. does that make me a bad mother? after the nurse left i just happened to notice that she had still placed my tiny girl next to me in the bed behind my back... good thing i noticed and didn't roll over!

i love your stories :)

Cuddles, Kisses & Tantrums said...

Oh the joy of night nurses. When I had my son I was woken up at 2:30 am so they could weigh me. After trudging down the hall with my backside exposed I stepped on the stupid scale and yelled "yep, I'm still fat- just like I was 4 hours ago!" Sweet dreams after that? I think not!
Congrats on your precious miracle. Your family is in my prayers!

Sharon (sk) said...

Hahaha! Gotta love them! ;)

Mrs. Morty said...

You should have made each request individually as she retrieved each item one at a time ask for the next item. You could have milked another 5 to 10 minutes out of her.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

see? I KNEW this post was coming. :)

Cindy said...

I still remember the night after my triplets were born. I had had this exhausting and terrifying day--my water breaking at 29 weeks, the helicopter ride to nowhere, and the emergency c-section. They were born at 9pm and I wasn't out of recovery until almost midnight. I knew that I had a track record of not sleeping well after giving birth anyway, so I asked for something to help me sleep. And then at 4AM a nurse came in and woke me up to ask...
if "this" was my camera battery!

Good thing I can laugh now...8 years later!

kori bates said...

LMAO!!!!! THat was the funniest thing I have read.

Sarah said...

Good for you! I wish I would have had enough guts to try that. Of course I checked out of the hospital early after my c-section with the my last after they took the baby to test his hearing and lost his ID band and then because they couldn't check his ID band against mine wouldn't give him back to me. Let me tell you, there was some words exchanged. And my stupid husband slept through the whole thing.

Karen said...

So much for resting during your hospital stay. At least you got some revenge! You're my idol!

Tiona said...

Dear me. In nursing school, we're told not to wake the patient unless it's absolutely necessary. Not to even wake them for their dose of pain medication, wait until they wake up and ask for it. I guess some people need to feel needed...

Helen (not the nurse!) said...

LOL! Sounds like you're a model patient.

Shaunte Wadley said...

I had that nurse!
With all my kids, actually.

Once, after waking me several times during the night, she asked if I wanted anything to "help me sleep."

I said I could probably sleep IF YOU LEFT ME ALONE!!!!

ErinB said...

Good times! I had similar experiences when I was in the hospital for pancreatitis and gall bladder surgery 4 weeks after I delivered my first baby, Natalie. No orifice or vein was left untouched. There is a special place in heaven for night nurses.

Reese said...

Oh, this was a good one. Thanks for doing what the rest of us don't have the guts to do. Glad to see that your sense of humor is still intact. I guess sometimes if you don't laugh then you will have to cry. Hang in there......it will get better soon (and worse).

Twinlinebackers said...

Light on and door open. I HATE that. At least you were mobile. I hate being unable to get out of bed to turn off the light and close the door. Give Helen credit for one thing. I didn't know those buttons were for calling nurses. I thought they were just to occupy us while our lights were on. Like hitting 1 on a touch tone phone to speak to someone.

Michal said...

so funny. and you were lucky enough to have her every night? yikes.
you and cameron are in my prayers.