October 7, 2008

Being Clean is Good

The doctors and nurses at Penn constantly wash their hands, which is a good thing. Since the invention of hand sanitizer, a thorough hand scrubbing is, more often than not, followed by a generous squirt of Purell.

As someone who has trouble remembering to wash their hands at critical times (like after chopping onions), I am fascinated--to the point of unhealthy obsession--by those who wash their hands unconsciously. Yesterday, I dedicated a whole hour to counting how many times one specific NICU nurse dispensed Purell into her left palm. At the end of the hour, I told the unwitting object of my curious gaze that she had sanitized her hands an amazing 52 times.

"That's almost one squirt per minute," I added, patting myself on the back for solving such a complex mathematical equation in my head.

The nurse thanked me for providing such a valuable public service.

Another nurse overheard my conversation with nurse # 1 and failed to avert eye contact fast enough.

"If you want, I can count how many...."

"That's o.k.," nurse # 2 interrupted, turning her back to me.

Nurse # 1 suggested that I find something else to do in the NICU to occupy my mind...and fill the time.

Any suggestions... other than honing my skills in eavesdropping and making infant-sized pirate eye patches out of bilirubin goggles? I'm pretty good at both already.

P.S. Cameron continues to improve, albeit slowly. We're waiting for the results of several blood tests, which should give us a better idea of where his bone marrow is at right now. We'll take whatever we can get at this point... and are grateful for it.


Tutu said...

Oh, my, am I first to comment? I'm one of your "new readers". Congrats on the birth of your son. I'm praying everything will turn out ok.

My son spent a few days in the nursery (not NICU, thank God)on the bili lights with the baby biker goggles. I have no suggestions of how to fill the time. I just sat and worried about all the babies in there!

Manda said...

Check out cakewrecks.blogspot.com to waste some time. I think you will enjoy it.

P.S. everyone LOVED the litter box cake I made for our office potluck!

Jen said...

I loved listening to the conversations of the others in the NICU (nurses and other parents mostly!). They nurses stories were great! As were the YOUNG moms who did not understand that they could not take their baby out of the "box and play with it". I always like to get to the NICU early and steal one of the good chairs so I could hold a baby and nap. :-)

AW Cake! said...

Oh my gosh! I have a friend like that. We were coming home from a girl's night out and I always have hand sanitizer in my car (kids get into some yucky stuff) and she used it like 5 times in the 30 minutes it took for us to get home! She said "Don't you just love the feeling of clean hands?" She cracks me up!
P.S. Good luck with Cameron - you're in our prayers.

Lisa Loo said...

I am not into intense hand sanitizing but my #2 daughter is. She one time held up about 50 people at WalMart while she tried to sanatize the handle of the cart she was going to use. Her girlfriend that came with her just walked away. Do you watch Monk?? I think Monk would do that. Maybe you could organize all the babies alphabetically or by height.

Rachel said...

I can say that in the 2 weeks I spent in the NICU with Gavin, I found it helpful to strike up conversations with other parents, and to make sure that I was there every day for 'rounds.' I found it was the best way to get info on him straight from the docs, not second hand from well meaning but not always well informed nurses. I also learned how to read his chart, which made me feel like I was on top of things as much as I could be. You can do the diaper changes, baths, etc., just tell the nurses you want to do it. Oh, and sit in the rocking chair and hold your baby EVERY MINUTE you can, and ask the nurses to get you a soda/water/pillow/whatever you need.
Best of luck, you're in my prayers, as a mom who's been there!

Hope said...

Things to do while you are in the NICU:
1. Read books to Cameron. It's good for him to hear your voice.
2. Ask the nurses if it's okay for you to "help" in his care. I used to take my son's temperature sometimes. Rub lotion on his little feet and legs. It depends on the situation.
3. I loved holding him, when I could. I couldn't hold him for the first month of my son's life.
4. My son's nurses were more friendly and talkative than Cameron's nurses from what you have written. They would talk to me about most anything.

Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

I haven't been able to be online much lately, so I want to say congratulations on the birth of your beautiful son. I'm so glad he's doing better each day. :)

As far as your boredom goes, good luck. I have no clue.

Anonymous said...


Congrats n the birth of Cameron and my prayers are with you and your family for a quick trip on the NICU roller coaster. With three little guys in the NICU for 8, 10, and 19 weeks it was tough to find something to do other then watch all the colored lines on the monitors. For a while when we couldnt even hold them, I took the time to read the entire Winnie the Pooh collection to each of them. One story a night to each of them which meant I read the same story three times. It helped pass the time and made me feel like I was doing something. Once we could hold them, we started doing more of their everyday care like diaper changes, baths, etc.


Little Lady Cakes said...

I second Hope on touching his feet.

He gets pricked there so many times, and lovingly holding them in your hands will help him not associate his feet with pain.

When the time comes and he's ready for Kangaroo Care, you won't need any distractions. It's the most wonderful thing to experience.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Sherry said...

When my friend's baby was in the NICU she crocheted a gazillion hats and sold them to other mothers with babies in the NICU and with healthy, normal-sized, going-home-soon babies. Crocheting is easy, so it might be worth you learning to do it if you don't already know how. If I lived in Pennsylvania, I'd teach you. :)

Also, you might want to check out librivox.org where you can download free audiobooks of old books that are in the public domain. Then you can listen on your mp3 player or what have you.

MaryBeth said...

During and after my son's bone marrow transplant I believe I kept the hand sanitizer companies in business. I even made anyone who came into my house use it. I was nice enough to buy the yummy scented kinds :)

I crocheted like a mad woman when my kids were in the PICU and isolation during transplant. I made blankets and hats and then would give them to the nurses and have them give the blankets to babies who's parents weren't able to be there all the time or children who lost their hair from chemo. It kept my mind occupied and gave me the chance to think of someone besides myself.

You could also play medical term bingo.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the beautiful baby boy Cameron!
My heart goes out to you, and all the moms and familes in there with their babies.
I don't have children, but I can imagine how difficult this time must be for you, and you, and your family are in my prayers!

Boredom...hmmm, some good suggestions already, get as involved as you can, with rubbing his feet and legs, changing, temperature taking, and so on. I thought the 'learn how to read the chart' idea was particularly good. If it were me, I'd read to Cameron (someone else said that too!...) and I would write, I would write a journal to him, so one day when he is much older, you can share/give it with/to him.
Of course, listening in on the nurses and young moms would be much more entertaining, and maybe some really great journal entries.

Good Luck, all my best to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Do a hand sanitizer feel/smell test - you need to have several different kinds of sanitizers avaiable to do the test (there are some yummy ones out there) and then poll your nurses and other parents and bystanders. This could be repeated with lotions, vending machine foods, etc.

Do they let you decorate the baby beds or any surrounding area, the nurses station, whatever? IF they do, or if they will let you have a wall, you could do something for each family, or have the family themselves participate,for seasonal stuff, collages, photo montages, etc. and hold contests. Decorate a ballot box and come up with clever categories.

Hold a book club/movie club/music club . . . even if people aren't there at the same time, you could do a big piece of paper on a wall for people to write their comments on the "book of the week" of "Song of the day."

You could play the word game - A is for anesthisia, B is for billirubin, etc. and see how many hospital/medical words you can come up with for each letter. Put that up on a large piece of paper too - people need to know these things. :-) Most creative word gets 55 cents to go to vending. OR you could count the number of things in NICU, like an inventory!

Do pedicures and manicures, reflexology, aromatherapy, random hairdos from the decades, take pictures, whatever they allow I guess.

Nikki said...

I am such an eavesdropper, and when I feel it is appropriate, I even include myself in others conversations...

In the meantime, I have a 8-9 page research paper on Norman Holland's theory of psychoanalytical criticism and how it relates to Faulkner's As I Lay Dying AND a 6-8 page research paper on Dr. Rank (in A Doll's House) as an object of dramatic irony both due in the next two weeks...you could think about how you might write those...that might pass the time too! :)

I am so glad to hear that little Cameron is progressing so well. It does make one count their blessings and thank HF for the priesthood and priesthood blessings doesn't it?

ps. You already look amazing!

Jana said...

Thanks for the great suggestions on how to pass the time. Days can be long in there, as many of you know. I'm checking out the websites you suggested as I write...

Thanks again!

OvaGirl said...

Ooh....just back and have caught up on the posts. Congratulations on a beautiful little boy and I add my thoughts and prayers for him and you and the rest of your family.

I think counting hand sanitiser users is actually a wonderful service to the hospital and they should be thanking you instead pof rolling your eyes. Obviously the next step is to monitor who DOESN'T sanitise and inform appropriately. My other suggestion is to write your book.

Mary said...

I guess you could make a blanket. Do you know how to crochet? Maybe just get a huge ball of yarn and try and untangle it, that would be hugely productive ;)

Vicki said...

ROTFL having just left my job at a hospital I totally think you need to check out who is not using the sanitizer nor washing their hands. Just casually ask who the Infection Control manger is for the hosptial...

We were lucky and had wonderful, talkative, informative nurses who helped us pass the time. We were also at a smaller facility so I'm sure that helped out too.

Spent a lot of time writing in our NICU journal, took tons of pictures, did some crocheting on burpie cloth but mostlly went at the times we could do cluster care and touch our sweet baby.

Mamajil said...

I am just now catching up on my "blog reading" Congratulations on the birth of your little son!! You guys are in my prayers!! He is so beautiful!
Take care of your self!

Erika said...

I have no idea for filling your time. But I had a daughter in the NICU around chirstmas time. I had made fudge to pass around to my friends and surprise that didn't happen. I decided to take a tray in on one of my visits. The nurses were so grateful. I noticed extra attention was given to my baby. She was actually treated better. Not that she was treated bad before but it was so much better. I took fudge in every day after that and watched in amazement, after about three day my daughter was given lots of attention and treated very well. Just a thought-bribe the nurses!