Monday, June 13, 2005

Sad tales from the South

"The South", as well as referring to the hemisphere, also refers to my ward - a medical oncology ward. There are two types of wards: medical and surgical; We don't have much to do with surgery, but we take care of everything else, from earaches to dementia! And we specialize in cancer.

Lots of people think working on a cancer ward would be terribly depressing, but it's not. You make friends with people and their families over the months or years, and most of them think your fantastic for finding ways to solve their many little challenges.

But I failed miserably on Sunday. To start with, I only had 2 hours sleep (damn insomnia!). I had 4 patients, but I spent my whole morning with a young lady who found out this past month that she has cancer everywhere. She had lots of pain, and she had lots of morphine, but the pain wouldn't ease up. She would fluctuate from being just about unconcious to rolling around on the bed saying, "Please... there must be something you can do!!?"

Do you know what it feels like to stand there helpless while someone begs you for help?

The boss and I gave her so much morphine that her breathing slowed down, and I had to stop it for a while; nothing was helping. I pestered the doctor all morning, bless him! And after 8 long hours, right at the end of my shift, we sent her to another hospital where they can treat spinal cord compression. (That's where tumors, or cancer-related broken spine bits, press on your spinal cord, causing horrible back pain and eventual permanent spinal injury).

Years ago we did "Primary Nursing", which means one particular nurse will look after particular patients whenever they are in hospital. Familiarity is good for patients when they come in regularly. But I ended up the primary nurse of a very sick woman, who was on our ward for many weeks with excruciating, uncontrollable pain. It was the worst time in my whole nursing life... She would writhe and scream and all of us nurses just wanted to cry, but I had to look after her every day. We actually paralyzed the woman on purpose in a semi-successful attempt to numb her a bit!

Sunday's patient just reminded me of that time all over again! By the end of the day I was sad and sick and miserable and exhausted. I drove home, hugged my hubby, hopped into the shower, and sat on the tiles crying my head off.

Today the boss rang to see how she's going in the new hospital, and it seems they are making some progress. She doesn't have spinal cord compression after all, which is good! I had a much better day after a good sleep, so I could go back to work smiling again.


1 comment:

kelgell said...

D'oh. Sorry to hear about how hard it is. Glad she's doing a bit better. And I'm glad you're feeling better too. Ü