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The Way We Were… April 25, 2007

Posted by 5 Wester in General Announcements.
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(BSN Class of 1994 in the bleachers!)

I just got home from having breakfast with a few of my old classmates from college, one of whom is on vacation from London and is contemplating on moving down here in McAllen.

It was quite a treat, especially when we remember how things were back in college… you know, the simple “stress filled” life we thought we had. It’s nothing compared to being out here in the real world. Someone even brought photo albums and a souvenir program from when we graduated with our BS in Nursing back in 1994. (BS in nursing… isn’t that a funny thing to say?) Oh yeah, Bachelor of Science… not the other BS. 🙂

We look young… like kids. Now we’re old, working, and tired. I still remember those 8-hour rotation shifts we had (I disliked them a lot)… 8 hours to sleep, 8 hours of clinicals at the hospital, and 8 hours of classes, then the cycle repeats itself. You did have a 1-hour window in between… you know, shower and meals, etc.

Back then we had to wake up at 5 a.m. because the faucet water would turn on at that time. We had to gather water in big drums, then hit the shower fast and early before the others wake up and use up all the water. You hit the “shower” fast because it was cold (about 70 deg K). We had no heated running water, you had to scoop it up with a dipper… pour it on yourself, jump up and down to shake the cold off… soap and scrub as fast as you can (don’t forget to clean behind your ears!), then rinse it off so you could get out fast. The whole process should take no more than 15 minutes or you’ll catch a cold. We had showers down to a science. Could you do that with 5 half gallon pitchers? We did… and did it everyday till the day we received our diplomas.

Looking back, going to school was a sacrifice in itself. Imagine a hot and humid day, 80 people in the class, no AC just ceiling fans, seats with arm boards that gave you splinters, having to go at 1 p.m., the hottest part of the day. It’s like boot camp for nurses. We have it made over here… hot showers, comfortable classrooms, dummies to practice giving shots to. We had to practice on our fellow classmates… and the enema… it’s not your friend!

Now, we’re in our 30’s, most with families of their own, a majority of us are abroad with the largest number in the United States… after all, this is what fueled the school’s economy back in the 90’s… produce nurses to fill the demand in the US.

As I write this and remember the faces of all of my 179 classmates who graduated with me in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, I wonder… if all my classmates were here with me and worked at MMC, I’m sure we’d have enough staff to fill the nursing shortage (at least in this part of the world) we are all too familiar with. Hmmm… I wonder if they still give referral bonuses…. Classmates, nurses, countrymen… lend me your ears! 🙂


Another Sad Story… The Virginia Tech Shootings April 19, 2007

Posted by 5 Wester in General Announcements.
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Flags fly half staff as we pay our respects to those who lost their lives in the Virginia Tech shootings. I heard of the shootings on TV while working with a patient Tuesday night, a day after it happened.

All throughout the night CNN airs the story of this unfortunate young man who apparently when on a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech where he was an English major. The shootings which took place almost 2 hours apart ended with 33 deaths, him included, the worst recorded in US history. This got me curious as most people who’ve heard of it. Couldn’t wait to get home to hit the news on the internet. What happened here?

As the story develops one thing is clear. This was a disturbed individual who apparently did not have any friends. The multimedia manifesto he left behind sheds some light into what may have triggered this horrible event. However, it is still unclear what really went through his head as he carried out his plan. Could this have been prevented?

Authorities state that there were “warning” signs and situations that led up to the event, however, no matter what people may say, there isn’t really any way to predict exactly what would happen. I know this for a fact since I’ve worked with psychiatric patients before. Even if the person wasn’t diagnosed as mentally ill, you still cannot predict what they would do. People can just snap… I guess there’s just so much a person can take. Regardless of what it is, we wouldn’t know what he had to endure all his life. And for the 32 people who’s lives were cut short by this terrible act, we could only wonder and ask ourselves, why?

Campus life will never be the same again. I remember back in college when all you worry about was mid-term exams and getting projects done on time. These days you have to think about security. I’m sure there will be nationwide security initiatives put in place to secure our colleges and universities.

As for the individuals who lost their lives that day, our condolences go out to their family and friends. We feel their loss. There are absolutely no words that can be said to comfort them in their time of grief. Lives full of promise cut short by an individual who’s life was apparently filled with pain. As we get to know more and more about the people who lost their lives that day, it starts to hit closer to home. We can relate, we know people that are like them… a senior just a few months before graduation, a father with 3 kids, a freshman who just started college and is looking forward to the future… the list goes on.

Life is too short to waste. Let’s make every moment count. We cannot go through life and say, “this only happens to other people.” I believe these are the signs of the times… and it’s only going to get worse. Still there is hope. We know Who is in control. Let’s remember the victims family and friends in our prayers.

Friday the 13th… omen… oh man! April 15, 2007

Posted by 5 Wester in General Announcements.
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It’s 18:45, I just came on. We’re receiving report when all of a sudden they wheel him from the OR.

You have this middle-aged gentleman who was in a motor vehicle crash that just got out of surgery to fix a torn diaphragm. The details are sketchy but by looking at him you know he’s in pretty bad shape. For some reason they couldn’t keep his blood pressure up and despite all the pressors and fluids we couldn’t get a good reading from his a-line. There were more than 4 nurses feverishly working to keep him out of the danger zone. After a while, we sent family in while still working to keep his pressure up.

“Trauma code ER” was called over the PA system. “Let’s go” said my preceptor as we made our way to the ER… we were “trauma beeper” for the night. By the time we got there they were already working with the guy. The patient apparently was run over by a semi trailer, but he’s lucky, he’s able to talk. He’ll be fine.

Back at the ICU again, we continue working on the gentleman. At one point his blood pressure drops dangerously low registering a systolic BP in the 50s. We call his family in… he may not have enough time. I can hear the wailing from behind the curtain as his wife urges him to hold on to dear life. Moments later a few other family members come in. Then they bring in the big guns. All medical science can do is keep his blood pressure up as much as it can using the latest advancements in medical science. I listen as family gathered around him and call on Higher Power. I whisper a quick prayer… you can’t watch all this and do nothing… the human spirit is too great a power to ignore. I hope he’s OK I thought to myself. “Trauma alert ER” was called again. All throughout the night I believe I counted almost 5 trauma codes. What’s going on? Someone said, Friday the 13th.

I don’t believe in superstition. I guess it was just a coincidence we were fairly busy that night. Miraculously though, our patient starts to stabilize. After another chest tube insertion to relieve that pneumothorax, multiple blood and plasma transfusions, he’s blood pressure sustains at around 90. It’s too early to say but he seems to be doing fine at this point. He’s been stabilized. What made the difference?

Regardless of what you believe, I believe that there is a God up there that hears prayers. I can’t imagine living this kinda life without knowing that we do have Someone we can rely on, especially that all this world can offer is nothing more than empty promises. I’m glad to know that God is still in control, and that no matter how dim and bleak the situation may seem, He comes through according to His will for you. All the powers of Friday the 13th don’t come close to that. And with that let me leave you with this… God does answer knee-mail! 🙂

Get Back to Work! April 11, 2007

Posted by 5 Wester in General Announcements.
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I’m mentally preparing myself after almost a week of “forced vacation”. Gotta get back to work…it’s showtime!

Being gone for a while is quite intimidating. Scenarios run through your head as you create a mental picture of how you’re supposed to begin your shift after a long time of absence. Unfortunately for me, my preceptor isn’t working tonight so that means I’ll be on my own. At least I was able to negotiate working on the “step-down” side of the ICU. Step-down meaning, I’ll probably have 3 med-surg or telemetry patients… not bad. After all, I came from a hospital where we had 3 patients where we had to do everything, i.e., primary nursing care, plus order entry, etc. But then again, patients can turn bad on you at a moment’s notice and they’ll have to be sent back to the ICU. This reminds me of that one patient I had who unfortunately came back to ICU after being on the floor less than 24 hours.

This was an unfortunate middle aged woman who came to the hospital because of a brain abscess. Surgeons successfully removed the infection and eventually she was transferred up to the telemetry floor. The day after the transfer she was taken to the bathroom for the very first time after a long while of staying in bed. She passed out and a code was called. She’s back in the ICU, the culprit, pulmonary embolism.

A lower extremity venous doppler ruled out DVT. Her clot was formed in her upper circulation. Now in ICU, intubated and sedated, they cannot give clot busters because of the recent brain surgery… she can bleed in her head and die. Either way, the prognosis is poor. The clot can travel into a critical part of the pulmonary circulation and her perfusion will suffer. What do you do? It’s in God’s Hands now.

Can you imagine what her family must have been going through knowing what is causing this sudden change in condition, yet, with all the advancements in medicine, there is nothing medical science can do about it? I guess it comes down to this… we have to take care of ourselves, and with our good faith effort trust in God to do the rest. Life is too short to be sweating the small stuff. What matters is the here and now.

Let’s plan for our future, but let’s live our life now. On that note, let’s get back to work, shall we? 🙂

Forced Vacation… April 9, 2007

Posted by 5 Wester in General Announcements.
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It’s been one week since I’ve been back to work.

I’d like to say I had a pleasant time but I’d be lying if I did. Being sick isn’t fun. For one, it robs you of the opportunity to make money… something most of us wouldn’t want to miss out on. Then, there’s that overwhelming feeling of helplessness as you waste your time lying in bed waiting for your body to recover from whatever took over.

It all started last Saturday, March 31st. Coming home from work dog tired. I’ll sleep it off, I told myself. By nightfall I could barely get up to go to the bathroom. Muscle and joint pain, weakness, sore throat. In the morning it hit me hard. I was bed bound with low grade fever. The following day was even worse, fever of 101.2., bad sore throat that feels like brain freeze every time you swallow, and headaches, not to mention the green stuff you spit out after you clear your throat, yuck!

After a few days I had the sense to say, enough! I need to see a doctor… and that’s what I did. It kinda hurts though, you need to spend $200 for the doctor to tell you “your sick”, but I guess that’s the thrill of having medical insurance. (Whatever happened to $10 doctor’s visits?). A few more days rest and some antibiotics later, I’m feeling better already.

Through all this I realize that most of the time we take our health for granted until our body says, “that’s enough, I’m shutting down, need rest”. Although I’d say I probably caught it from someone at work, being sick isn’t fun at all. So take care of yourself. Eat well and sleep right. When it comes down to… nobody will take care of you, but you! 🙂