Friday, September 30, 2011

I gave an IV infusion, or "I'm a nurse!"

Never Done: I gave an IV infusion, or "I'm a nurse!"

I am very close to someone who, when she was a baby, had a seizure that damaged her brain. She's forty now, and I've known her since before the brain damage. As she moved into her teenaged years, she fell in love with James Taylor (as did the rest of us) and Uno, and loved to spend time with friends and family. She developed a few sentences that she repeated frequently, mostly having to do with things she loved (James Taylor, Uno) and things she wanted to tell us (that she loved James Taylor and was going to play Uno) and also, randomly (but probably not so randomly, since she had to see a lot of doctors and nurses) "I'm a nurse!"

Her sister and I (and our other close friends) heard these phrases so often that they naturally became part of our vocabulary. So the first time I got to give Josh a home infusion of IV antibiotics (which I will get to do for another few weeks) I couldn't resist, as I pushed the air out of the saline syringe, declaring, "I'm a nurse!"

According to my much more medically-trained friends, it's essentially impossible to mess up with the set-up we've been given. Nevertheless, I was nervous the first time I did it. We had detailed instructions on how to set up the IV pole, prime the line, flush the line with saline, administer the drugs, flush the line again with saline, and finally with heparin. There are clamps to open and to close, and connections to clean. I felt that it was important that I do the job seriously while keeping the mood light. That's where, once it was all hooked up and going well, the declaration of "I'm a nurse!" came in.

The truth is, saying "I'm a nurse!" out loud also validated the part of me that really really really likes cleaning things and priming things and clamping things and hooking things up. I became a carpenter because I like doing that stuff, and it turns out that hooking up some antibiotics to a PICC line is similarly satisfying. I'm sure the fact that Josh is truly fine makes it easier -- that this isn't a high-stakes situation. In fact, it's a perfect situation for me to discover that I enjoy this, but also a model for future attitude and approach. Let's say I would at some point encounter a more scary situation. Would I still allow myself to enjoy doing technical stuff that I do, in fact, enjoy? I would argue that allowing ourselves to experience and express enjoyment makes us better tube-attachers and caregivers, and that I hope to remember that if, pu pu pu, I am ever again in a more high-stakes situation.

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