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More to Love

Every morning after my first few sips of fortifying coffee, I check my email. Three of my daily emails are: CNN’s top five headlines, the Good News Network, and the Daily Om. So my mornings start with a befuddling mix of the bad, the good, and the partially insane. The other morning, for example, I learned that Biden’s student loan forgiveness program has been consigned to limbo, that words engraved on an ancient bronze hand may rewrite history, and that when we are in circle with others the energy stays contained within the group, giving back to all. It’s little wonder I have trouble knowing how to feel about the day ahead.

In truth I check email for a tiny blast of the outside world before I head into the rarefied atmosphere that is my work. The first thing I do in my work day is log in to my computer to see who died overnight. If all my patients are still alive, it’s a good day!

Last night I was texting with one of the social workers on my team. He was lamenting the fact that after weeks of relative calm, tons of his patients were suddenly hospitalized or actively dying. What the hell is that all about? I texted back in solidarity. This is known as coworker emotional support. You really need to space your patient deaths out more. He noted that this strategy hadn’t occurred to him. I thought I detected that he was feeling better about his week.

It was a fairly chewy week as weeks go. It started out quite fine: I only had fifteen patients and one of them was on respite, meaning having a tiny vacation in a nursing home, where she would be visited by the nursing home team. So just fourteen patients: what could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday afernoon I get a call from the caregiver in a house where both husband and wife are on service. She’s got mild dementia, he’s depressed, and the caregiver wants to let me know that he is sitting stroking one of his guns. All the breath left my lungs instantly. As soon as it came back, I asked in a calm voice, is it loaded? She didn’t know. How many guns are there? She didn’t know this either. Can you take the gun carefully away from him? She didn’t want to do this. She didn’t really want to go near him, or have anything to do with the guns at all. That makes two of us, I thought. I made a number of calls in quick succession, the first to the couple’s daughter letting her know she needed to get the guns out of the house immediately. Did she know if they were loaded? She did not. But she called me back a short while later saying they had been removed. I said that was really great news. Onward.

On Thursday, I made a classic nursing error. My supervisor texted me offering help: a float nurse was free in my area. No thanks, I texted back, I’m fine, pretty mellow crew right now. She immediately responded with a warning concerning jinxes, but it was too late. Not five minutes later I received an email from admissions saying I was being assigned not just one but two new patients with a possible third. Will I never learn?

Sometimes I wonder what I could do if I were not a hospice nurse. The other day I was in Home Depot getting a fridge. While my husband was scoping out the fridges, researching door swing and cubic feet, I wandered the aisles. HoDo is full of mysterious things that I have no clue of the purpose of, but love without reserve. Cylinders of shiny copper sheet. Tools for very specific tasks that I know I will never have to perform. There’s more to love, said a giant sign at the end of aisle 18, with Ply Gem Mastic Products. If I wasn’t a hospice nurse, maybe I could write advertising copy for HoDo products! I wondered if you were a hardware copywriter, what you could possibly find to say after you had said that there’s more to love with Ply Gem Mastic Products. Widest selection of on-trend colors, I read. Vast array of coordinating products and styles. All these words, and I still had no clue what a Ply Gem Mastic Product actually was. Genius!

In my job, I write things like wound with moderate purulent exudate. There’s not that much more to love with moderate purulent exudate.

But if I were stuck in an office writing advertising copy, I could not spend part of my work day tooling around the countryside in my Subaru Forester blasting loud music and singing along. It is an aspect of my job that I love very much. I set my own schedule, arrange my visits in a way that makes geographical sense, and almost never have to abruptly switch up my plan because a patient is having a pain crisis or fell out of bed or developed a mysterious wound or thinks they have conjunctivitis or has a family member who is flipping out and requesting a nurse visit and I’m at the other end of the county. So most days, I drive around happily sticking to my plan and laughing aloud that I am not stuck in an office somewhere.

My Subaru Forester is my office. I eat my breakfast in it, somewhere around 11am each day. I eat my lunch in it, usually around 11:30 or, if I am still hungry after my breakfast, at 11:05. I do my charting in it, and drink sizable amounts of coffee. My trunk is jammed with nursing supplies. The back seat area is a pitiful dumping ground for everything I don’t want to look at in the front seat area. My car, I will just come right out and say it, my car that is also my office and my cafeteria, is not that tidy.

But it carries me about the county of Ulster very efficiently, and it doesn’t seem to mind when the roads are covered with ice and snow. In fact, it even warns me when it thinks the roads may be icy. A yellow square flashes around a picture of a car skidding on ice, and the outside temperature flashes in yellow. Back in California, I used to drive old Jaguars. They had analog clocks and frequently lost aspects of their functionality, like door handles. I’m wowed by my Subaru. I’m somewhat in awe of the fact that I now drive a four-wheel-drive vehicle around upstate New York in all weathers, even ice storms. It makes me feel New York Tough. Real seasons: so much more to love!

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