08 September 2010

The One with the Smells

Clinicals, Day One: It's called Med Surg/ENT, and it is my Everest.
Scenario: Pt. who has smoked 1PPD (pack-per-day) for 25 years and has admitted that he's an alcoholic. 12 beers a day for who knows how many years kinda points to that, right? In any case, he's been diagnosed for throat cancer (two major risk factors for this particular type are excessive tobacco use and alcohol...so kids, take this to heart and stay away from ciggies and the bottle!) and had a trach put in a couple days ago. He can't speak, so everything is communicated by head nods, hand gestures (he was nice - no flippy flippies) and the old-school pen and paper. NPO (nothing by mouth) since midnight last night because of a surgical procedure later today, so the only fluids were via IV.
I get grumpy if I miss my mid-morning snack time, so I can only imagine how this guy was feeling.
I really, really tried to do my best. I wanted to make this guy's day a little brighter. And I honestly feel good about how I performed today - I helped get supplies ready for a blood draw, helped with two separate trach suctionings, hooked him up to his 02, measuring I&O (intake and output - it's exactly like it sounds)...little things like that. Nothing major since we're getting oriented to the floor, but it still helps you be a part of the process. This afternoon, the patient's RN was nowhere to be found, so me, the little Student Nurse, got to give report to the attending physician. Yeah, I felt like big stuff. And I made the patient smile...and that made me feel like even bigger stuff.
I only had one problem. I hate to even talk about it, because I want to be tough and there's no way that this could have even been controlled. It's not the patient's fault...it's just the way it is.
The trach secretions. The sight didn't bother me at all. I have dogs and grew up in a funeral home. Seeing yuckies doesn't phase me.
It was the smell that got me. 
I won't even try to describe it, at the risk of making my dear, sweet husband throw up from 120 miles away if he reads this. While he's a fan of hearing about my day, he's not thrilled when I go into detail. I've learned to stick to the basics with him.
Anyway, first of all let me just say that I just feel so, so awful that I even let the smell bother me. At least I don't have to sit there all day and have it follow me around like this guy does. I need to man up - trach secretions are just a fact of life. It happens. You deal with it. You go in and clean it up and try to not make the patient feel self-conscious. At least this guy is alive and can (kind of) breathe. (Pray for him if you wouldn't mind another addition to your prayer lists. He's really a sweet man, just stuck in a horrible, lonely situation.) Everything in perspective.
But it's just the kind of smell that sticks in your nose...and mouth...for the rest of the day. (PS: Orbit, your Sweet Mint gum does NOT help at all.) Neither did my lemon hand sanitizer. I have never experienced anything like this in my life - funeral home smells are like rose bushes compared to the Med Surg/ENT unit.
I dealt with the best way I could - by not eating much of a lunch (The Med Surg Diet Plan??) and coming home to take an hour-long shower with anti-bacterials and a deep conditioner that smells like pears. I didn't particularly need a deep-conditioning, but pears smell so much the opposite of trach secretions.
But right now, sitting at my laptop, I can still smell it. And you know what? Rather than let it ick me out, I'm just going to deal with it. It will be my reminder that I have so much to be thankful for. I'm very blessed, and I don't even realize it half the time. I'm going to choose to let this smell be a reminder to thank my Savior for my life and good health.  I'm going to let it be a reminder that, at any given moment, there is a disheartened, lonely person sitting in a hospital room that just got some of the worst news of their life. I'm going to let it be a reminder that there are people out there that need our compassion and care.
This is why I'm going to be a nurse. 
Bring on the smells.

1 comment:

Amber Ennis said...

Addie, your posts are hilarious. And I don't think I've told you, but I think it's amazing that you are taking on this new adventure. Good for you!