Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Needles and shaking hands don't mix

I see a worried mother, standing outside her daughter's hospital room. Tears are beginning to well from her lacrimal ducts. "What's wrong?" I ask, responding to the silent plea for help that is blasting across the open space of our ICU.
"That nurse is being needle happy with my daughters arm," she snaps at me.
I look into the room. It's one of our newer nurses. She's a good nurse with killer instincts, but like all of us, we have to practice on someone before our butterfly needles slip into veins with ease. It's so easy to take sides. Yes, I want to say, how dare that nurse poke your daughter so many times. You're tired and scared and helpless and all you can see is a nurse inflicting pain and it's too much. On the flip side, the poking is necessary, practice is necessary and only through it will experience be gained, making a good nurse a great nurse.

So I can't pick sides, I know both too well. Instead I say, "let me see how I can help." I walk into the room. The daughter is crying, the husband is crying, the mother is crying. The nurse looks up. "Could you please help me?" her eyes and her mouth ask me. I see now the purpose of the poking. Not for an IV, but we're aiming for the artery in the wrist to test the blood being pumped out from the heart rather than the blood returning. These are much harder and make me nervous. I feel a movie moment coming on, where all you can hear is the beating of my heart as four sets of eyes focus beseechingly on my face. The pressure is on. I gather my supplies. I take a deep breath to calm my racing heart. The pulse of the girl preparing to be poked matches my own. I clean the site.

This is no big deal, I've done this a million times before, I've never missed, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this. Somehow, having a traumatized audience watching over your shoulder makes all of those rationalizations fly out the window. My hands are visibly and uncontrollably shaking. Adrenaline is a weird thing. I'm sure the mom is freaking out at this point as she sees the shaking hands with the sharp pointy needle heading towards her daughters wrist. I hold the tip of the needle against the skin for a brief moment to steady my aim, then push through. "Oh fuuuuu....." is all I hear.

And then, bright red blood pulses steadily through my syringe. I feel euphoric, relief floods through me much like the blood is doing in the syringe. Funny the metaphors you find in a traumatic situation. The specimen is sent, I'm hailed as a hero and the rest of the day nothing can truly go wrong enough to take away that feeling.


Jane Swanson said...

Well, that is a good story my dear child. You know all too well how many times I have been that crying mother. And now, I'm the mother of the nurse. Go figure.
Love you,

anne said...

See, at least that nurse felt bad that she was prodding at this girl. I wouldn't have been upset if that was the case, and hope she would ask for help if it was taking too long.
When I gave blood in High school, I had a nurse who stuck my arm like a kabillion times, she was so awful, she was so mean about it, and saying she couldn't find a vein and blah, blah. It was a horrible experience and I've never given blood since...I should do it again but she gavbe me a fear of blood bank nurses!

anne said...

ps- hooray for a new post!

Connie said...

Good job Julia. I was holding my breath and was so glad your post ended with a victory.
Love You,
PS. Jamiee says I remind her of you!!! Bonus for me. I didn't realize I was so sweet!!!!

The Manic Street Preacher said...

You ever had a Russian murderer who might be Lithuanian but either way can't speak English and keeps lighting up cigarettes in his bed in your hospital?

Try England ;-)

(and I ain't even a hospital worker. Just got caught up in it sort of)

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