Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Forgot My Glasses…And Other Things A Patient Doesn't Want To Hear

I had to go into the transplant lab for some blood work this week. While I was there, I overheard Phlebotomist A tell Phlebotomist B that this would be a tough day since she had forgotten her glasses. I immediately gave a silent but earnest “thank you” to the man upstairs for ensuring that phlebotomist B drew my blood that day. Can you imagine a half-blind woman poking around trying to find your veins? Yikes.

I forget a lot of things – I’ve even gotten all the way to my car in the morning without switching from slippers to work shoes (which incidentally wouldn’t be a problem for one of my dear friends at work, ahem) – but I have never gone to the office without my glasses. When you check the clock to see how late you’re running (an important part of my routine), wouldn’t you notice if the numbers were completely blurry? Let’s all just cross our fingers that this woman takes the train to and from work…

Anyway, after that experience, I started thinking about other things I would rather not have heard from medical professionals. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

“This is going to pinch a little bit.” This phrase is typically uttered by my cardiologists at the beginning of each biopsy procedure, right before a giant needle is inserted into my neck or groin area. Let’s be clear – a little pinch is far from how I would describe the sensation that follows. However, I have to admit this phrase is far preferable to the old “you may feel a little pain.” When the word pain is used by a physician, something BAD is about to happen. As in, your chest is about to be cracked open and will hurt like all hell for several days.

“You’re a fall risk.” This is a favorite of the nurses in my hospital and probably in a lot of hospitals. The phrase itself, while somewhat demoralizing (especially to a previously quite coordinated and competent twenty-something), is not so bad in its own right. However, its implications are less benign. For example, being a fall risk sometimes means a bed alarm will be set, so that if you try to get out of bed, the alarm will go off. What’s really fun is when you toss and turn endlessly (a frequent occurrence in hospitals) and cause the alarm to erroneously scream when you are finally somewhere close to sleep.

Another fun part of being a fall risk is you must be accompanied to the bathroom. If the “bathroom” is actually a bedside commode, which is frequently the case, the nurse will often remain in the room while you attempt to do your business. As you might imagine, this is extremely awkward. The only thing that makes it worse is when the added pressure of catching (literally) a stool sample is involved. Talk about stage fright.

I’ll leave you with a final favorite from when I was first sick back in October of 2009. Let me preface this with the fact that the nurse involved ended up becoming my absolute favorite nurse EVER – this was my only less-than-perfect experience with her. Having my first Foley (pee pee) catheter “installed” was one of the most uncomfortable (not physically painful, just creepy and yucky) feelings I’ve experienced. Contrary to what you humanitarians might have thought, catheters are often inserted while patients are wide awake. I remember extremely little from those first few days in the hospital, but I remember the Foley installation quite clearly – it made a lasting impression! This was already an undignified moment, to say the least. Then I heard, “oops, I put it in the wrong hole.” In her defense, I don’t think she’d had holes to choose among in a while…not too many females spend a lot of time in the CCU!


  1. As a nurse, I can tell you "the wrong hole" can be a common problem. That said, most nurses would quietly "fix" the mistake without comment! Glad she turned out to be a favorite nurse, and thanks for the chuckle this morning. Hope you are feeling well!

  2. It would hurt a lot less in the wrong hole (but obviously not be very effective). I may have threatened the L&D nurse's life before my unexpected c-section with #2 when she tried to put in the foley catheter. Seriously, couldn't wait until the spinal block is in to do that?

  3. ok, coming from your 2nd favorite nurse... : ), putting the foley in the 'wrong' hole the first time, only confirms the RIGHT hole the 2nd time. it is a small tactical error. I figure this 'error ' goes under the category, 'no harm, no foul'. Just saying.
    My personal favorite... mmmm, this never happened before...

  4. HA! Been there, done most of that. I too have a wealth of Foley adventures. But my all-time favorite experience was my bed alarm that played "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" when I foolhardily tried to get MYSELF to the bathroom. And no, I am NOT making that up.

  5. for the record they ARE INDOOR/OUTDOOR SLIPPERS, and are completely legit footwear :-)

  6. Very clever. Glad you could use that pic from your potty training days.

  7. Seeing you on the potty chair brings back many fond memories!

    As to the favorite nurse "competion," Nurse #1 and Nurse #2 had very different roles. Nurse #1 cared for you as an inpatient in a crisis situation, and Nurse #2 cared for you as an outpatient. Both were the best at what they did, and I love them both dearly!! (And that takes nothing away from your other wonderful nurses.) So--Happy C and Happy H to both!!

    Much love, Ann/Mom