November 19, 2006, 10:55 am

Merry Christmas, Katarina

menwithbabies

I guess in its time, this was supposed to be a very funny little ad.

How times have changed!

Now I see men with strollers all the time.

Men may not actually give birth to the babies, but the men I know are so much more involved in their children’s life than the men of my father’s generation.

Look around you.

There are men pushing baby strollers everywhere you look.

Taking their babies to the park.

Toting them around in Snugglies or papoose-like back packs.

Changing diapers!

It’s a wonderful shift in how men are perceived in their role as fathers.

So when you’re tempted to think about how good the “good old days” were, just remember things aren’t too shabby in these “good new days”, either!

*****

Speaking of having babies (and don’t look at me, my eggs have gray hair and are using walkers), fertility is an interest of mine given my older daughter’s capacity to produce one dermoid cyst per day and my younger daughter’s PCOS.

(They must have inherited these genes from their father’s side of the family.)

Add to this my interest in the technology aspect of medicine and it isn’t surprising that I ran into some good stuff over at DocintheMachine. Steven (Palter, MD) has discovered a new reason for uterine infertility caused by the uterus literally shutting itself down.

Interesting stuff.

But what really makes this amazing is that sometimes you want the uterus to shut down, especially in cases of abnormal bleeding. So, the same research is being used to (1) work on stopping the reason a uterus will “shut down”" and (2) helping a bleeding uterus to shut down.

Call me a geek, but if you share the same interest in new medical technology, pay a visit Steven’s blog.

This is cutting edge research and it’s right here on/in the medical blogosphere!

******************************

Katarina was around 83 years old, give or take a year or two. She suffered from congestive heart failure and so was a frequent visitor to the coronary care unit in my small community hospital.

She was also high-maintenance. Very. High. Maintenance.

Everything had to be “just so”.

Her daughters were even more high maintainence than Katarina was. When they were in the unit they had constant questions and requests (and demands) for the nurse who was taking care of Katarina that day.

No, that’s not true. They had questions, requests and demands for every nurse in the unit. Every day. Every shift.

Being Katarina’s nurse wasn’t easy, by any stretch of the imagination.

I loved her.

*****

Katarina had immigrated from the “Old Country” after World War II. She and her husband had settled in New York and had moved out to California about ten years before we met.

Her husband was a tall, thin, stooped gentleman of 88. When he came to visit every evening he would always be in a shirt and sport coat. Shock white hair stood up from his head. He ambulated with a halting gait. He must have been quite handsome when he was a young man.

He also happened to be stone cold deaf.

Katarina wasn’t much better.

And so, every night, the shouting match began.

Oh, they weren’t angry with each other.

It was how they conversed.

“HUH?” “WHAT?” “I DON’T HEAR YOU SO GOOD!”

“LOOK AT ME WHEN YOU TALK TO ME, YOU’RE MUMBLING!” “I’M NOT MUMBLING, YOU’RE NOT LISTENING“.

“TURN DOWN THE TV!” “HOW COME YOU HEAR THE TV BUT YOU CAN’T HEAR ME?”

“STOP SHOUTING!” “WHO IS SHOUTING, IT IS YOU WHO IS SHOUTING!”

When you remember that back in the old days, Coronary Care Units were supposed to be an oasis of peace and a “no-stress zone”, it was enough to drive a unit of nurses to distraction.

Or laughter, depending on the conversation.

*****

The hospital was like home to Katarina and her husband in more ways than one. They would come every day and have dinner in the cafeteria. Every day.

I once asked Katarina if she actually liked eating in the cafeteria.

“Like?” she repeated. “It’s hot food, it isn’t expensive and I don’t have to cook it. What’s not to like?”

When she was admitted, we would often be ordering a guest tray for her husband. They would eat together in her room, the television blaring “Jeopardy” throughout the department.

*****

One day, it was suspiciously quiet in Katarina’s room. Her monitor showed Sinus Rhythm, the vitals were normal But something made me get up.

What I saw makes me wish I had a camera to this day.

Katrina and her husband were in the bed. He must have crawled over the siderail.

They were sitting side-by-side with their hands folded in their laps.

Her head was on his shoulder and his head was resting on top of hers.

“Jeopardy” was blasting on the televsion.

They were sound asleep.

*****

Katarina passed away one day when I was off-duty. The heart that had struggled for so long was at peace.

Her husband would come into the cafeteria for dinner. Alone. Every day. He just ambled slowly, eyes ahead. Sometimes I wondered if he even recognized us, remembered the nurses who took care of his wife for so many years.

One day he stopped coming. One of the nurses saw his obituary in the local paper.

*****

Katarina may be gone, but she never really left. Not me, anyway.

For you see, in about two weeks I’ll be unpacking my Christmas ornaments and a white Hallmark ornament with the sleigh on it will get a place of honor on my tree.

Katarina gave that ornament to me, way back in those early days of my career. It was my first gift from a patient.

Each year that I place it on the tree, I think of the character that was Katarina. I remember that precious tableau of the elderly couple asleep in the hospital bed; a marriage that had lasted over sixty years.

And I wonder if they have “Jeopardy” in heaven.

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8 Comments

  • Annemiek
    Annemiek

    November 19, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    For them, there has to be a Jeopardy in heaven!


  • Wendy, S.N.
    Wendy, S.N.

    November 20, 2006 at 5:37 am

    Oh, Kim. It’s not nice to make people cry. That was sweeter than “The Notebook.” (sniff)

    W. :)


  • apgaRN
    apgaRN

    November 20, 2006 at 6:16 am

    Thanks a lot, Kim!… I’m supposed to be bustling the kids off to school in a few minutes, and I’m sitting here with tears running down my cheeks. You should warn a girl about these posts! :) N


  • Rita Schwab
    Rita Schwab

    November 20, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    I’m starting to think you’ve got stock in Kleenex and Puffs…

    sniff, sniff


  • Steven F. Palter, MD
    Steven F. Palter, MD

    November 20, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    Kim– Boy I was honored when you posted a link to my research on infertility and my docinthemachine blog but I never expected it to be side by side with such a touching story. Thanks for both!


  • difficultpt
    difficultpt

    November 21, 2006 at 10:39 am

    Thanks Kim I love it (I always love your posts) . . . and they sound like my grandparents! :)


  • Judy
    Judy

    November 24, 2006 at 8:29 pm

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story!


  • klima servisi
    klima servisi

    May 28, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    I?m starting to think you?ve got stock in Kleenex and Puffs?

    sniff, sniff


About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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