February, 2007 Archive

February 3, 2007, 1:38 pm

“Call 911, He’s Dead!”


This is a GI Joe nurse doll.

I find her interesting in a few respects, not the least of which is the fact that she is wearing dog tags.

She isn’t glamourous. In fact she looks rather weary and her hair looks as though it was chopped off herself a la Nurse Colleen McMurphy in China Beach (remember that show)?

Unlike her nurse doll colleague Barbie, she is carrying blood. Barbie never looked like she even saw any body fluids, let alone handled them.

Her cap has seen better days.

I would have put her in khakis – can’t imagine the white would do well in a combat area.

And I don’t think the mini-skirt uniform would be conducive to bending over.

Bottom line: I gotta get me one of these!


Every now and then we medical/nursing professionals find ourselves on the other side of the fence as patients.

I’ve written about what it’s like being the wife of a patient over on Scared to Health (newly designed, by the way), but I don’t think I’ve ever told the story about being the mother of a seizure patient.

The theme of Grand Rounds this week happens to be “Medical Professionals as People”. Well, I’m a nursing professional and I’m a people so that qualifies! Besides, I’m always up for a literary challenge!

And now, the feature presentation….


The hair dryer plug fell out of the socket.

I never would have heard the noise if the hair dryer had not stopped.

A whimpering, unworldly sound.

I followed the sound to the side of my bed in another room.

My 20-month old son was lying on the ground, motionless with a large amount of bubbling saliva running down the right side of his face and making a puddle on the carpet.

He had just been with me in the bathroom as I was drying my hair and I noticed he felt warm. “Better get him some Tylenol as soon as I’m done with my hair, ” I thought. He walked out of the bathroom.

Thirty seconds later the dryer unplugged itself from the wall.


I thought he had vomited so I grabbed him and threw him over my left arm and ran for help. There was no muscle tone in my son’s body whatsoever. Limp doesn’t even begin to describe it. I knew he was gone.

My husband had just come in from the backyard.

“Call 911!” I yelled. “He’s dead!

My husband grabbed the phone without asking questions and called 911.


In the meantime, I threw my son back over my right arm. He seemed weightless. He was the color of ceil blue scrubs and his pupils were fully dilated.

I went numb. You think you won’t remember your BLS in a real crisis. You are wrong.

I went into full BLS mode, but not consciously. My body was moving without any effort. I was not panicked. I was not anything. I was just moving.

Place the patient on the floor in a sniffing position. Check. Listen, look and feel for breathing. Check – and there was none of the above.

Give two rescue breaths, just enough to see the chest rise and fall. Check. Breaths given.

Feel for a pulse at the brachial artery.

Just as I was feeling for the pulse, two things happened simultaneously. The fire department, who was just around the corner showed up at my door.

And my son took a stacked, gasping breath.


I rode in the front seat of the ambulance with the paramedics as we drove Code 2 to the local ER. My husband stayed home with my older daughter and besides, I’m a nurse so I can handle this.

My son was screaming in the back as his clothes were removed and cooling measures initiated.

It was music to my ears.

When we arrived at the ER, I was the untimate professional. I was calm. None of this hysterical parent role for me. I gave a complete detailed report of what I had found, what I had done and the time frame during which the loss of consciousness could have occured. No, I did not actually witness any seizure activity. Yes, his eyes were dilated. Fully.

Tylenol and Motrin needed to be given (Motrin was prescription only at that time).

I am happy to administer it – I’m a nurse and I do this all the time.

Labs needed to be done. No problem, let me help restrain him. I’m a nurse, you see. I do this all the time.

A chest x-ray was ordered. No problem, give me a lead apron and I’ll assist in keeping him in place. I’m a nurse. Do it all the time.

A lumbar puncture was needed.

Uh oh.

“Dr. Emergency, I don’t think I can be present for the lumbar puncture. I believe watching may tax my coping skills. Is it okay if I sit in the waiting room?” Yes, I said those exact words. I’m a professional, remember?

What happened next still touches me to this day.

The emergency room physician put his arm around my shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You know, it’s okay for you to be “mom” now. It’s okay for you to need to be in the waiting room.”

I burst into tears, he gave me a hug and showed me to the waiting area.


I was a horrible mother.

I let my 20-month-old walk out of my sight.

I didn’t stop drying my hair and give him Tylenol when I thought he was a little warm.

Where were my priorities?

I was a horrible mother.

All this went through my mind as I sobbed in the waiting room while the lumbar puncture was in progress.

It wasn’t long before they came to get me. Seems it took four grown adults to hold him down.

My son was so ticked off at me for leaving, when I held out my arms to take him from the nurse he turned his head and wouldn’t come!

At least that’s how I read it.


We were in the emergency department for so long, it was time for the Tylenol and Motrin to be repeated. My son, while not in a full post-ictal state, took a long time to reach his “normal” baseline of behavior. The emergency department doctor was on the phone with our pediatrician, trying to have my son placed in observation for the night secondary to the prolonged alteration in behavior post-seizure.

The pediatrician said no. I heard the conversation from the ER side. Per the ER doc, the pediatrician said that hospitalization was not necessary, that I was an Intensive Care Nurse and I knew what to look for.

I was devastated. I desperately needed to be able to “let go” and have someone else in a position of responsibility in case he seized again. As it was I sat by the crib all night, awake.

The ER doctor kept my son in the department for a full twelve hours – the length of his shift. He figured if my son wasn’t going to be admitted they could observe him as long as he was on duty. The ER doctor said to give Tylenol and Motrin around the clock – even waking my son up to keep the fever from recurring.

I sat sentry duty all night long by that crib – wide awake. And scared to within an inch of my life.


Well, twenty one years later I know the pediatrician was right. My son really did not need to be hospitalized. I needed him to be and that is not the same thing.

In the year following the seizure, he had a normal EEG. We kept the kid sleep deprived for the test and do you think he would go to sleep – not a chance. He had one more seizure for his grandmother up at the farm – scared her to bits and she had raised nine kids!

As far as brain damage is concerned, my son is now a law student at the University of Notre Dame. Then again, there will be some readers who think that alone is indication of brain damage!


I wish I knew then what I know now.

We are professionals, but when illness strikes close to home we need to acknowledge the “regular” person deep inside, and take care of ourselves just as we would take care of anyone else in our position.

After all, medical professionals are people, too.

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February 2, 2007, 6:39 pm

You Can Check Out Anytime You Like, And You Can Even Leave!


Oh no!


As if surviving the disease isn’t enough, you have to worry about…


“Hello, doctor? I’m afraid I have sequelae.”

Actually, this ad says measles can cause sequelae in the form of vision problems and hearing issues.

I always thought it was suspicious that I became myopic one year after having measles.

My doctor pooh-poohs it.

But hey!

Maybe it was………..sequelae!


I don’t often have any contact with the morgue.

In fact, I’ve been in a morgue twice in my entire career.

During one of the instances, I opened the door to the refrigerator on an individual cubicle and found this notice inside the door. This is not a joke – it was an official notice.

It said…

“You are NOT locked inside.”


The note went onto explain that you could open the refrigerator door from the inside.



Now, I may be way off base here, but if you are dead, why would you need a door that opens from the inside?

Let’s assume the worst.

  • You’re in a body bag, but you are alive.
  • “Oh no!” you think. “I’m dead but in a body bag! I had better unzip this bag and get out!”
  • There is no way to unzip the bag from the inside, but let’s put that aside for the moment.
  • There is no light source in the morgue refrigerator cubicle. How are you supposed to read the notice? Should we include a disposable flashlight in each body bag?

Is this a JCAHO requirement? It is a patient safety issue for 2007?

“Provide for the safety of any patients accidentally declared dead. Make this information accessible to the declared deceased through appropriate signage in the morgue refrigerator.”

Now I’m not easily freaked.

But that sign just threw me for a loop!

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5:24 pm

Nights in White…Poly/Cotton


It seems many people suffered from simple nervous tension in the ’60s.

Must have been all the amphetamines that were being prescribed as diet pills.

Compoz was supposed to take care of that.

But did you know that Compoz would also cure allergic reactions, act as an antinausea medication, work on motion sickness and help with EPS reactions?

It should.

All it is is diphenhydramine.


Just plain ol’ Benadryl.

Who knew that if you suffered from simple nervous tension, you could take Benadryl?

I wonder if I can buy it in bulk…..


They finally arrived.

My new white scrubs with my name ever so eleganty embroidered on the left side!

They were so freakin’ white I had to wear sunglasses.

But first I had to make sure I had the appropriate accoutrements . One does not want to wear navy-blue foundation garments under white scrubs.

Flesh-colored unmentionables: check!

I placed the scrubs on my oh-so-professional self. I swear I glowed in the dark.

Consultation with husband in three different lighting conditions to make sure my underwear was not showing: check!

Hmmm….an unexpected situation: the scrubs were so vibrant in their whiteness, they made my white shoes, socks and scrub jacket look like I had dipped them in Hershey’s chocolate syrup and rolled them in the rain puddle in the front yard.

There’s white and then there is WHITE!

No matter. I, the Professional Nurse, was all in white. I nearly grabbed my cap for the occasion.

With head held high and nose somewhere in the stratosphere, I drove to work and entered the sacred healing area known as the Emergency Department.

My co-workers noticed my attire; there were a few double-takes.

No one said a word!

Ha! You are all jealous of my professional whiteness of attire, oh you of the no-cap-wearing generation!

I went in and threw my new dusty blue Littmann Cardiology II over my neck and went out to begin gettin’ down wit’ my bad self.


Approximately an hour into the shift, I looked down to find dirt on my scrubs at the level of my lower sternum.


Where in the heck did I come into contact with dirt?

There’s no dirt in nursing!

Did I walk through a dust storm?


Later, I looked down at my pearly white scrub pants and saw a stain!

This being a less than hellacious night, I had not had the pleasure of encountering any body fluids.

But there it was, on my right lateral knee area. Light yellow. Circular.


It was a darned stain from the gigantic He-Man All Meat Pizza we ordered.

I don’t dribble pizza oil.

I began to think my Uber-professional scrubs were attracting foreign material.

I couldn’t be responsible! I was a professional!


I managed to get home without further soiling.

I walked into the kitchen and grabbed a fistfull of Baked Cheetos, sat down at my computer and began to peruse my email.

About 15 minutes later, I looked down to find my entire torso covered in bright orange Cheeto powder.

Now I knew it had to be the fault of the scrubs.

I don’t dribble Cheeto powder.


Alas, I suspect my experiement with white scrubs may be short-lived. Having bought them, I intend to wear them, even if it does mean an entire bottle of Spray-and-Wash after each shift.

I’ve also decided I look just as professional in navy blue scrubs with my name elegantly embroidered in white on the left.

I suspect that in a month, the blinding white scrubs will be grey.

But it will be their fault!

Read »

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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