June 6, 2007, 6:46 am

History Repeating?


Good ol’ Donnatal.

One of my co-workers has the new Mosby drug book and was looking up a few pharmaceuticals during a spare moment the other night.

Did you know that Donnatal elixir is twenty-three percent alcohol?

Holy ETOH!

On evening shift a few decades ago (literally), I was suffering from horrible stomach pain, enough that I was unable to function. In a unit with only two RNs on duty, this was a problem.

The ER doc on duty said, “Oh, go take two teaspoons of Donnatal and that will take care of it.”

I had no idea what Donnatal was, having never given it before. It was up in the cupboard (this was pre-Pyxis) and I needed to get relief fast . I threw the dose down my esophagus and went back to work.

Well, let me tell you! The Donnatal took care of it, alright.

Not only was it a spasmolytic, it was a mood-o-lytic, too!

Never in the annals of emergency nursing was there ever (nor has there ever been since) a nurse as mellow as I for the rest of the shift.

A 9.0 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault could not have riled me up.

Let’s see: belladonna, phenobarbital and enough alcohol to make a margarita.

No wonder I was mellow!

Hmmm….now I wonder if the ER doc said to take it because it would make me mellow.

Not that I’m high-strung or anything.

(That sound was all of my past and present co-workers doing spit takes of their morning coffee on their monitors.)



“I’m thinking about being a doctor….or a nurse.”

Those exact words came out of the mouth of my seventeen-year-old daughter.

None of my children ever said anything like that before.

After I caught my breath, I said in the most nonchalant, coolest tone possible, “Oh really?”

Can’t get too excited, you know. That would be so like a mom.

Of course, I calmly gave all the benefits of nursing as opposed to medicine (no offense to my medical colleagues) as I feel morally obligated to do my part for nursing recruitment.

She has wanted to be: a vet, a forensic scientist, a coroner, and a crime scene investigator.

At the age of ten, she was reading books by Dr. Henry Lee and taking copious notes on blood splatter analysis. She never missed an episode of Forensic Files. She wanted to go into forensic pathology and do autopsies. Then she would watch “Law and Order” the next night and decide to be an investigator.

All this in-between playing with Polly Pocket.

She is taking Anatomy and Physiology next semester.

We’ll see how it pans out.


  • tscd

    June 6, 2007 at 6:55 am

    23% EtOH?! Is this an over-the-counter drug? No wonder some people get addicted to cough syrup and stuff like that.

  • Disappearingjohn

    June 6, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Hey, Congrats!

    I know how that feels. My oldest (19) told us she is interested in pursuing nursing. She goes to the same community college I went to taking general courses right now, so she still has a while to change her mind (for the 5th or 6th time)…

    My son just graduated high school, and he has no clue what he wants to be when he grows up. He has mentioned nursing, but I think it was just to get a rise out of his mom and me…

    My youngest wants to be Olivia on Law and Order SVU. You know, wear high heals, high fashion clothes, run after bad guys (and catch them) in high heels, or else shoot them. I keep trying to explain that it might not be EXACTLY like they show it on TV, but what would I know; I’m just a Dad…

  • jokergirl

    June 7, 2007 at 7:35 am

    Hm… to a non-family member, what personality traits would you recommend to have before even considering becoming a nurse/emergency medic, and which are absolute red flags?

    Oh, and I’d love to hear your reasons for preferring nursing to medicine. Just because I have a soft spot for nurses.


  • TC

    June 7, 2007 at 8:35 am

    “She has wanted to be: a vet, a forensic scientist, a coroner, and a crime scene investigator.”

    Add in archaeologist and that could have been me! I so wanted to be Quincy!

    And as for the traits a nurse needs-flexibility, tenaciousness, love of learning, compassion, a strong stomach and the ability to stand on your feet and hold your bladder for a long time. What a great post topic! Hmmmm.

  • Mary Lu

    June 7, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Kim, At her age I was right there. I was a total science geek. I wanted to be a Quincy– or a Vet. My parents wanted me to be a nurse, which I vetoed several times despite the fact I had enough connections to pay for Nursing School in full. My Orthopedic Surgeon tried to bribe me into medical school, by helping tutor me with my A&P classes– which I aced. (I adored Dr Graham.) He knew I had a thing for handtools and hardware stores, and when I was totally ga-ga when I saw his stainless drills and saws. Dr Graham thought I was hooked. In the end it turned out that I was really good at Chemistry and Lab work, long before Bio-Chem was as complex a subject as it is today. So I ended up becoming a MedTech, and took all the extras in Pathology, Histo’, hematology and Blood Banking. I could have become a professional student. After several years I got promoted, kicked and dragged into management and ended up in Administration. So no matter where your daughter ends up, as long as she’s happy and doing something productive for herself and society– be happy for her Mom!

  • Meghan

    June 9, 2007 at 7:11 am

    oh crap….i’ve taken a GI Cocktail (30 Mylanta, 10 Visc Lido, 10 Donnatol) at work when heartburn threatened to do me in. I didn’t know it had alcohol in it!!! Well crap…good thing it only happened once, and I won’t do it again!! We keep it in a big bottle in the cabinet (one of the few things not in the pyxis) I had no idea it was so potent. Note to self- when giving things to pt or self, probably a good idea to look it up, instead of listening to the doc who says, “oh it’s just an anti spasmodic”

  • NPs Save Lives

    June 11, 2007 at 6:08 am

    I agree that nursing has the most flexibility. I also wanted to be a vet, a teacher and a stewardess. I’m glad that it all worked out and I will sit for my National Boards for NP this afternoon. Wish me luck!

  • Elizabeth

    November 30, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Thanks for the Donnatal post! I’m doing a project on the Solanaceae family and needed some examples of related drugs. Your post and image are really cool.

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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