Today I was working out at the gym, and my normal routine includes alternately walking and running for three miles, followed by 1.5 hours on weights and 50 laps in an Olympic size pool. I was about to wrap up the weight part of my workout. All I had left was the leg press. You have to add free weights to the bar before sitting down and pressing the weight up and releasing with your legs. I had added one of the 35lb weights and reached out to grab the other one when it slipped through my sweaty hands and slammed down hard on my left foot. It was that split second feeling when you knew you were going to get hurt badly, but there isn't a damn thing you can do about it. I'm still cringing at the thought of it.
My initial instinct was to release a blood-curdling scream. The pain was excruciating, I felt light-headed, dizzy, nauseous and plain dumb for not grasping the weight properly. There were a few people in the gym, and I didn't want them to know I was hurt. I knew I couldn't continue to workout and wanted to sneak out the door without being noticed, and high-tail it to my car. "It's my left foot," I thought. So it won't be hard to drive if I can just make it out there. Well, I tried to walk through the gym on my way out the door, and I realized how horribly I was injured. I couldn't walk without limping, and the little old guy who works there looked at me and said "hey, your workout is over, you should be happy." He didn't witness me drop the weight. The look of horror must have been clearly apparent on my face. I told him what happened, hobbled over to a chair close to the door and sat down.
I began to loosen my shoe and remove it, but it hurt so badly that I was afraid to see what I might find. I still had a lot of adrenaline and dopamine running through my veins from hours of exercise. I think that's the only thing that helped me avoid screaming like a huge cry baby that just lost her favorite toy. When I pulled the shoe off, I was absolutely horrified. It was even worse than I thought. The bruising was already apparent just moments after the injury, and it was already turning a lovely shade of purple. I sat and watched it swell, right before my eyes and felt pretty damn stupid, to say the least.
I knew I couldn't put weight on it, nor could I walk. So I called my husband, (who is also a nurse) and told him what had happened. I asked him to come and pick me up and informed him that I would have to go to the emergency room and may even require surgery. I found out later that he thought I said a five-pound weight had fallen on it, so he took his sweet time getting there. I was ready to choke him when he arrived. It felt like I had been waiting for him for a bloody eternity.
When we arrived at the hospital, it was very busy. My husband went in to get a wheelchair for me, and he came out with a Hercules wheelchair fit for a 700lb sumo wrestler. I didn't comment on it as I was in so much pain I couldn't talk. But when he couldn't fit the damn thing in the front door of the ER I was pissed. I lashed out at him and asked him why the hell he had to get the largest wheelchair in the whole hospital.
He switched out the chair and as soon as we got to the ER they immediately triaged me. Sadly my Barbie doll figure left me years ago, but I'm certainly not ten-ton Tessy either. The majority of the patients there must be Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dunkin Doughnut's fanatics because all the equipment they had was for fat chicks.
The nurse insisted on putting a gigantic blood pressure cuff on my arm. It's a regular occurrence for them to have to take my pressure manually, because it routinely runs low due to a beta blocker that I take. Once again, I couldn't shut my mouth and told the nurse the cuff was too big. She ignored me and sure enough the stupid blood pressure machine just kept running and running in the desperate hope of capturing some sign of life, to no avail. What'd you know? It was manual blood pressure time and to my astonishment my pressure was 168/98. Extremely elevated for me.
She then went to put on the pulse oximeter and placed it on the same arm that the cuff was on. I tried to stay calm, but intervened and grabbed the pulse oximeter off my left hand and placed it on my right. It was at that point she asked me if I was a medical person. I snapped back at her with a "Yep." I was quickly becoming the patient from hell. As soon as she completed her assessment I was wheeled directly back to a room. If you've ever worked as an emergency room nurse, you know this isn't a great sign. It wasn't because they thought I was a celebrity that I was getting such wonderful preferential and fast treatment. It was that I was extremely hurt, and they knew it.
The nurse asked me if I wanted some ice for my foot, and I told her "no." She walked away and promptly returned with an ice pack. "Am I talking to the wall here?" I thought to myself. But I shut my trap and took the ice before she placed it on my foot and hurt me even worse.
The nurse came back in the room and told me they were going to start an IV on me. I warned them that I had very uncooperative veins, and she told me not to worry, she was a pro. I thought to myself, "Yeah, that's what they all say." She tried once and blew it. She tried twice, and she blew it again. She was about to try again when I said "hell no, you've had two chances, and you're not getting a third." My husband is a PICC nurse. He does this for a living and "he IS a pro." I knew I was terrible to that poor nurse. But I didn't want to go through any more pain. She began to tell me how it was not their policy to allow nurses that don't work at their facility to carry out procedures. I told her I didn't care what their policy was and that he was licensed to practice nursing in this state and ordered her to give him an IV start kit immediately. She reluctantly obliged and my husband had an IV started in 20 seconds flat.
Several years ago my husband and I worked for a medical device company. We traveled nationally for four years teaching nurses and physicians how to operate a smart IV pump. I still know those IV pumps like the back of my hand. When she wheeled in the squeaky, archaic IV pole complete with a tiny IV pump, I realized that it was one that I used to teach.
The nurse connected the IV tubing to my IV, then left the room. It immediately began alarming with an upstream occlusion. I know exactly how to fix this, by repeatedly pressing the okay key then the run key, till the air moves past the sensor. But I tried to be a good little patient and leave it to the "expert." When She didn't come in for 20 minutes, I couldn't stand it anymore, I began hitting the keys to fix it. She caught me and told me not to play with the equipment. I had to bite a hole in the side of my mouth to keep from really losing my temper at that point.
I was given a dose of Dilaudid and Phenergan, and I was feeling much better. The physician popped in all chipper and looked at my disgustingly bruised, swollen foot. He asked me how it happened and when I told him. I also added that I knew it was broken. He said, "I bet it isn't, " and walked out of the room. I asked my husband if I had heard him correctly and my husband confirmed what I heard. "Yes honey, he said he bets it isn't broken." While I certainly hoped he was right, he was, in fact, wrong. It was shattered. How can you possibly drop 35lbs of weight on a foot and be lucky enough to still have all the bones intact? While I'm full-blooded Irish, I'm just not that lucky! "What made him such a know-it-all anyway?"
When they came in to splint it, I cried like a baby, and it hurt beyond words. They gave me some great and oh so fashionable crutches that are a nightmare to use, and I'm not sure how I'm going to get through 6-8 weeks without falling and breaking my other foot on these goofy things. I recently saw a guy with a knee scooter and may be checking out Craigs List soon to find one. Anything beats these death-trap crutches
Throughout all of this, I wondered why I was such a pain in the butt. Nurses have an awful reputation for being the worst patients ever. I now realize we get that reputation from annoying, bratty nurses like myself.
So why do nurses make such bad patients? I think the main reason is that nurses loathe feeling out of control. We are the caregivers and nurturers. We like to be in control, and we are so used to having that role that it's virtually impossible to reverse it without becoming the wicked witch of the east. To be forced to rely on others to do what we feel, we do best is unbearable for us to endure.
Also, we have so much knowledge that we watch every move other nurses make. It's either "our way or the highway." We want to dictate our care because we know what's best for our patients and have a problem trusting other nurses. We don't like to be told what to do. We don't enjoy being spoken to like we are not "in the loop"' or like we are lay people.
I know the nurse that cared for me today thought I was the spawn of Satan and was glad to get rid of me. But it is so very difficult to be the nurse who suddenly and unexpectedly becomes the patient. It's not a role that most nurses enjoy. I learned a lot today and will try to be less of a pain to my fellow nurses in the future. I've been treated like crap while caring for nurses myself, and I could never really understand why. It is a tough situation to be thrown into. To relinquish all control to another nurse is mighty difficult, but I do regret being so mean and although I apologized to that nurse multiple times, it's still no excuse.
Be nice nurses. I am a firm believer in karma, and I know one of these days, I will meet a nurse that is so utterly hateful that she will induce homicidal thoughts that I never knew I possessed. I must admit that I deserve every ounce of it.
Do you have a comment about this article? Why do you think nurses make the worst patients?