It becomes really apparent that nursing has soaked into your bones when your initial reaction to slicing your husband’s arm open is, “AWESOME! I HAVE STERI-STRIPS IN THE BATHROOM!”
Let’s go back a bit.
A million years ago, I broke a window in our office. I don’t remember how long it’s actually been, but I do think that this is at least the second winter that we’ve gone through while that window has been broken. I was just sitting at the computer desk with my feet propped up on the window sill when my toes, which apparently are harnessing the power of The Hulk, shattered a huge chunk of the window. Zack came running into the room to see how hurt I was, as he is very used to finding me in pain, screaming things like, “I DIDN’T REALIZE THE HANDLE OF THE PAN I JUST PULLED OUT OF THE OVEN WOULD BE HOT, TOO!!!”
I was lucky to walk away from the whole incident with my skin intact, but my pride was not. Breaking any kind of glass provides a very special kind of guilt that sends me back to my childhood. I broke a lot of dishes when I was little. I’m still a little traumatized. (To all of you who are thinking, “when you were little? How many wine glasses have you broke since you have been married?!” to you, I say, (1) shut up. (2) 24? and (3) seriously, shut up.)
Zack and I said that we were going to fix the broken window soon, but we had to have a temporary fix to cover the giant hole in the window. We cut up a Honey Nut Cheerios box and taped it to what was left of the window to keep the rain and the wind out until we could actually fix it. That was at least 18 months ago. At least.
Over a year ago, I was outside watering the lawn when I noticed that one of our living room windows had a top-to-bottom crack in it. I immediately felt relief. Zack and I were even finally! 1 to 1!
A few weeks ago, there appeared a crack in the bathroom window. I don’t know if it was Zack or me that caused that crack. I have a cute little curtain that I made hanging in our shower because, well, we have a clear glass window in our shower. That part is self-explanatory, I think. We both have a bad habit of rapping on the window to get Scout to stop barking at birds or squirrels or whatever she’s decided to bark about at that particular moment in time. Either of us could have broken the window while we were beating it to get her to shut up, but we wouldn’t have noticed because of the awesome curtain that I made myself. (Did I mention that I made the curtain? I’m super crafty and awesome and if you focus on that you might forget that I’ve broken at least 5 wine glasses since the start of December. Shut up.)
Today, I was beating on the bathroom window to get Scout’s attention when the broken part finally gave way and it became very apparent that today was the day that we would finally fix the broken windows.
Two trips to the hardware store later, Zack and I were finally ready to start fixing the windows. We tackled the bathroom window first. There we were: me, standing in the tub, he, propped up against the dirtiest grill in the world, finally doing the home repairs that we didn’t do any earlier because that’s just how we renters roll, ya heard? We had chisels and wire brushes and shop vacs. Hell, we even broke out his Dremmel tool at one point. Zack and I, we are serious home repair connoisseurs, my friends. We didn’t know what we were doing exactly but we had a pretty good idea and that was enough to get us through the first window.
I approached the first window with a sense of respect. I know enough about emergency medicine to know that broken glass is responsible for some of the most gnarly cuts that the ER staff ever sees. Zack and I were both wearing leather gloves and calculating each ginger move before we made it. Our cautiousness paid off. We survived the first window with no cuts. I did manage to scratch my armpit with the corner of the new glass (don’t ask, I couldn’t explain if I tried), but no dermis was harmed in the replacing of the first window. Epidermis be damned; You are inconsequential, anyway!
It was the second window where we got into trouble. And by ‘we.’ I mean ‘me.’ Because Zack approaches life with the kind of reserved suspicion with which I approached Window #1. I, however, reserve that kind of attitude for things that I think might kill me, and even then, I only give it that respect on the first round. After that, I’m like, “HAH! I HAVE CONQUERED YOU, IDIOT THING I USED TO RESPECT KIND OF. BUT NEVER MORE! I AM THE LORD OF YOU!”
And that’s basically what I was thinking when I popped out a huge chunk of window #2 and sent it flying in Zack’s direction. I was like, “Oh, oops.” He said, “Whelp, that’s a cut.” He was so confident that I had sliced him open. I thought to myself, “PSH. It’s not even bleeding. You’re not cut. I’m a nurse, I think I would know.” Then blood started to pour out of his forearm and I was like, “Oh, damn, you’re right.”
Nurse Reflex #1 kicked in immediately. I reached through the glass window-turned-guillotine and grabbed his forearm, using my fingers to spread the cut wide open. Assessment is the first step of the nursing process. If I didn’t know how bad it was, I wouldn’t have known what to do next. Nevermind the fact that I had caused the situation, I immediately felt a sense of success. Who cares that I’d neglected the first rule of nursing, which is to PREVENT problems before they happen by encouraging safety. That mattered not! What mattered was that my initial reaction to disaster was not to tuck tail and run! It was to rush headlong toward the gushing blood in order that I might adequately assess the situation and create a PLAN.
Nurse reflex #2 followed. Whereas a normal human might react to slicing their husbands arm open with a statement such as, “Holy crap, I’m so sorry, are you okay, does it hurt?”, no apologies were made for my actions. (Well, not at that moment, anyway.) Instead, I yelled in a manner that one might expect from a kid who has just spotted an ice cream truck around the corner. I screamed in delight in the way one might expect Zack will squeal with glee when he shoots his very first home intruder. I yelled, “AWESOME! I HAVE STERI-STRIPS IN THE BATHROOM!”
You see, a nurse’s scrub pockets are a wealth of supplies. At any given time, if you took a whole gaggle of nurses off of the floor and collected the items from their pockets, my guess is, you would have enough supplies to deal with a moderate-sized tragedy (at the very least). We nurses work very long 12-hour shifts and are very tired by the time that end-of-shift report comes around. This results in many, many days when I arrive home to find that I still have pockets stuffed full of alcohol swabs and tape. After those supplies leave the hospital with me, they can’t go back. (Germs, you know.) So I’ve taken to collecting these supplies in an increasingly large pile of random first-aid tidbits that I could use in the case of an emergency. I was so ready for an emergency. I was just waiting for an emergency.
It didn’t strike me that I’d never actually steri-stripped anyone’s wound until after I’d cleaned and prepped Zack’s arm for application. So there I was, for the second time of the day, facing a situation where I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but I had a pretty good idea and that was enough to get us through my first steri-stripping experience. Next time I steri-strip someone, I’m going to be all, “HAH! I HAVE CONQUERED YOU, IDIOT THING I USED TO RESPECT KIND OF. BUT NEVER MORE! I AM THE LORD OF YOU!”
I hope that patient has a sense of humor.