Monday, December 31, 2007

poop de loop iii

This post is accompanied by a health warning: if you are not a nurse or do not appreciate toilet humour please stop reading now.

No, seriously, it will gross you out. I was totally grossed. And I'm used to this stuff.


When I first started nursing I thought it was kind of tough not to wear gloves when dealing with human excrement of the liquid variety. It was only urine after all, and only wimps couldn't cope with a bit of wee on their hands. I mean, when I was in high school, I opted to dissect the rat without gloves! I could deal with this kind of stuff.

Over time the Occupational Health and Safety messages penetrated my brain and I realised the folly of my ways. I donned gloves at the slightest provocation. And to be honest, repeated exposure to urine and faeces wears a bit thin. I know nursing is more than excrement, but sometimes a shift can be reduced to little more than wee and poo.

As nurses (and doctors, though they seem happy to wade bare handed into situations I would not approach without gloves, apron or mask) we are all encouraged to evaluate the risk of a situation. If there is the slightest chance of exposure to any form of bodily fluid from another person the appropriate personal protective equipment must be donned. No questions asked. No exceptions. Wear gloves if you think you are going to encounter blood, urine, saliva, faeces or any other variety of human muck.

Of course, it isn't always easy to predict the exposure risk. Excrement can hide. A word for the wise... wear gloves anyway. You can assess a situation as perfectly safe and discover surprises you would never have thought would be there.

Like I did at 4am this morning. (Yes, I'm back on night shift again. For New Year... the joys of nursing. And on the poo front, it seems everyone wanted to start the new year with clear bowels. What a night)

He kept asking for a drink. For reasons too lengthy to explain here, I couldn't give him one. Then he said he needed to pee. I told him he had a catheter so he could let it go and it would just drain away. Being a professional I also checked the catheter to make sure it was draining OK. It was, but the strap that should have attached the catheter to his leg to prevent injury was flapping in the breeze. I figured he might be more comfortable if I secured it more firmly so I reached down between his legs to locate the loose end and...

... oh crap... crap, crap, crap....

Two fingers and a thumb covered in the most revolting, sticky, smelly, brown slime you've ever seen. (OK, I've seen worse but I've only ever approached it with gloves on)

Even after washing my hand for several minutes it still smelled. Only when I reached home did I decide the smell had finally gone.

What was that word for the wise again? Oh yes, that's right. Excrement can hide. Wear gloves anyway!

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snap. (out of it)

What happened there?
One minute I was a grumpy, miserable sod, the next a woman with a positive outlook.
How did that happen?

Perhaps it had something to do with the death of Benazir Bhutto. When I read the news I sat at the computer screen stunned. Yes, her death seemed inevitable in view of her political stance, the social climate of her country and her insistence on jumping through the sunroof to wave at the crowd, but still. Here was a brave woman (faulty no doubt also - there's that little story of corruption, and I'm not personally convinced politics are important enough to leave your husband and impressionable teenagers behind in another country, though maybe in this case her cause was more important than family) standing for a value she believed in, razed by those who didn't agree. My grumblings seem insignificant in comparison.

My sudden change of heart could be related to the DVD Dad gave Frank and I for Christmas, 'indescribable' by Louis Guglio. We watched it the other night, and in view of the marvels of space, again, my petty complaints seem insignificant. There's nothing like a little bit of perspective to remind me I'm not the centre of the universe. Much as I would like to think I am.

Mostly though, it was God who changed my heart. I love that about God. Even when I'm spitting chips, in an angry rage, crippled by ugly selfishness, he responds to my feeble, grudging cries for help. Cries such as 'I don't want to change, I don't want to be less selfish, I don't want to forgive, I don't want to be humble... I can only ask that you please help me to want to change, help me to want to be different.' He always listens, he always fulfills his end of the bargain, he always changes me, and usually even more than I asked for. When I peer into my heart, not only do I feel a creeping softness of wanting to be humble... I am more humble (or perhaps you should ask Frank about that!); not only do I want to be loving rather than angry... my anger recedes as if red hot coals cooled by water (without the accompanying spitting of course); not only do I want to forgive... I can see the other person's perspective and understand why they said or did what seemed offensive. I find this transformation truly incredible. Of course I'm faulty and weak and I fail to hold on to the transformation for long periods, but still God comes again and again and does her quiet work deep in my heart. I love that about God.

And so I head into 2008 with a sense of a fresh start, with the humble awareness that God is at work within me, and the knowledge that I have a special place in the world, I am of value, but I'm not the centre of everything and neither should I be. My inner being is realigned. Peace has come.

Happy New Year. May this be a time of fresh beginnings for you also.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

trials and tribulations at the supermarket

The woman at the supermarket checkout does not seem to get those ubiquitous, ugly green enviro bags... when I presented my scruffy, many-times-used pile of them she proceeded to wrap everything she possibly could in plastic bags just in case they should leak through said green bags.

Um, please, you don't need to...
No really, I'd rather...
For goodness sake, stop filling my enviro-friendly green bags with enviro-trashing plastic bags! I don't want them. That's why I dumped twenty of these things on top of my groceries. Get it?!

Obviously not.

In the end I did manage to convince her that since I just live up the road the icecream would not melt and leak everywhere before it reached my freezer so she regretfully relinquished the plastic bag wrap.

I also managed to avoid being killed by the little old man who indicated he was turning right at the traffic lights (prompting me to also turn right) before driving straight through the intersection with indicator still indicating (almost hitting me as I turned right). Of course he tooted and carried on as we narrowly passed by each other, while I gesticulated at the still flashing right blinker before promptly starting to cry because it was all his fault but if he'd hit me the police would have said it was my all fault because I was turning right in front of a car passing straight through an intersection. And then I stopped crying because I realised he hadn't hit me, the police need never know and I have not been falsely accused by anyone except an old man who probably should hand in his driver's licence right now. It is however more grist for my mill of never trusting blinkers. Usually I apply this to people who are not indicating their intentions on the road because I always suspect they have forgotten to flick their blinker on - a frequent occurrence (at least here in Tasmania). This is defensive driving. Now I will also be on the look out for those people who have turned on their blinker, with a deft but accidental flick of the wrist, when in fact they have no intention of going the direction they are suggesting. So if you're stuck behind a car waiting and waiting until there is no approaching traffic before proceeding across any intersection it will probably be me, no longer trustful of any other driver on any road.

All this to avoid telling you that I'm back from my travels but wish I wasn't because I have a terrible case of the post-holiday-blues and don't want to go to work today or any day.

I will cheer up at some point. I promise. Really. I will. I might even post some photos of our fabulous time away. It went far, far better than expected. I shall have to revise my 'Christmas with family' prejudices.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

cheers everyone!

I've scraped myself of the wall, thanks to all your kindness and nice thoughts and a good dose of sunlight. Thankyou, thankyou to all.

Yes, wouldn't it be nice to hive off somewhere, skip Christmas and chill together. I was just saying to someone this morning that I find Christmas with friends much less stressful than Christmas with family because there isn't the weight of expectation. Friends tend to take you as you are.

Since we can't all hive off, skip Christmas and chill, Frank and I are heading off for a week shared between my Mum and his Mum, with hopefully lots of r&r to boot. (Note to self and anyone who will listen: never take leave before Christmas no matter that it is impossible to get leave over Christmas or in January... it just isn't restful)

Anyway, if there's a blogging silence, you know why. I shall return and comment like crazy after my late shift on Christmas Day. Have a good one!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

dang! i've hit the wall

I think twelve months of neglect have caught up with me. I'm absolutely exhausted, although at least now my grumpiness has been replaced by tears.

I'm a mess. Confused, jumbled, higgledy piggledy, all at sea. I can't work out who I am or what I think or how I feel. I take back everything I said about the lack of poise of the mother in 'Songs of the Humpback Whale' for I have myself lost all my poise.

This I know:

It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to...
Life is a journey. This is just a dip in the road.
I do love my Dad. I need to work towards acceptance and forgiving.
Stuffing emotions and reactions down for twelve months is not healthy.
Self care throughout the year is essential for survival.

Here's to a more cheerful post next time. It is Christmas after all.

(Oh. That's something else I know. I don't like Christmas. Too many tricky negotiations)

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

come satisfy my thirsty heart

I was listening to worship music yesterday in an effort to overcome the grumps that have plagued me for several days. To my shame I almost succeeded in picking that fight with the neighbour when I hurled abuse over the fence under the guise of talking to the sheep she had locked up in her cement yard. (Poor things, they bleated to Frank and I for two days before she let them out) At the time I was secretly proud of my bravado. Now I'm desperate to hide the darkness of my heart. Or let God expunge it, which is probably the better option. Thus the worship music.

As I listened a few lines jumped out at me: "Oh, Christ be the centre of our lives/be the place we fix our eyes/be the centre of our lives" and "Breathe on me now as I bow down/I'm desperate Lord for more of You/come satisfy until I/am even more in need of you".

The words struck me as bordering on the ridiculous. "Christ be the centre of our lives"... how can Christ be the centre of my life unless I let him, unless my actions make him the centre? "Come satisfy until I am even more in need of you"... I suspect God wants nothing more than to satisfy. If I would just sit still and drink him in.

I had to stop singing along, for when I looked into my heart I saw only myself as the centre of my life, yelling at my neighbour over the fence, grumbling at Frank when he didn't do exactly as I wished, miserable when someone let me down; and myself rushing about so frantically that God couldn't get a drop of his thirst quenching love into my mouth if he tried.

What point singing the words if they are null and void in light of my actions?

I'm tired of being grumpy. I'm tired of being my own centre of my life. I'm tired of being busy all the time. I seriously need to sit with God and let him be my centre.

Now there is satisfaction.

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both/and as opposed to and/or

My Dad phoned last night after I had gone to bed. He was in Darwin and forgot how late it was in Tasmania. Frank took the call and informed him of my whereabouts before coming to bed himself. I fell into a fitful sleep fueled by fanciful dreams of telling Dad exactly what I thought of his remarriage. Our imagined conversations followed the usual dreamy vein of things, never quite going to plan. I woke up muddled and tired.

As a holiday treat I bought a new Jodi Picoult book, Songs of the Humpback Whale. Personally I like it least of all her books I've read. Something just didn't sit right with me; too much sex, overtones of warped incest, too rapid a fall into earth shattering love. The story struck me as unlikely, the daughter was implausibly wise for her years, and while the mother may well have been exquisitely unsure of herself so was the lead character in the last Jodi Picoult book I read. I laid the book aside with a taste of ash in my mouth.

What did pique my interest was the way both the main character and her daughter had no love in their hearts for their fathers.

Is this possible? With enough provocation, do daughters just stop loving their fathers? Or do they carry around in them a buried love that is almost impossible to locate, a forever longing for a connection not marred by violence or sex?

I don't know... for me, I still love my Dad. I also long for a better connection.

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Friday, December 07, 2007


I was going to post a flowery epistle, but I'm too tired and grumpy, so I shall spare you the misery. Suffice to say I'm spoiling for a fight with the recently returned next door neighbour.

I'd also like to ask local schools to please stop sending me requests for interviews. I've had enough now thankyou. As much as I love myself and love talking about myself, I'm a little bit over it. And I am on holidays after all.

I shall return when my mood has improved and I don't feel so damn tired all the time. (Is this the double shift catching up with me?!)

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

can I have another piece of chocolate cake?

I decided today was the day to phone for my blood results.

First I ate the final mini Crunchie given to me by a kind neighbour, in case my cholesterol indicated the need to immediately forego chocolaty pleasure.

Next I made the phone call: Total Lipids 4.5 (this is good), HDL or good lipids 1.9 (this is excellent), LDL or bad lipids 2.3 (this is a little high but in view of the other results being so good I don't need to worry).

Last I celebrated with some well earned chocolate.

Oh OK, I made that last bit up, but to my friend who thinks I eat too much chocolate - there is no way on God's green earth that I can give up on it for six weeks! Besides, I'm hardly dizzy anymore.

On another positively chocolaty note, I found this advertisement in our drug book at work the other day. (Stay on the home page for a full overview of the benefits of chocolate)

The health benefits of chocolate being advertised in a drug book? What is the world coming to? Obviously something good! I just want to know who likes dark chocolate that much, and who ever eats only two pieces per day?

And I'm loving the disclaimer - I have no doubt it was written for people just like me.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

sleepless in tasmania

I have a pet theory. In truth I have many pet theories, but this is one I was able to test last night. At this stage I'm still drawing my conclusions.

At my hospital we work what are called 'late-earlies'. I hate them with a passion. To finish after 10pm, only to turn around and come back at 7am to do it all again is inhumane. The only thing I find in its favour is that two shifts are made short work of in very quick time. Where I worked in Newcastle we called this short change a 'quick shift' in honour of the speedy turn over of hours. (They were worse there because the late shift finished at 11pm)

A late-early usually involves lack of sleep courtesy of forcing the body into bed before the mind has calmed or unwinding for two hours after running around frantically; restless work-focused dreams; bleary eyes; and post-work nana naps designed to reinvigorate oneself prior to cooking tea. Add a few snarls at the spouse, a sharp word or two thrown at that particularly demanding or irritating patient and you about have it. Late-earlies are not good.

My theory is that staying to work a double shift overnight is better than rushing home, slumbering fitfully and trotting dazedly into work the next morning. Staying on means running on adrenalin, pushing through the four am drowsiness and dropping into a deep, dead sleep as soon as you stumble home the next morning. Sleep for a few hours, get up, then have an early night and you're ready to go without the torturous late-early. It sounds like a fair exchange to me.

There are a few caveats I would add to this however. A double shift is only worth doing if you have space to rest plenty in the next day or two. If you're on a late shift that afternoon, don't bother... for one you won't have escaped a late-early, and two, you'll have to come to work at 4pm and somehow stay awake until 10pm without killing anybody with a medication error. It's just not worth it! As I said, the best way is to agree to a double if you are rostered for an early followed by a few days off.

Yesterday I almost fulfilled my double-shift criteria. I was on a late last night, an early this morning, and a late tomorrow followed by three weeks of holidays.

Hmmm, was there anything else that might cause me to acquiesce to a double? Yes, oh yes there was!

The extra sweetener in the sting of a double shift is the money: normal pay for the first rostered shift, double time for the extra shift and (wait for it, wait for it) if you are then rostered for an early shift but can't work it because you were required by your employer to work the double... you get paid normal pay for that too! We affectionately call this the 'glory shift' - triple time for the double worked overnight. Woohoo.

So I did it. Last night I worked a double, this morning while I should have been at work I was sweetly dreaming, and the cash register went 'ker-ching'.

And the pet theory? Hmmmm, as I said the jury is still out. Yes I skipped that late-early but man, I am tired tonight! I have a sneaking suspicion my theory is wrong... but with that kind of income explosion, who really cares?


Saturday, December 01, 2007

nasturtium flowers

NaBloPoMo is over and daily blogging is no longer a requirement (if it ever really was), but as I was privy to a stunning moment of revelation this afternoon I simply must share it with you.

I discovered why 'our' sheep have such a propensity for flowers.

This is big news, because if I've told them once I've told them a thousand times, flowers are not for eating, they are for savouring with the eyes. But no, they insist on chomping through the colourful beauty with their soft little mouths and traitorous teeth, destroying any modicum of beauty in our garden.

Then I ate a flower and discovered for myself just how amazingly delicious they are! I ate a nasturtium flower subtly mixed into a salad Frank and I ate at our favourite Tamar River cafe, Kouklas.

Yum, yum, yum.

This does not of course mean that the sheep can now go open slather with my flowers, but I do at least understand where they are coming from. And since we have half a front yard of nasturtium, I'll be adding flowers to our salads all the time. I might even share them with the sheep.

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