Yesterday was Open House. Nobody showed up for the first forty five minutes then several couples came all at once, I was told. I wasn’t here. A friend and I went to see Julie and Julia. It was a very entertaining movie. Go see it.
I’ve been putting off writing the final episode to my nursing tale. It was the worst ten weeks of my life. As I said in yesterday’s blog, I finally realized my relationship with Jack was no more. My dad’s health was not getting any better. By this time he had congestive heart failure. I was in Chicago and not getting too much information from home. I’d gotten used to it by now but I was still quite lonely.
There were several factors brewing all at one time to create the “perfect storm” of my life. My weight was still maintaining with the help of a prescription from my internist. He had given me a prescription for diet pills the year before because I was still, in his opinion, about fifteen pounds overweight. The pills were a drug called biphetamines which have long been taken off the market. Since he was in my home town, he was not monitoring my useage. I was not sleeping well, I was quite often zoned out and on edge at the same time. It was a combination of amphetamines and dextroamphetamines. People were taking them for a while for ADD but it did not help me to focus at all. I was more than likely most of the time to be a walking zombie. I spent my life in LALA Land. There were several times I remember taking twice the dosage because I had built up a tolerance. Add to that the Friday night trips to “The Greeks” or other parties. Here I was at a medical center and no one bothered to notice my behavior. I didn’t think anything about it since it was a prescription from an actual doctor.
The side streets of Chicago January 1967
The third week of January a snowstorm hit Chicago. Before it was over, there was an accumulation of over 23″. We could not see over the snow when the path was cleared from the dorm to the hospital. It was like walking through a tunnel to get across the street. It started on a Thursday. I walked over to the Eisenhower Expressway and couldn’t see any traffic in any direction. Thursday night, the night nurses couldn’t get into the hospital. Student nurses were assigned to wards for the night. I was in pediatrics in the old part of the hospital. I had no idea where anything was and I was all alone. I had one bedpan to empty and no idea where the flusher was. I finally found something and dumped the contents. To this day, I’m not sure it wasn’t the laundry chute. We moved around with flashlights. Fortunately, all the children slept through the night, but I was pretty scared of the responsibility. The next day we were expected in classes and that night we had to pull the night shift again. By Saturday, most of the nurses were able to make their way to the hospital again.
I had several days of severe stomach pains and was prescribed laudanum. I stayed in bed in my room. One of my classmates walked by and said sarcastically, “I wish I could stay in bed.” Oh, the laudanum was on top of the biphetamines. Nobody asked me what other medications I was on.
Since this was a research hospital, there was more than an average amount of gravely ill children with strange, rare diseases. One of my patients died of leukemia. My first patient death. I didn’t take it too well.
One of my patients was a heart case. When I first walked into his room, he was in there, out of bed, rough-housing with other patients. No one was monitoring him. I chased the others out of the room and told him to sit in the chair when I made his bed. My instructor walked in and berated me in front of the boy, saying I should have insisted he get back into bed immediately and I should have changed the sheets with him in the bed instead of having him sit quietly in the chair.
I was given three patients to report on. This was in the days before computers. It took me all evening to find information on the diseases of two of them. It was a research hospital and they were not “run of the mill” patients. It was difficult finding information. The library closed before I could research the third. I felt it was OK since he was being discharged that next day anyway. In class, the instructor asked me to report on the third child’s disease. When I said I didn’t know anything, I was then upbraided for not being prepared. I was too scared of her to tell her how thoroughly prepared I was on the other two and the child she asked about had already been dismissed.
One day one of my classmates had too much to do so my instructor gave me one of her patients. As a result, I was five minutes late in obtaining medication for my own patients. My instructor was there and noted I was late, thus I did not pay attention to the importance of delivery of medication on time.
There were two pediatric instructors. One was very nice and patient with meand I felt relaxed and comfortable around her. The other one was Miss Bliss. The students used to say, “Ignorance is Bliss.” She scared me more than anyone ever had. I would clam up in her presence and not defend myself.
There were other minor incidents throughout the next few weeks. I was becoming more and more despondent and heartbroken. When it came time for our quarterly evaluation, I was interviewed by the nice one. She read Miss Bliss’s evaluation outloud to me and kindly asked if I had anything to say. By that point I couldn’t defend myself at all. I just sat there with my chin resting on my chest. She said that I didn’t flunk out because my GPA was too high. I did fail the practicum. They wanted me to take a quarter off and think about what I really wanted. I could come back and repeat pediatrics. That sent shocks of horror through me, having to go through pediatrics all over again. They couldn’t understand what went wrong. I wouldn’t have gotten that far if I hadn’t wanted to be a nurse. She tried to sound understanding. I just couldn’t say a word to defend myself. I left the interview totally dejected. I was accused and convicted of not being nursing material. I barely remember packing up and I remember nothing of the ride back home. By March 17 I was gone. Everyone had already gone home for the break. I left without being able to tell anyone good bye. My doctor took one look at me at home and hospitalized me for five days. I was completely physically, emotionally, and psychologically exhausted. On top of that, I had mono. God certainly brought to my attention that he had other plans for my life. I certainly wasn’t destined to be “The Lady with the Lamp”. Namaste ! Attic Annie