Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nurse Follies: One of the Grossest Moments in Nursing

My job is not always pieces of whole fruit and patient insults. Sometimes, we encounter things that are the equivalent of a neon sign screaming, "Get the hell out of nursing, you idiot!"

This is one of those stories. (Warning: Not for the faint of heart.)

We had a patient once, a paraplegic who had come in with something GI related that required a colonoscopy. As standard with our paraplegic folks, he got himself a nice Clinitron bed. For those who don't know what that is, it's a huge bed, that looks like Barbie's swimming pool. Filled with air around the perimeter, in the middle is a recessed area filled with sand. When turned on, hot air blows into the sand, creating a very soft, pressure-free, floaty environment that is supposed to be ideal to prevent skin-breakdown. Hot air blows up through the sandy part of the bed, but the sand stays in the baffle. The bed itself is a pain in the ass. Heavy to move. Patients hate it. Not to mention you get one tiny hole in the sandy part, your room turns into the beach minus the fruity rum drink with the little umbrella.

As also with patients who are lucky enough to win a colonoscopy, they get a bowel prep. Some places just give you repeated enemas, and you are done with it. Other places, the preference is Go-Lytely. A huge gallon jug that has some sort of additive to it, we fill with water, and you have to drink the WHOLE DAMN THING. The makers of Go-Lytely at one point decided to be a little more sympathetic to the plight of the poor person drinking it, and added little packets of flavoring. So, instead of drinking bland bowel prep, you get a choice of Cherry, Orange, Lime, or Pineapple. I once combined Lime and Cherry and told the patient to pretend it was a Cherry-Limeade from Sonic.

The end, and desired, result of drinking Go-Lytely, is that it cleans out your colon. And by clean, they want you shitting out Go-Lytely without an iota of color. But what if you don't run clear after your gallon? Well, you get gallon number 2, and you will be shitting until Rapture. For this reason, I have renamed Go-Lytely to Go-Lotly.

So, Paraplegic Man drinks his gallon of Go-Lotly because he's a good patient and doesn't want a tube down his nose. I don't remember what flavor he picked, and what's even more important is that I don't care.

Later that night, newish grad nurse pops out of the room, subdued and pale. She waves for me and Red to approach, looking very distressed. We answer the bat signal, and the smells hits us halfway down the hall. Immediately, my eyes begin to water.

"I need help." Newish RN tells us. Red holds her nose. Smo materializes, demanding to know what that smell is. Newish RN wrings her hands nervously, "I don't know how to begin..."

So, me and the others charge into the room like we're the Four Horseman riding into the Apocalypse (which is what the room smelled like). There's safety and numbers, and the faster we can clean this guy up, the faster we can get out of the room. The smell...OH MY GAWD THE SMELL!! A hot, thick odor that hung in the air and made you forget that there are good things in the world worth living for. Meanwhile, the patient, a middle-aged guy, is also holding his nose, and apologizing profusely because he couldn't control his bowels. It's okay,'re a para and you can't be expected to control such things and we're not going to eat you lunch for this. In fact, after this episode, we're not going to eat anything for a long, long, LONG time.

Then, we hear bubbling.

With flourish, I pull the blanket off the patient, "Let's see what the damage is." One sight of the situation, I put the blanket back over the lower half of the patient, put my hands on my hips and stare speechless at the other nurses.

"Holy Mother of God." I mutter.

Smo rolls her eyes at my penchant for the dramatic, and pulls the covers back off the patient. The sight that greeted us was a Clinitron bed literally full of the foulest smelling poop to ever been expelled by a living organism. The entire sand-filled area was covered, and the patient's lower half immersed like he was at a dayspa soaking in a mud bath. To make matters even worse, the hot air from the bed is being blown up through the mattress, causing the contents to bubble and spew like a damn pot of chili. It had the same color and consistency of chili, too.

"It almost looks like an evil moat from Lord of the Rings" someone observed. This was met with groaning.

Meanwhile, a tech walks into the room, gags, and immediately runs out of the room. I assume she went to go fill out an online application to Walmart.

Just out of curiosity, I demand the patient tell me what the hell he ate that day.

The nurses stare at each other, each covering our noses. So is the patient. But because we are a resourceful bunch of of night nurses, we start brainstorming as to the best way we are going clean this mess. Some suggestions included:

- Crafting a suction system where we can suck up most of the mess like a Shop Vac. Unfortunately, our tubing is too narrow and would get clogged frequently. We wonder if Maintenance would loan us one of their Shop Vacs.

- Getting styrofoam cups and bailing out the bed until we excavated the patient.

- Finding some nursing students and making them clean it up and call it a "learning experience". Sadly, we don't get nursing students at night.

We decided the bed wasn't salvagable, so we just transferred the patient to an regular bed, cleaned up what we could off the Clinitron, covered it with blankets, and pushed into the dark recesses of the back hall. I suggested we torch the damn thing, but considering these beds can cost up to $50K, the others thought that might make the higher-ups unhappy, and may affect our whole piece of fruit gift for Nurses Week and leave us with a coupon for a free cup of ice water and bonus bendy straw.

The bed people came the next day and picked up the bed. I don't know what happened to the bed. I can't imagine how they even got that thing cleaned. Maybe they did torch it, but one thing is for sure...

I wouldn't even touch chili for two years after that incident.


K2 said...

All I can say is Wow. Glad I am not a nurse. Happy Nurse's Day!

bobbie said...

Just be glad it wasn't one of the KCI beds that have the rolling inflatable sections and that turn the pt. from side to side... the mess would have been EVERYWHERE!!!

Happy Rapture Day ~ I'm still here, and I'm betting you are too...

Nuke said...

Nurses, like teachers, do not get paid enough for the things they have to do.