Years ago, I would have been irate to get a phone call from the director of nursing telling me I was being floated up to the sub acute floor.
I like my little long term floor and its predictable demented old people. I know their orders by heart, have their routines down pat. I can glide through a shift without a care. My floor is home, the residents my family, and I'm so comfy there.
But upstairs is where the actual sick people are. Freshly post-op. Battling cancer. Fighting stubborn infections. Frequent admissions and discharges. It is chaotic and not comfy.
I didn't get pissed. I killed her with kindness. Expressed concern for the nurse who'd called in sick. Thanked her for the much appreciated heads up.
I trudged upstairs and took report from the day nurse. It sounded like I had a good group of patients. Nobody too sick, no admissions. Only one lady who would potentially be a problem.
I made my way down the hall and met my patients.
Jerry. Perfectly pleasant. Polite. Smiling. He'd lost one leg to diabetes and was at risk of losing the other if his foot didn't heal. He bragged and beamed with pride at the progress he'd made using his prosthetic leg.
Al. Homeless. Grateful for the bed and meals. Lounging lazily.
Mel. Another amputee without a single complaint. Asked only to be boosted up in bed; "If you aren't too busy. No hurry at all. I can wait. I hate to be a bother."
Lady on IV antibiotics, lady with breathing troubles, blind lady, lady recovering from a stroke. All kind and lovely.
Miserable lady. Well known around town and wealthy. Almost 90 and still beautiful, her skin better than mine, hardly a wrinkle. Perfectly made up, not a white curl out of place. Designer bedding brought from home.
Not a thing was right. The bed uncomfortable. The food inedible. The aids never quick enough. The room too small, the roommate speaks too loudly, (and because she can't hear, others speak loudly to her). Therapy hurts too much. What do they expect from me? I can't. I won't. Do it for me.
"Fill my water pitcher, get me some percocet, fix the blinds, turn up the heat, no that's too much, turn it down, oh forget it, send in the aide". Never please. Never thank you.
Her husband is every bit as unpleasant. The hospital that had performed his wife's hip surgery almost killed him last year (and yet you allowed your wife to be treated there?). He should have sued. Doctors are idiots. Everyone is incompetent. When can she get a single room?
Because she's entitled to more right? Because she's rich? Because she's always gotten her way? Because when she gets out of this shit hole, she gets to return to her big beautiful home?
Poor her. To have everything she needs at her fingertips, to have people come running when she calls, to have nothing make her happy.
Next, I have the absolute pleasure of meeting the miserable lady's absolute opposite.
Chuck greeted me with a big smile and a " Well Hello Darlin'!"
Instantly I knew this was a dear sweet man. Tall and thin, mop of white hair matching a clean white beard, big friendly smile.
He turned off the news as it was making him sad. "Why can't people just be nice to each other? Smile at each other? Isn't it easier just to be happy?"
"It is", I had to agree. We kept chatting.
He'd lost his wife, and remembered her to me with a twinkle in his eye. He couldn't keep up their home, so he moved to a senior housing apartment. He misses having a yard, a garden, a car in the driveway to take him wherever, whenever.
But he loves his big window and the sea breezes it lets in. That is enough. Breezes and smiles are enough.
I could have talked to Chuck all night. His positivity was a welcome light to his neighbor down the hall.
But I'd end up spending most of my shift trying to do the impossible; make Mrs. Misery just a little less miserable.
I remember expecting my life to unfold as I'd planned it. The perfect house in the country, the perfectly healthy child and his perfect childhood. Maybe even a few perfect siblings.
Because things had always gone my way, they always would right? I could only stay happy if they did right?
I know now how lucky I am that I got to experience it being stripped away, all my expectations, the things I knew I was entitled to.
I was free to start over with nothing, no home, no healthy baby, no job, no expectations - entitled to nothing;
Not the roof over my head, the food I eat, the car I drive, the job I have, the Deaf kid and his Muppet sister,
Not even to the next breath I take.