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  • N: "Can you reach the handle?"

    P: "Ah, no. No."

    N: "Your balance isn't that good today eh?"

    P: "No, it isn't. gergh. aaahhh. Damnit."

    N: "Ok, lean on me, ok, no that's how.. no wait... ok, get the arm."

    P: mumbles, grunts...


    I'm reaching from the back. I'll call the patient Mr. 285 (i.e. 285 lbs and completely off balance). He has that slight stench of unwashed hair, a mix of food from his gown, a hint of tomato paste pasta, dried stench of urine with sweat, definitely a waft of feces from his diaper (or lack of just any underwear at all), and I wrap my arm around his thick double layered subcutaneous tissue and gently and oxymoronically 'heave'.

    Nurse 'Tough' is at the front. We've been eyeing each other and he's the no nonsense type. Also, he's the only bloody male nurse on the ward so he's quite popular for the difficult, the aggressive, and the rather bigger patients. He's tired out of his mind, but he's working on mental fortitude (or IV drip coffee) and we listen to 285 grumble about service and care. On cue, a family duo starts crying hysterically on the other side of the ward and they sound of rollicking hiccups; hiccups keeping the tidal wave at bay. One woman half shouts and gargles marbles down, while the other wails intermittently, a shrill operetta and a few doors are quietly shut on the floor.

    My partner is assisting a rather prim, pissy Russian lady who insists on being fed (and talked about throttling her daughter for leaving her in the hospital). So, it's nurse Tough, 285, and me.

    One more heave. He falls on the chair.

    Grumbles, "I did that pretty much all by myself!"

    Nurse Tough looks to the floor, helps adjust 285's legs and tries to leave the room while his neighbour, back from some radiation, is being rolled onto bed.

    Dr. Farmer once said in Tracy Kidder's biography that we kind of have to give nurses and doctors a bit of a hard time. A reminder of the profession they chose, what it meant, in light of the inglorious nature of it all.

    It's one of those days. Tomorrow's a new one. 285 is blocking the entire hallway. I come up behind him and mockingly joke that he's a slowpoke and to step on it. 285 looks at me in surprise, quickly hides it, and grins. I give him a push, Nurse Tough is onto another patient and running to the inventory for a quick breather. I mentally remind myself to wash my clothes the first thing I get home today, pump some hand sanitizer, and buy some chocolates for the staff.
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