Wednesday, August 18, 2010
So you don't believe in Friday the 13th, huh?
Well, let me tell you about my Friday the 13th. And my Saturday the 14th. And my Sunday the 15th:
Friday August 13th at 4:20 p.m. the phone rings in the office. A researcher has spilled a carcinogenic chemical all over herself. It's in her clothes, on the floor, etc. A collective groan rises from cubicles throughout our department. Really? On a Friday? One hour before we go home? We printed out an MSDS for that chemical, grabbed our gear, and ran over to her building. All of my lab coats are missing from the rack, so I have to wear my boss' lab coat. I arrive wearing a coat that says "Dave."
Fortunately, things went smoothly. We took care of her, and the room, and I left the office on time. Whew, no big deal. Walked up the hill to the bus stop, got on the bus to Union Station, so that I can catch my train to Claremont. Bus pulls up to Union Station, and I start walking off the bus. As I step off the bus, my belt goes on vacation without me, and my pants fall off, with a bus full of USC employees standing behind me.
Saturday August 14th. Go to the local credit union in Claremont to use their ATM. The machine eats my ATM card. Now I have to wait until Monday to get my card back. That ATM machine pisses me off: they actually have a ring binder full of peoples' debit cards that their machine ate, and a log book for when people like me show up, and get our card back. How about you guys blow some bucks, and get a new ATM, one that doesn't eat peoples' debit cards???
Saturday August 14th, the Emergency Room. Crazy busy shift. I x-ray 19 people in 4 hours. All of them difficult. The collimator light goes out in the big x-ray room where we x-ray trauma patients. I shoot this guy's lateral c-spine with him in c-spine precautions, while he's still taped to a backboard. I have to line up the tube and the wall bucky by line-of-sight. Fortunately, I'm a kick-ass x-ray tech, and I nail it on the first try. They should give me a Nobel Prize in Radiography.
Second to last patient of the night: 2 year old boy who fell and hurt his arm. Happens all the time. The ER is so packed, that all the beds inside are full, as are all of the chairs in the waiting room, and there are people sitting on the floor. I stand in the doorway, call the little boy's name. A young woman sits up, and picks up her son. I see a dopey tough guy sitting next to her, and ask, "Are you dad?"
He says, "Yes."
I motion him towards me and say, "Come on."
He indignantly asks, "Me? Why do you need me?'
Before I go on, let me explain: I get guys from this particular country--one that is outside the U.S.--where they speak a different language--and they all have his reaction. Some of them will come out and say it: "But, I am not a woman!" or "That's woman's work!" (I am not making this up: they have said this to me many a shift).
So let me see if I understand this: if you stand in an x-ray room wearing a lead apron, and hold your child still in order to make sure that his/her x-ray comes out okay e.g. I do't have to re-shoot the x-ray, because of motion blur, the fact that you have been forced to do this will immediately convert you into a sissy-boy who sings show-tunes, only watches the Bravo Channel, and has an Edward poster in his bedroom? Really?
You don't understand how freaked out this guys get. They act like I'm demanding that they take off their underwear, and...
Deal with it.
Last patient of the day. Radiology request says abdomen series for a 35 year old female. I go into the little side-room they've got her in, and the lab tech is muttering about how she has to put the i.d. bracelet (that cheap white plastic thingie) onto the patient's wrist, because the nurse refuses to do it. Boy, did I miss that clue that something was wrong! The lady is lying there on the gurney, sobbing. Tears pour down her cheeks, and she is holding a cell phone to her ear.
At this point, I feel really sorry for her husband or boyfriend, who is at home, listening to his woman sob, and he cannot console her. All he can do is hold the phone to his ear, and listen. After I've been standing there for a minute, I say, "Hi, I'm from the x-ray department."
During the whole time that I stand there, I never hear anybody's voice on the other end of the cell phone. Is anybody even on the phone with her? I have pretty good hearing, and this seems weird.
She doesn't answer, just keeps on crying.
I wait another minute, and say, "Um...the doctor ordered some x-rays of your abdomen...your tummy."
She doesn't answer, just keeps on crying.
I wait another minute, and say, "Um...the doctor wants x-rays so that he can know why you're in pain, so he can do something about it."
I'm standing there looking at her, thinking, "Wow, she's in so much pain, she must have cancer. I feel so sorry for her. She's so young, and dying of cancer. Wow, that sucks." I don't know anything about her medical history: this is her myth that I have constructed in my head, by spending 4 unproductive minutes in a room with her.
When I get to work at 3:00 I realize that today's shift will be the opposite of yesterday's debacle (remarkably, despite x-raying 23 people on that shift, I also wrote 368 words in chapter 27 of Roadside Rest). Great, maybe I'll get 700 words written, today. I need to write the part where the heroine tells her best friend that she needs to change her life, and do something different (No, this is not a rip-off of "Eat, Pray, Fart". My heroine can't afford to get divorced, and wander around Bali, barefoot).
I'm sitting in an office chair, telling Marcy the front desk clerk about how crazy it was, last night. I've been at work for 2 hours, and still haven't filled my gigantic plastic cup with drinking water. All of a sudden, the room starts spinning, I can't talk, and Marcy is shouting, "Tom? Tom? Tom! You're really red! Tom?"