Make this rain into your fortress...
IIt's alright, take this rain,
It's alright, take this rain,
It's alright, take this rain,
You're going to be free...
("Take This Rain", Jackson Browne)A*
*It all started out with some fog --- but then it changed...
A really bad arctic front with sleet and rain has moved into the area. Apparently this front has been causing horrible weather all across the mid-section of the country. It started out foggy and misty here in Podunk--but has progressed to intermittent bouts of miserable, cold rain. And the temperature has been dropping by the hour. With this dismal weather, the driving conditions are horrid. And the weather report says that things will only get worse.
I should have known the weather was going to turn bad on Thursday when all the cows started laying down in their pastures. You know what they say--- when the cows lay down, the weather's going to change.B*B*
But I didn't think anything of the cows at the time--- because the weather was beautiful that day and I just figured that maybe the silly cows were tired or lazy....or something. You never can tell with stupid cows, ya know?***?****
But the tell-tale sign of the cows proved correct and the weather has gone to hell in a handbasket since then. Right now it's raining cats and dogs. Everything is drenched. The Interstate highway is drenched, the countryside is drenched, and the hospital building is drenched. Even the paramedics barracks, which are usually perpetually open, have closed their huge doors to block incoming water. **
And one of our LVN's, Geena-Lou, is the "on-call" nurse this weekend. And it's fortunate for her that she has a huge Ford pick-up truck with four-wheel drive--- because she's going to need it to get through the mud.*
She's got a daily wound care visit to do on a patient who lives on a distant cattle ranch, and to get there you've got to drive by several paint-pony ranches, a deer lease, and two goat farms. The region has few paved roads. It's so far out in the country that cell phones will blink in and out of "roam" mode, sometimes not working at all. I*
I told Geena-Lou that if she needs anything to call me. But I always worry that she's the type who won't call me. Geena-Lou is one of my heroes in that she is a hard-working country girl who can handle just about anything. She rarely complains, she loves each and every patient with a fierce loyalty, and her Texan work ethic is evident in her steadfastly humble, calm, and efficient common-sense approach to the job of nursing. Nothing ruffles her. *
She is the nurse I have mentioned in the past who once encountered a patient in a locked room. The patient's son had locked the door to keep the confused patient from wandering around while he was out in the cow barn---and the patient had suddenly become too ill and weak to get out of bed and unlock the door when Geena arrived to see her--- and so Geena-Lou simply found a screwdriver and took the door off of its hinges.
In case you're wondering why everybody in Podunk has a "Lou" or "Lu" after their first name, it's kind of complicated. And that is because of several Texan quirks. First of all, "Lou" is a term of endearment in small, Texan towns, reserved for those people you are the most fondest of.
For example, I call Belinda "Belinda-Lou" and she calls me "Bohemian-Lou".A*
And then also, "Lu" is an abbreviated nickname given to people who have any sort of an "L" in their first name (like Linda, Lesley, Lindsay, etc), which was the reason for Lu-Lu's nickname. A*
And finally, "Lou" also happens to be a popular Texan middle name--- and thus many girls are actually given it as their formal middle name on their birth certificates.
In Geena-Lou's case, her name is actually just "Geena"---I call her "Geena-Lou" simply because I am fond of her---we're buddies. Geena-Lou and I have worked together since the old days in my former Road Nurse Company. We've been through thick and thin together, including the incidents leading up to the company owners' decision to fire our mutual friend, Lu-Lu, which hurt both of us terribly.A*
Anyway, the weather is horrible right now. Yesterday, we nurses took the step of advising all of our patients in outlying areas to go to the store and stock up on groceries in anticipation of hunkering down to wait out the bad weather. But we really didn't need to do that because our country patients are very experienced in this aspect of country life. By Friday afternoon, every farm and ranch family in the Greater Podunk area had seen to it that their pantries were well-stocked with food and their woodsheds stocked with big stacks of firewood.
In fact, the patients were the ones warning us nurses to "stay off the roads"...T*
The company has two patients in the hospital right now, and it's touch-and-go for one of them. Whenever we have patients in the hospital, we call every day to check on their progress----or else I'll drive over there and go see them for myself. Our office and my apartment are both less than 2 blocks away from the hospital. *
After a cup of Hazelnut coffee this morning, I pulled on one of my old "biker chick" jackets and drove over to the hospital to check on our two ill patients. *
I parked in the Emergency Room parking lot. But in my hurry, on my way up the lot's ramp, I almost ran over the main pilot of the hospital's Medical Helicopter when he unexpectedly emerged from the ambulance bay doors in a dash towards the helicopter's landing pad.
When I alighted from the Jeep, he hollered over at me: "What the hell are you trying to do, kill me?"
I hollered back at him: "No, dammit, but you shouldn't be flying in this awful weather anyway."
"We're not going to fly," he replied. "I just came out here to tie the dang thing down so that it doesn't blow off the roof in this rain."
I trotted into the warm ER and headed towards the elevator banks where I could go up to the "floor". I passed through the ER waiting room and waved at the receptionist. She waved back, and then returned to listening to a patient telling her about his cough. I went to the floor and approached the nurse's station to find out which rooms my patients were in. I encountered one of my company's own employees, a home-health aide who provides bathing and hygiene for our home patients---she also works as a nursing assistant in the hospital. "*
"Hey Jenna," I called. "Where's Mr. Tynedale and Mrs. Brown?""*
"He's in 302," she replied. "And he don't look so good. Mrs. Brown is further down the hall, in 311. And why in the hell are you wearing that dang Harley Davidson jacket? You trying to scare all the patients into thinking that bikers are taking over the hospital? You look like you're ready to get into a knife fight or something. Jane-Anne's Uncle Dean would kick your butt if he saw you wearing that thing in here... "I *
I went to room 302. My heart sank when I saw our patient. Mr. Tynedale was lying in bed looking pale and weak. He was on oxygen. His worried wife and family were sitting in chairs nearby, watching the town's Baptist preacher--- who was wearing a suit and tie with cowboy boots while standing over Mr. Tynedale. The Preacher was holding his Bible, reading a verse to Mr. Tynedale. I didn't say a word and stood quietly, allowing him to finish the reading. "*
"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth...."W*
When he was finished reading Psalm 121, he took the patient's hand and began talking quietly. I turned to the patient's family. His wife, son, daughters, and their kids were crammed into the few available seats, or else hovered nearby, many clutching their Bibles. A multitude of get-well cards and flower-filled vases were crammed onto any available flat spaces. "*
"How is he?" I asked Mrs. Tynedale. "H*
"He won't eat," she told me sadly. "His weight has dropped down so much that they're talking about putting a feeding tube in him--but he doesn't want it and told the doctor that they'd have to tie him down like a mule to do it. And they don't know why he's so anemic. They did an MRI...but now the doctor wants to do a colonoscopy to see if he's bleedin' in there somewheres..." She started to cry softly. I leaned over and hugged her tight for a few moments. "*
"Please don't cry, Mee-maw," one of her grandaughters said, handing her a Kleenex. But she had tears in her eyes, too. M*
My cell phone began ringing but I silenced it.W*
When the Preacher was finished talking to the patient, I stepped over to the bedside and peered through all the oxygen and IV tubing at Mr. Tynedale. The formerly strong Texan cattleman, who was usually clean-shaven and clad in jeans and cowboy boots, was now lying before me, a study in diseased weakness. He was unshaven and wearing a hospital gown. I sensed that he was uncomfortable with how he appeared to those of us present. As he tried to speak to me, I knew from his expression that his helpless disarray must be killing him.... just as I knew that it was most likely some virulent form of cancer that was eating him alive from the inside.
He forced a wan smile. "Hey nurse," he said, managing a roguish grin. "*
"Hey yourself," I replied, trying to look cheerful despite my growing dread. "I hear that you're not eating. What's the matter---don't ya like the tasty hospital food? How about I go across the street to McDonald's and get you something really good---like one of them big ole juicy Big Mac's you love so much? It won't take me five minutes. And I'll bring you some ketchup and french fries....""N*
"Naw, honey, don't do that," he said, taking my hand tenderly in his. "The food here is alright. It's just that I ain't hungry. But I sure do wish I could get up outta this dang bed---it's uncomfortable, and I've got to feed the cattle."
"Don't worry yourself, Daddy," his son interjected. "I've already done it. You jest git yourself to feelin' better. The ranch'll be fine till you come home."A*
After I talked with the patient for awhile, I sat down and tried my best to comfort his frightened family, assuring them that we nurses would continue our prayers for them. Before leaving I gave the patient's wife my cell phone number and told her to call me anytime, for any reason. I*
I didn't want to cry in front of the patient and his family. I wanted to present a strong and confident manner to help them take courage. Be strong, be strong! I told myself. Don't fall to pieces in front of them---because that might cause them to lose their hope....
Struggling to compose myself, I continued my way down the hall to visit my next patient. She was in better shape. She had broken her hip in a disastrous fall at home, but she had undergone surgery to repair it. Now she had a serious urinary tract infection, but the doctor had prescribed antibiotics for it. Hopefully, in a day or so, she would soon feel strong enough to begin the "rehab" process whereby she would undergo rigorous physical therapy to build her strength and get her back on her feet again. When she returned home from the hospital, I would schedule one of our own physical therapists to continue the therapy in her home. A*
After I finished my visits, I returned to the nurse's station where I again found Jenna. I chatted with her for a few minutes--- and then suddenly all the lights went out. A collective moan went up from everybody---and then the emergency generator kicked in and some of the lights came back on. "*
"Don't take the elevator," Jenna warned. "The bad weather is screwing up the electrical system. The lights flickered a couple of hours ago and somebody said that the elevator got stuck between the floors for about 25 minutes.""*
"Thanks for the tip," I replied. "I'll take the dang stairs."*
But Jenna couldn't resist throwing out one more comment. "Don't walk by the Security Office," she said, smirking. "The guard is liable to shoot you in that jacket."
"Hell, I ain't worried," I laughed. "Buster Johnson is on duty---and that yokel couldn't shoot the broad side of a barn. Hell, I doubt his gun is even loaded."
When I got back to the ER, I sat down on a free seat in the waiting room and looked at my cell phone. The previous call had been from Geena-Lou. I called her back. "*
"What's up?" I asked her. "*
"Just letting you know what's going on," she stated. "I'm out here at Mr. Daniel's place. He called to say that the weather's supposed to get worse soon---and it's supposed to freeze tonight. His hip is botherin' him real bad and so he wants me to help him feed the horses and get all his animals into the barn.""R*
"Right," I replied, glancing out the window at the torrential rain outside. I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance.
And then I remembered that Geena-Lou's kids have been feverishly practicing their roping skills, and have been faithfully tending some of their prize cattle for an upcoming livestock show and rodeo event in Ft. Worth next week.
"Hey,"I exclaimed."What are you going to do about keeping your own animals warm? Aren't y'all getting ready for the rodeo next week?""*
"My husband's off work today and he's already put the show animals into the barn," she told me. "But the damn donkeys were already in there and got pissed off about having to share the space---one of the idiots ran out through the barn door and off into the back pasture. I told my husband that I'd go get the stupid thing when I get home later this afternoon."I*
I hate donkeys....
"Hey, how's Mrs. Dimwell's foot?" I asked suddenly, referring to one of our diabetic patients who is in real danger of losing her foot, as she's already had a toe amputated but the amputation site has not healed and is, in fact, worsening. "*
"Not too good," she replied. "The wound center doctor debrided the wound yesterday to see if there was any circulation there, but it hardly bled at all. She's got an appointment in Dallas on Monday to see a vascular surgeon---if the roads don't freeze and her brother can drive her down there. She's really hoping that the surgeon can figure out some way to save her foot. But between you and me and the signpost, I don't think it looks too good."
"How's her family taking it?"I asked.
"You know her husband,"Geena-Lou said ruefully."He never takes anything serious. He was hollering the whole time I was there, wanting her to get up and fry him some bacon for breakfast. I told him that he needs to let her stay off her foot like the doctor said, but he's spoiled rotten and wants her to wait on him hand and foot. I guess he ain't gonna listen til she's flat on her back after having lost her whole dang foot.""O*
"Okay," I said. "I'm just leaving the hospital now and I'm going back home. If you need anything, call me.""*
"Okey dokey," she replied. "Keep warm yourself, Bohemian-Lou..."I*O* On the way home, I stopped at Bubba's Jiffee-Mart and bought myself a banana Moon Pie and some Diet Sprite. I returned to my apartment and noted that, indeed, the temperature was getting colder. I adjusted the thermostat and heard the heater come on. I looked out my bedroom window at the Interstate, watching the trucks go by in the foggy, rainy mist. **
I mouthed a silent prayer for all of my company's patients. I also said one in for Geena-Lou, who will be on the wet roads both today and Sunday.
And the temperature is dropping---and the rain goes on.....