“What do you say to taking chances?”

I love differences in languages. I love that Brits say “telly” intead of “tv,” or “bloody” instead of  my favorite four letter word. We may speak English, but they speak ENGLISH. This means that sometimes, although technically the same language, things can get a little lost in translation.

Today while looking at a forum for nurses and nursing students, I came across a post titled “Petrified when handling residents that expire.” I could just imagine a giant refrigerator with crusty young doctors, dates past stamped across their foreheads. Would there be signs saying “Please only eat what belongs to YOU!” ? Would people forget about them on Friday, only to come in on Monday and find they had been thrown out by the janitorial staff? Instead of white coats, would they be wrapped in aluminum foil, or lie languishing in styrofoam boxes?

Of course, I know that in this case, expired means dead. However, my American thought process was still fixated on resident meaning doctor. I then found myself puzzling over why so many doctors were dying in this particular hospital. I felt it was very important to know which hospital, so I could avoid a potentially nightmarish career choice. Was there some sort of local plague? Was this a regional hospital in Uganda? Really, I wanted to know why in the world a medical student would agree to work there if the death rate among residents was such that a nurse would feel it necessary to ask for help in how to deal with the situation.

I quickly gave in to my curiosity, and clicked on the link to the post. Ah…resident means patient!! Now I really want to know what hospital it is. Sadly, I’m sure it’s the only one that my health insurance is willing to pay for.

“What do you say to jumping off the edge?”

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“Come to my window.”

Today was my first day volunteering at the community blood bank. I’ve donated blood numerous times, but always at a mobile bus. I had never been to the glitzy glass and steel, architectural wonder that is the actual bank. I was curious as to why the building is surrounded by eight foot high iron fences, with badge-only access doors. I found out why.

After a short orientation of the basic rules and guidelines, the volunteer coordinator (VC) took another volunteer and me over to the building where we would be working. As we spiraled through the halls, we saw random stacks of red coolers in nooks, crannies, and sometimes, just along the wall. Almost all of them contained bags of blood and blood products. It was enough to send a goth chick into Twilight orgasmia.

The inside of the building is just as glitzy and glassy as the outside. All of the labs are behind giant glass windows, with the name of the lab spelled out in negative frosted splendor at the top. I couldn’t decide if I was Charlie in the chocolate factory, gazing through at the magical Oompa-Loompas, or in an Edward Gorey version of Krispy Kreme. As the VC pointed out various departments and their functions, she offered to set up meetings for us with the tissue lab, so we could watch them process various body parts. Now there’s an offer one doesn’t get every day.

Since this is strictly an unpaid gig, (and the VC had us sign a sheet saying we understood we were not going to get paid) most of the volunteers are there for some other reason. Some are there because their trade school requires so many hours of externship before they can graduate. Some are there because they have just graduated from college, and are looking for a job.

And then there’s me. I need a good reference, and resumé fodder. I’ve only worked two out of the last six years, leaving me with some large empty spaces in my work history. I figured volunteering would be a great way to get a reference, and get some experience in a medical-type office. This is why, as I worked at various tasks, I thought about how I could phrase a bullet point so it sounds impressive. One of the tasks was to push a cart with nine boxes of test results downstairs and put them in a giant trash can so they can be taken offsite and shredded. I have to admit, this is the translation that tickles me most: “Transported confidential medical records to ensure HIPPA compliant disposal.”

Yes, I know if all else fails, at least I have a good shot at a career in employment services. Or writing fiction. Same thing.

“Nothing fills the blackness that has seeped into my chest. I need you in my blood, I am forsaking all the rest.”

“What if you’re making me all that I was meant to be?”

Saturday, Feb 13th is Ron’s and my 7th wedding anniversary. Well, wedding may be a little too strong of a word. Commitment ceremony? No, that’s too asexual, not to mention too ceremonious. Ours was anything but ceremonial. That’s not true. Taxes can be pretty ceremonial. So can sitting in the marriage license office. But that’s not what this is about. You know how we got married.

I’ve always surrounded myself with people who have to be the center of attention. I was usually the person sitting apart from the rest of the room, reading a book. I thought I liked being the casual observer. Attention whores can be really entertaining. They’re generally funny, charismatic, and interesting. I like to laugh, so I thought that meant I needed someone else to be humorous. I tended to look past the more irritating qualities and focus on the laughter.

One of the things that made me fall in love with Ron is that I make him laugh. He’s smart enough to get my jokes, and appreciates my sarcasm. That’s harder to find than you think. Ron’s laughter is infectious; when he laughs, I can’t help but laugh. When he smiles, his eyes crinkle and his whole face lights up. He is beautiful.

Being loved by Ron is definitely different from any of my past relationships. He’s my quietest cheerleader; he doesn’t make grand gestures or loud proclamations. He does the dishes and the laundry. He takes Aubrey to dance when he knows I’m really tired. He goes to the store, and yes, on more than one occasion, he has purchased feminine hygiene products. It was an adjustment, though. It wasn’t until the jam that I finally got it. One afternoon, I came home from work to find a receipt on his desk from the grocery store. The only thing on it was a jar of red plum jam. When I asked him why he went to the store just to get jam, he said we were out, and he knew it was my favorite.

Best of all, even beyond all his other qualities, what makes Ron so special is that he makes me want to live up to my potential. He’s supportive, even when he’s pretty sure that my latest scheme will be an unqualified disaster. He may have his doubts, but he never tells me that I can’t do something. Because he has faith in me, he makes me have faith in myself.

So, while I doubt I will get roses, and I know that diamonds are out of the question, I also know that what I have is infinitely better. Anyone can pick up the phone and have flowers delivered, but it takes true love to bring home a jar of jam.

“I am by your side, where love will find you.”

“Human kindness is overflowing…”

Tuesday morning in my Anatomy and Physiology lab, we covered aneurysms. Since it’s not something everyone has heard of, an aneurysm is a weak spot in an artery.  As arterial pressure increases, the aneurysm will balloon out and fill with blood. The higher the pressure, the higher the chance of the aneurysm rupturing. After explaining the basics, my instructor then shared an anecdote from his time working in a high school.

A young (teenage) boy went into the nurse’s office complaining of headache and nausea. She sent him back to class, but agreed that he could come back if it got worse. Twenty minutes later, he walked back into the nurse’s office, fell to the floor, and quickly succumbed to a burst aneurysm in his brain. The nurse yelled for help, and my instructor, who was a nurse in the army, came running. When he checked the student’s pupils, he saw that one was already blown (fully dialated and not sensitive to light). He realized there wasn’t anything he could do, except hold the student while he died.

The lesson he was trying to impart was not about being hypervigilant for signs of an aneurysm. What he wanted to get across to us is that sometimes, a patient crosses a line to where they no longer need a doctor, or a nurse; when that happens, they need a human being. He said that we’ll eventually learn there are a lot of medical conditions over which we have little to no control, and that being a nurse isn’t all drawing blood, taking temperatures, asking how many bowel movements a patient has had.  Being a nurse, being a good nurse, means knowing how to let go, and accepting that people die. It’s about knowing that sometimes, your job is just to hold someone, and let them know that they are not alone while they die.

As he told this story, I had to bite my lip to keep from crying. This very thing is what I terrifies me the most, and why I know I can’t work in pediatrics.

I’ve lived a pretty sheltered life. A few years ago, I considered becoming a chemical dependency (drug) counselor. I thought I knew what addiction was, and what it looks like. Then I got a job working with drug addicts, and realized that until then, I had NO clue what the real world looked like. About 80% of the time, my clients were just average people who didn’t have any other coping mechanisms due to childhood trauma. The other 20% was a huge shock for me. I met people with arms full of needles marks from injecting cocaine or heroin. I had clients that let their drug dealer rape their young daughters, just so they could get a fix. I was forced to learn impartiality; for the first two weeks, I came home crying every single day. After that, I just did my job the best that I knew how.

I’ve only seen one person die. I was a kid, probably six or seven. My dad’s friend had a party at a local park. My mom didn’t want to go, because it was a really dangerous area, but my dad insisted. My mom was right, though. A few hours after we got there, a kid (teenager) came stumbling into the middle of the party, bleeding profusely because he had been stabbed multiple times. They called for an ambulance, but he bled to death before it got there.

I’ve had pets die, of course. The worst was when I had to have my little pit bull put to sleep because she kept trying to eat the neighborhood cats. Elsie was the sweetest, most lovable dog I ever had. She loved to sleep under the covers, next to me, with her head on my pillow. She was my baby. When she died, I wanted to die.

It’s not my own mortality that bothers me. I know I’m going to die someday, because everyone does. What bothers me is that my patients will be mothers, fathers, sisters, cousins, aunts, grandmothers…they will have people who love them, who count on them. I can’t simply objectify someone into “just a patient.” I hope I never can. I hope that I always understand that above all else, the patient is a person.

“Bright before me, the signs implore me, help the needy, and show them the way. Human kindess is overflowing…and I think it’s going to rain today.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Every journey has a beginning, and every choice creates the path along that journey. For some, they end up exactly where they planned, at exactly when. Not me. I’m anything but exact, which drives my accountant husband crazy, and nowhere is that more evident than when we are cooking.

“Taste it,” I say.

“What did you put in it?” he responds.

“I don’t know. Stuff.”

“How much stuff?”

“I don’t know. Some, I guess.”

“Augh! Measuring is the key to consistency!”

Consistency? The same thing every time? How dull. Instead, it’s always a pleasant surprise when something turns out edible, and sometimes, I discover something new when I have to improvise. Recently, I was just slightly short on gluten free pizza crust mix. It was already halfway mixed, so I grabbed the baking and biscuit flour and mixed some in. The result was a GF pizza crust with just the right texture; sticky, chewy, yet crispy, all in just the right proportion.

So yeah, I wing it. Like my pizza crust surprise, I am all the more resilient for it. Best of all, I sometimes end up in the most unexpected places.

That’s how I ended up here. Is it an end? Well, yes…yes, it is. But like the lyrics from “Closing Time” by Semisonic, it’s a beginning, too. Is this where I planned to be at age forty? Uh, no. Would I rather be anywhere else? Most definitely not.

In just a few months, I’ll be 41. Prime, baby. Not rich, not thin, not famous. Not the head of a software design company. Not an overpaid and even more overworked game designer. All these nots. That seems so negative, doesn’t it? Far from it. Because if I were any of those things, I wouldn’t be what I am. A pre-nursing student. A Feis mom. A volunteer. An advocate. Most of all, a writer. Yes, most definitely a writer. Writing is what holds all my incongruent bits together.

Think of this as an invitation. You are cordially invited to take a walk with me down this path. Occasionally, I might even shine a light behind us, just so you can see how far we’ve come.

So gather up your jackets and move it to the exits; I hope that you have found a friend.