As published in Ohio Nurses Review, January 2018
It's been four days. I'm tired, weak, and all I can think about is that I'll be going home today.
I’ll be able to sleep in my own bed, with a comfortable pillow, and smell something other than the overwhelming scent of disinfectant. I want to take these itchy stickers off and be free of all these cords. Four days can feel like an eternity when you are stuck in a hospital bed.
You, my nurse, stand at the end of my bed, a stack of paperwork in your hand. You’re looking down at me and talking fast. I know you have a hundred things to do; I overheard you talking in the hallway to your peers. The man in the room next to me needs pain medication, my roommate needs a bath, and the woman down the hall keeps getting out of bed. I can hear the near constant bed alarm, and I see the expression on your face change each and every time. I overhear the shift change conversations, about how you never get a lunch break. After that, how could I press my light and ask for another snack when you haven’t even had a meal?
I am a task on your list of things to do. You say words like “congestive heart failure”, and “decreasing sodium intake”. I'm embarrassed to say, I don't know what you mean. I think by sodium you mean salt, but to be honest I really don’t know what else is high in sodium. I’m too ashamed to admit it. You seem so intelligent, with your big words and stethoscope. I admire you, and I don’t want you to think less of me.
I shyly ask if my test results are looking better, because the doctor wasn’t too clear. You tell me my “BNP is down”, whatever that means. Sitting here in this bed, hearing words and terms I have never heard before, I feel inferior. In the outside world, I am a real person. I am smart, confident, and am proud of the work that I do. But in here, I am lost. I know nothing in here, and I’m only given the information you tell me.
You ask me if I understand, because if I don't follow these rules I'll end up back in the hospital. You glance at your watch, and then remind me to weigh myself every day. I nod, give you a smile, and let you go on your way. I'm not your only patient; I don't want to be a burden to you.
I've spent four days in this room. I've seen many people come and go. The machine to my right beeped incessantly, but no one has told me what it means. I see numbers flashing, each a different neon color. I've asked for more water, but you told me I would get "fluid overloaded", like I was a sponge. I would have asked you what that meant if you didn't seem so busy. I keep hearing "decompensated" and "edema", both words I have never heard in my life.
The hospital is frightening and the staff intimidating. I am grateful for the care I am receiving, but feel bad to ask for more of your time. I respect what you do, nurse, but please remember to have a little patience with your patients.
This is the view from my side of the IV pole.