Tuesday, June 26, 2007

CPE Random Dots: Week 3.5

  • Sometimes the smallest babies are so fierce - they fight the nurses who are trying to give them various kinds of treatments. Food, however, is NEVER refused. It may be spit up, but it's never refused.
  • Not having any Spanish is really frustrating for me. I have to use the interpreters and one of the other chaplain interns to translate. As a mother, I know what the Hispanic moms are asking by their body language and where they're pointing, but I am unable to respond. Bah!
  • Parents telegraph their anxiety to their kids, and it makes it harder on everyone. I wonder how much I did that when my own kids were in the hospital for one thing or another. One dad is worried his child isn't get enough attention, and gets pretty hostile with the staff. His wife is sitting there, and is giving off a vibe that says, "Please don't punish my child just because my husband is out of control right now." I wish there really was a "chill pill" we could give them to calm their fears, but all I can do is pray and be a calm presence.
  • I'm grateful I've been assigned a less acute unit in addition to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. It's a relief to go talk with families where the kids are getting better rapidly after spending time with ones where the kids are dreadfully sick and will probably only get marginally better.
  • I will really need a vacation when this is over.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hot Time, Summer in the City

Yes, summer has arrived here in your nation's Capitol.

One of my trauma pages at two in the morning was for a child whose injury was identified as GSW: gunshot wound.

Usually GSWs go to the Grownup Hospital Center next door, which has (sadly) ample experience with them, but since children are not just small adults, my assumption is that this victim of violence was under 14.

Jesus weeps.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

CPE: Random Dots at the end of Week Three

  • I now know more about congenital heart defects and the surgical procedures used to try to repair them than I ever would have thought possible.
  • I'm getting better at extemporaneous prayer, but when I'm feeling sketchy, I revert to the little green "Ministry to the Sick" prayer book. Thank you, Church Publishing!
  • At the end of a very sad week, one of the little ones who is recovering from surgery was awake, sitting up, bouncing a little despite IVs and EKG leads and such. My heart unfolded with joy. Even the mother of another child who had suffered serious reverses this week came to her bedside to smile at her. She gave us all some hope on Friday, waking up as she did the day before her first birthday. I'm hoping her mother got her wish to give the little one a bit of birthday cupcake today.
  • Seeing a baby's heart , no bigger than a small apricot, beating through an open incision while the heart recovers from surgery is awesome, in every sense of the word. I think of Dame Julian of Norwich: "And in this the Lord showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand. . .In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God preserves it."
  • Baby's hearts aren't the only broken hearts in a children's hospital. This is hard work, every day.
  • I'm on call until Monday. I haven't gotten called in yet. Today the pager beeped for a number of traumas that were brought into the ER via helicopter or ambulance, but they didn't page me, which means no one thought their child needed baptism or was in imminent danger of death, thus needing the prayers and support of a chaplain. I'm embarrassed to say I'm grateful I wasn't called in. Of course, the pager may well bid me come tonight or tomorrow. Part of me says I'm glad I wasn't called because it means no one is in that bad shape, but the cowardly part of me says it's because I'm afraid I'll be found wanting if I am called in. Yes, I trust God will equip me, but still...

I love this work, but it felt really good to chill out at home today and putz around the house and do some cooking. We're going to a friend's house for a Caribbean dinner this evening (can't have a foo-foo drink since I'm on call) and we'll see if I can stay for the whole thing or if I get paged to go to the hospital. Once this on-call thing ends on Monday, I'll be so grateful to get a solid night's sleep without the pager announcing the traumas and such. There were enough of them that the battery on the pager started dying last night (at 2 a.m.) and I had to get up and replace it - thank goodness I had a AAA battery in the kitchen. I should have another short stint of on-call before CPE ends in mid-August, maybe four more days, but the seven day thing has worn me out. The only comforting thing is that the young people in my group are just as exhausted during on-call as we ancient crones are.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Shockingly Small World

So PH and I went to a military retirement party for a friend who will start seminary this August with me. I don't know him really well, but he's part of my postulancy group so we've become casual friends.

In the course of the evening we talked with friends from his church, a couple who are about 10 years older than me. We were all sitting in the living room and my buddy's wife told how his British mother ended up in El Paso (WWII bride). PH asked me to tell how my parents met in France - both in the Army in WWII, both from the same home town, but had never dated there - they started dating in Alsace and married after 6 dates after they were both discharged from the Army. Some details came out in the conversation, and suddenly the woman of the older couple paled visibly and said," Where in [home town] was your house?" I replied, "It was xxx Avenue, across from Lincoln Park." She said, "I earned my Child Care badge in Girl Scouts babysitting you when you were four." We both burst into tears and hugged. It was sort of like finding one's long-lost big sister. We compared notes about some of the wacky neighbors and who was still alive and who was dead - sadly, most were dead - and it felt like fifty years had just fallen away. I told her husband, "I've known your wife longer than you have!" We all laughed uproariously. An amazing moment.

One of the other guests said that if I were a mathematician, I could calculate the odds of our meeting. I said I was a theologian, so I didn't have to do any calculation - it was all about the Spirit working in mysterious ways. For me, that's a much more satisfying explanation.

For someone like me, whose family of origin is pretty much all gone, it was bittersweet. It would have been nice to be able to call my mother and say, "You'll never guess who I met at a party last night." Somewhere, though, I think she's smiling.

CPE:Random Dots Week 2.5

  • being able to say "asalaam aleikum" to a mother of a patient from the Middle East opened the doors to a very rich and unexpected conversation
  • if you give your students unclear directions, telling them you're "disappointed" in them when they misconstrue what you said doesn't help
  • on the other hand, if you're willing to say you overreacted, you're a grown-up
  • "hoping for a miracle" is sometimes the saddest phrase in the world, when a baby is being kept alive by artificial means and has never known the bliss of sleeping in its mother's arms
  • a child that's sick and a child that's dying look very different
  • grandparents who are doctors sometimes slow things down when a child is being treated in the trauma bay...because they can always imagine the worst case scenario
  • twelve hour days are tiring for all, young and middle aged alike
  • the tiniest, sickest babies sometimes show the most extraordinary personalities, as when a little guy was unhappy because the nurse was seven minutes late for his feeding. One angry little dude!
  • this work is a privilege. God guides my words when my own feeble attempts fall short.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thursday CPE Dots

  • Going on rounds with the docs is interesting, even though I only understand about five pct of what they say. They are very patient with me tagging along.

  • Sometimes people just don't want to talk with you.

  • Some sick kids are not going to get well. That rots.

  • I can handle just about any kind of trauma except third-degree burns.

  • Having a glass or two of wine and conversation with a dear friend that makes my bedtime 11 pm is not good (as much as I've missed talking with said dear friend) when I need to catch the 7 am bus the next day.

  • CPE group conversations where we're reminded we're inherently racist somehow don't seem helpful to me.

  • If I have to listen to much more New Age mediocre music for Prayer and Meditation Time I may trash the boombox. Yes, I'm a music snob. I suppose I should be glad it's not "Jesus is my boyfriend" praise music.

  • I better lose some weight quick - my clothing choices are very limited right now, and it really stinks.

  • My favorite 7 year old prophet and his little bro (the patient) may be going home tomorrow. Some day I'll tell you the story in a way that protects their privacy.

  • When it's 90 plus degrees out when I come home at 7 pm, I'm not exercising. Just don't have it in me. So if I'm not as thin as a sylph by September, suddenly I just don't give a flying wazoo.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

CPE Week One

It has been a busy three days since I started CPE. Most of the time has been spent in lectures, plus a couple of tours. Next week we'll begin clinical visitations. I've been assigned the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, the Emergency Room, and the Short Stay Unit. I can only assume that I appear to be a "non-anxious presence."

At Children's, their philosophy is to have family members be able to watch what's going on when a child is being treated in the ER - there are observation rooms with a glass wall alongside the treatment bays. I was a little surprised by this, but the logic of having people see how hard the staff is working on their child does make sense. I asked if they triage these cases, but they don't. It's the family's choice whether they want to observe treatment.

I'm looking forward to actually doing the work, getting out of the classroom.

The days are long - with the bus, the Metro (changing from the Yellow line to the Red line) and the shuttle from the Metro to the Hospital, it's between and hour and an hour and a half in each direction for the commute. Makes for a long day. All part of the learning.

The good news is that I'm slowly continuing to lose weight and I'm exercising each evening. The bad news is that it's hard to stay awake long enough to spend time with PH in the evening when he comes home from work. Oh, well, we'll figure it out.

Speaking of PH, he's down in Historic Rockefeller Town, having finished the first day of the two-day MS 150 bicycle race. He and his buddy rode the long route (100 miles instead of 75) from The Capitol of the Confederacy today and felt quite good about it, and were headed into the massage tent when he called to check in. He'll do another 75 miles tomorrow, then drive two hours back here. Remarkably, that's his idea of a fun weekend.

It's always strange when he's not here in the house with me.

On the other hand, I rented "Memoirs of a Geisha" from Blockbuster, so I think I'll mosey on downstairs and stretch out and watch it, and try to stay conscious...