Like most stories this one involves poop.
While I was busy amassing degrees at RIT (In this case, a Psychology/French double major), I came to work at East 7 as part of the mandatory "Co Op" requirement for graduation.
East 7 was, more or less, the Psych ward/detox unit of one of the local hospitals. I worked as a Patient Care Technician. I came to this particular floor because my sister ocassionally worked there as a Secretary (side note she now is the head of utilities management* at that same hospital. She really rose through the ranks. *utilities = people.) and was able to pull some strings to make it so I didn't really have to interview. A running theme in my life is that things just sort of fall into my lap.
I began work as a Patient Care Technician. This was a fancy way of saying Nurse's Aide. Which is a fancy way of saying, "butt wiper." My main duty when I came in was to first check blood sugars and take vital signs, and then to give each patient in my section a bed bath, get them out of bed if possible and then answer call lights. This all sounds not difficult if this was a normal floor. Orthopedic PCTs were by far the laziest (East 6) because the patients were relatively mobile. Almost no one on East 7 was, and to ice that particular cake, most of them had some form of dementia or paralysis.
Let's talk about the patients. There was the Hispanic man with AIDs who was more or less totally with it. That didn't stop him from throwing his crap at you. There were several morbidly obese (as in over 800 pounds) people who had been bed ridden for so long that if they were to stand they ran a great risk of fracturing their bones. One of them had had a stroke and could only say, "PEAS." She could also slap you. She did so frequently. Frequently these people would get pressure ulcers. I won't go into TOO much detail on how horrendous that is, but if you're feeling brave, feel free to google image it. There was the talking head of a man who was the trial by fire. He had gone in to have open heart surgery and failed to mention to the doctors that he had gotten rip roaring drunk the night before. The things they had to do to save him as he was bleeding out on the floor led to the loss of use of his left arm, and his legs. He had a colostomy bag. It was the foulest smelling thing ever. There were the dueling old ladies. There was the old man who was a kleptomaniac. There was the old man who died the most gracefully and beautifully I've ever seen. He'd sit in his chair all day and talk about his family. Then one day he just went. No fuss. I played Dr. Mario with another woman, she was deaf so my trash talking didn't work so well. I ended up stealing Dr. Mario. I still had a SNES and that game was pretty hard to come by. Oops. There was the rehab 25 year old guy who died due to withdrawal symptoms. One day he was walking around asking for Ativan, the next day he no longer existed. I can still picture most of them. Where they lived on the floor, their voices.
Being on that floor was very...dehumanizing as well as humbling. As an example, the nurses once sent me in to check on a new patient. I went in and the woman was dead. I scrambled out to call a code and the nurses who sent me in were laughing. They knew she was dead and were playing a trick on me. In about an hour the family came up and they had to walk them through the next steps. I guess I can understand how some of the nurses were just....very broken people. To have to switch gears from an endless sea of death and disease to being very empathetic to family members, the scared and confused people who don't understand what is going on to that person they love.
So basically, everyone on that floor was a little crazy. There was Sid the tough as nails nurse who had a dry sense of humor, was going through gastric bypass surgery, and ended up dying of stomach cancer rather suddenly. There was Becky my substitute mom. There was Lorn, the gnat in your ear asking if you'd already done everything you'd already done. There was Deb, the nurse who taught me that all religious people aren't intolerant bigots. There was Anne who's sister was in heart and who one time punched me so hard in the back I fell down. I'd asked her to do it to try to get rid of the knot there.
The techs weren't much better. There was Jason the 35 year old living in his parent's basement and not really too interested in changing that situation. We would talk for long hours about video games. There was Mike who shared my love of NOFX and who would take a cig break about once ever half hour. He once called me two scoops after I got my hair cut. To this day it bothers me that I have no idea what the hell that means. There was Kristin, the supermodel. We'd always sneak off to the kitchen together to have juice. She was way out of my league but my 20something self would always pretend they were dates. There was Stephanie. Stephanie and I got along like gangbusters until I decided to do some social experimentation. I sort of tried to pull something off from a John Hughes movie (John Waters?) where I did a grand dramatic gesture. That's when I learned that life doesn't imitate art. There was Dawn who was a story in and of herself. Some of you have heard The Story of Dawn. There was Julie - a friend of my sisters who was a Prima Donna and refused to actually do most of her job requirements. And there was Heather. At first. When Heather and I broke up we had both been in the hospital for a long time and both of us being charismatic robots, had amassed a good number of friends. It was an awkward time. Many people were not shy about telling me they hated me. I don't really blame them in retrospect.
One of the secretaries set me up on a blind date. Get it? The girl was blind. She felt my face and cheated at Monopoly. I didn't ask for a second date. I can't stand people who cheat at Monopoly.
Once, a nurse used bandage adhesion gel as lotion as I looked on in horror.
I lost a ton of weight and was 175. I looked like a skeleton. I was still almost considered overweight via BMI. I did it using the QOD diet or eating only every other day.
I once wheeled a woman up and down the hall singing Happy Birthday to her. It was her Birthday parade!
A tech and her husband, Sharon and Dan would always give me dating advice. It was frequently bad. They were partially responsible for my grand romantic gesture. I later found out they were swingers. Good on them.
I had been hit with a belt, a mirror, countless fists, a fork, and a cane. I eventually left because I pulled my shoulder turning some lady. I went to work as a secretary instead on a different floor.
When not at work I played Guild Wars (LFM DROKKNAR'S RUN. RUNNING FOR TIPS), watched baseball (White Sox won the world series), and went to the movies almost every night alone. My ringtone was the opening to Bright Eyes' "I want a lover I don't have to love," or "One winged angel."
Sometimes there'd be 1:1's. These were patients who needed constant supervision either because they were violent, demented and kept pulling out their IVs, or were in danger of falling out of bed. Mike was in one overnight. I went in and he was sleeping and the patient was OUT. So, I ran in and started shaking him whispering quietly but fiercely, FIRE FIRE MIKE WE GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE! He wasn't too happy.
Eventually Amy would come to work on East 7, but she has her own story and I'm not sure I'll ever get around to telling that one. Not for awhile at least.
But mostly? Mostly there was human waste. Foleys to empty, beds to be stripped, bottoms to be wiped. It was a good job.