Five days a week, for eight hours, I tend to people sick in bed. As much as possible, I try to make my care individualized: by knowing each of their histories, befriending their watchers, memorizing which time of the day their blood pressures shoot up, and by mastering how exactly they want their medications be given, among many others. There are patients whom I love giving bedside care; partly because they acknowledge the work I am doing for them, while there are others whom I dread each passage I make to their beds. Some patients also take notice of my existence as a person and not just as their nurse: they ask about my day, my plans, etc. For me, the hardest patients to attend to are those who cannot speak my language. In fact, I very much prefer comatose patients than others who can produce sounds but in totally different vernacular. Sometimes I want to be a polyglot. Seriously.
As much as I want to give personalized care, my duty is limited to the eight hours I have a day. Some patients get well fast and I do not see them again the next day. If it’s just personal care I obsess, what better way to practice it then than to my loved ones? Since becoming a full-pledged nurse a little over two years ago, I have not took serious care of anyone in my family; save the common cough and colds. I do not pray that they get sick, this is just but for reliability’s sake.
But on a fateful Wednesday night, my teenager sister complained of stomach pain. This sibling of mine is a rather complaint addict: I sometimes suspect she has hypochondriasis. She always complain of something unusual in her body, their’s her headache, back pain, vertigo, with dysmennorhea topping the long list. There are times when we just ignore her whims because it seems utterly unbelievable already. I remember when she was about seven years old that she whined of having blurry vision. It was about the same time that I started wearing corrective glasses so we thought she was just envious of my new look and wanted to follow suit. Mom did not bring her to the opthalmologist until we noticed that she was watching T.V. on really near distance. After check up, she indeed needed one of those specs.
So back on the night she complained of stomach pain, she said that this pain is different from others she had already felt. I then made my assessment: pain scale of 7/10, was located on the right lower quadrant of her abdomen, more painful on rebound palpation, positive pain on the right quadrant even if the left quadrant is the one palpated (Rovsing’s sign). I was then conclusive it was appendicitis.
I then instructed her to fast for eight hours so she can have an ultrasound in the morning. When I told her that she cannot go to school the next day as she needs to undergo surgery the soonest, she protested and said she had to go to school because of an examination. This is ultimately the case with sick relatives: they know you too well, are hardheaded, and they doubt you. They would rather listen to other people with the same line of work as yours even if you were both saying the exact same things. Real-life patients on the other hand believe every word you say because they do not know you personally; well they doubt a little, but not as much as your family.
So she wants to go to school, she can endure the pain, no fever nor vomiting yet, so I let her decide. Early the next morning, as I was preparing for work, I asked her how is she feeling; she said the pain lessened.
She was able to get to school and afterwards, went directly to the hospital where me and our mom works. After a few diagnostics, she was wheeled to the Operating Room for emergency surgery. The damn appendix did not rupture yet, thank God.
After surgery, I stood as her bedside nurse. I saw her as a totally different person because she might complain a lot, but she is strong: the strongest and bravest patient I had so far. In just two days, we were discharged from the hospital.
Lesson learned: Have faith.
I thank the Lord for giving me enough knowledge to care for people I don’t and do know. Once again, I have seen my profession in a changed light. I believe I have just felt fulfilled again.
*polyglot – multilingual
*hypochondriasis – health phobia, excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness
N.B. This article appeared in the July 13, 2014 issue of The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Young Blood column, with the title ‘Fulfillment’.