Monday, January 17, 2011

Visiting the Intensive Care Unit and Meeting a Remarkable Patient

Another opportunity presented itself to work on another unit of our hospital. I’m calling it opportunity here, rather than saying that I was forced to go there because it was my turn to do so when the patient count on our unit fell below regular staffing levels. So anyhow, when I heard that I had to go to the ICU, I felt some dread because last time I was sent there, I had to do a 1:1 with a rapid detox patient ( who was so confused that he was practically jumping off the bed. When I arrived, I asked the person I was relieving what the history of the patient was and the reason why she was on ICU. It turns out she originally came from the psych ward where she was on a 72 hour hold for overdosing on her sleeping pills, then because her pulse and blood pressure was dropping to dangerous levels, she was sent to the medical floor. When they were not able to stabilize her there, she had to be sent to the ICU. So that is where I met this totally blind but remarkable Asian woman. For privacy reasons, I will leave some personal details vague so as not to violate any laws.
***Side note: when psych patient on a 72 hour hold or more are sent to a medical floor, they are automatically on 1:1. Because this patient is blind, she was already on 1:1 on the psych unit because her condition makes her unable to protect herself in case another patient acts out.
 I first thought she was asleep when I entered the room, but she stirred while I was getting report from the outgoing shift. So I introduced myself and told her that I would be with her all night and if she needed anything, to please let me know. She asked me where I was from and I told her that I was Filipino. I was surprised when she said I didn’t sound like a Filipino because I didn’t have an accent compared to the other nurses who were talking nearby. I chuckled, thanked her and told her that my accent still comes out from time to time when under stress. So on to her story. She told me she became blind due to a gunshot wound to the head while fleeing the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities in Cambodia during the time of “The Killing Fields”. Her daughter died during that time and she escaped with other people to Thailand where she lived in a refugee camp until being transferred to the U.S. in 1979. While she was only partially blind during her escape, she became totally blind a few years after arriving in America. Even though lacking knowledge of the English language, she not only learned it but learned Braille and typing as well. In the meantime she raised two sons, one who is an engineer and the other who is unfortunately, unemployed. I didn’t ask particulars about her former family in Cambodia and new family in the U.S., however I asked if she was interested in writing about her experiences so she can share her remarkable story with more people. She said she didn’t know how to spell despite being able to speak English fairly well. Plus, it would be difficult to translate from Cambodian to Chinese, to Braille, to English. As far as she knows, there is no Chinese Braille. While in this country in recent years, she has been living independently in her own apartment despite her blindness and she said she likes to clean and cook. Heck, I’m fully sighted and I don’t even like doing those things! I was in awe while listening to the highlights of her life story because of the obstacles she had to hurdle to get to where is now, and which continues to be a challenge due to her blindness. She on the other hand began teasing me to ask one of the nurses for a date upon learning that I was a bachelor. I said, I’m pretty sure that all of those nurses were already married (which was confirmed by listening to their conversations later). Too bad, since they were quite attractive women, LOL!
In the middle of the night, the patient asked me to leave the room and call her nurse. I wondered why until she told the female nurse that she needed to use the bathroom. I wouldn’t have minded assisting her with the bedpan but I had to respect her modesty and preference for help from a female.
                The shift was pretty unremarkable as far as having to work hard. In fact it was probably one of the easiest 1:1’s I’ve had to do. And to hear her story made it even more interesting. She was such a good patient that even though she didn’t sleep well, I ended up finishing a magazine that I was reading plus 6 newspaper crossword puzzles that I had been saving for quiet nights like this. When my shift was ending she asked me if I was going to be back the next night. Most likely, I would not be, so I bid her goodbye, wished her luck, and thanked her for telling me her story.
                ***Another side note: one of the nurses asked me if I was a runner because she said my physique looked like I was one. I responded that I used to run but am no longer able to do so and that I just do cycling now and mostly stationary cycling at that. Nice to hear that I still look like a runner J.

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