Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lessons from the Flu

Last Sunday, after taking care of yet another Flu patient, I made the remark that it would be a miracle if I didn't get it too.
I should have kept my mouth shut.  Better yet, I should have covered it with a mask.
By Tuesday morning I knew something was wrong.  I had the kind of aches you should only get when you take up a new sport.  
By Wednesday, I was visiting the doctor, and starting on Tamiflu.
On Wednesday I commented that at least I didn't have a cough.
By Thursday I had that non-productive cough that doesn't do any good, it just wears you out and hurts you head and ribs every time you hack.

Before you ask, yes, I did get the Flu shot, and I still recommend it.
I also recommend the use of masks for staff during the Flu season because the Flu shot is not perfect.

I am the worst patient, but it's not my fault.  Nurses make notoriously poor patients and men are wimps. (We have a definition for a guy who comes in with a cold, who acts like he's on his last leg, with the family doating on him, we call it a "man cold.")
So, put those two factors together and I'm in that sub class of the worst of the worst patients.

It's not entirely my fault, I don't get a lot of practice (thank God)
The last time I was out sick was before Obama was president and we all know that's been a long time because "I won 'em both."

It's ironic that I can stand up to bosses, and administrators, and lawyers and yet it's a little virus so small that you can't see it with the eye, that takes me to my knees.
It's a lesson in humility.

There's also another lesson.
I've been out of commission all week and you know what happened?
Not all that much.
The world kept spinning, the patient 's at work were taken care of, my union duties were handled by others.

You see, it takes a team, and when one member goes down, another steps in.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Big Nursing question

"John, I'm going to have you do the code in room 7"
"How long?"
"5 minutes."

Many days in the ER are the same old same old, with the addition of being hassled about how long it took to do something and how your charting isn't perfect.
It gets old.

Then, once in a while, it's different.
You help save a life.
You guide a family though death.
You help a fellow nurse though a rough day.

"What do we know?"
"62 year old male from the casino, CPR in progress, shocked twice."

The medic and EMT roll though the door.
"62 year old male, witnessed arrest, V tach, shocked x3, intubated, Amioderone 300mg, got a pulse as we were backing up, down time 20  minutes.
IO right leg, 18 in the left AC, history MI with 3 stents, family on the way."

Short and to the point.

(He died, had no pulse, they got him back with electricity and drugs, he has a breathing tube and IV access, family will be here soon.)

The next 30 minutes are filled with a team of people doing EKGs, chest Xray, and blood work.
Orders are given, repeated back, and medications administered.
We lose the pulse, we get it back, we lose it, we get it back.
We stabilize, 
Life Star arrives, priest and family get 2 minutes, and the patient leaves.  
He'll be at the big city hospital in 12 minutes.

The "code team" was assembled in 5 minutes.
As primary nurse, I had to be the conductor of the orchestra.
The ultimate responsibility fell on the doctor and I, working together.

Driving home, I think of a question I was asked recently.
"Will you miss it if you leave?"

I answered then that I wouldn't miss the BS.

But I'll miss the days when I make a difference.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Much will be written about Martin Luther King in the next few days, about how great a man he was, about how he both lived his life and gave his life so that America could be a better place, about his unbelievable speeches and his ability to move others to action.

All true, all important.

Then I think of where we are today.

So much in the news about young black men being gunned down, of prison over crowding and the high percentage of the inmates being people of color. 

It makes you wonder, are we making progress?

A friend of mine and I were talking recently about going somewhere in southeastern Connecticut.  
She made a remark that she couldn't drive in a certain town after dark without being pulled over because she is black.
I was stunned.
There is no way I can understand this.  It falls under the category of "you have to experience some things for yourself to truly understand them." Being a white male, there is no way I can experience this.

I wanted to lash out and fight for my friend, but fight whom?  I was ashamed to be white.
Again, I wondered if we had made progress.

Then I thought about the matter of fact nature of my friend's statement.  She doesn't lay awake thinking about it. 
My reaction was much stronger than her's, I think because it surprised and disappointed me, but also because she is my good friend.
Had she been white, and bullied or discriminated against for another reason, I would have reacted much the same.

I came to know her because she is a respected leader in the labor movement, I grew to love her because she is so genuine, so loving, so honest, so much fun to be with. 
I go to her for advise because I can trust she will tell me the truth, not what I want to hear, and she will do it in an upfront but not unkind way.
She asks nothing for herself, no personal gain.  She has no hidden agenda. She cares about me for being me.
She and her sons have invited my wife and I into their lives. The are special to us.

We still have a long way to go to eliminate bigotry and discrimination.
But Dr King dreamed of a nation where his children would be judged by the content of their character.
My friend and I have come to know the content of each other's character.
That is what matters to us.
That is what is special to us.
That is what Dr King dreamed of.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Why are we here?

Why are we here?

Do we have a purpose in life, a reason we were born?

It is a question that has been asked is many different ways for millennium.
It's the question I posed to my dad when I was in my early 20s.

When will I know what it is that I'm supposed to do with my life? I asked my dad.
He answered that we don't, we just do the best we can each day.
Over the years I have toyed with the question, did he really feel that way (and was he right) or did he just tell me what I was ready to hear at the time?
When he answered this way, it took an enormous amount of self imposed pressure off me, because I felt I should know, and he said it was OK not to know.

Looking back, I realize that soon after this, I had children and keep busy with raising them, and this was a purpose.
In my 30s I was exposed to the world of nursing, though a layoff from work in the defense industry and a retraining program.  I became a Nursing Assistant and eventually a Registered Nurse and found another purpose.  Nursing is something that I never considered before, and I would not have been ready for.  I needed certain life experiences to be ready, and when I was, it seems like I was guided to discover it.
Then, in my early 50s, I was introduced to the Labor Movement.

I look back and realize that I needed all my life experiences to be ready for this too.
My first associates degree in Business, my jobs in management and as a worker, my jobs in factories, lumberyards, a research egg processing plant, and as an aircraft assembler.  I needed to see the possibility of being a good manager and the reality of working under so many poor ones. I needed to feel the sting of multiple layoffs.  I needed to see the possibility of retraining programs and to return to school later in life and everything nursing has brought me to experience.  I needed to have the challenges and rewards of raising children.

I needed to become ready for nursing.
I needed to become ready for a role in the Labor movement.

So where do I stand on my dad's answer to my question?
I change my mind all the time but I don't think I'm alone.

In the movie Forset Gump, Forest wrestles with the same question.
Lt Dan believes we all have a destiny, and feels cheated out of his.
Forest's Mama, believes that "life is like a box of chocolates, we never know what we're going to get."

Forest asks Mama the same question I asked my dad.
Forrest Gump: What's my destiny, Mama?
Mrs. Gump: You're gonna have to figure that out for yourself.

Towards the end of the movie Forest gives us his understanding of the question, at least at that point in his life.
As for me?
I guess I'm still with Forest, not entirely sure.  Maybe that's OK.
Let's listen.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Backus and L+M Locals standing up

I spent yesterday in Rocky Hill sitting next to Deb Chieppa, an IV specialty nurse and a member of my local.
She had been fired after a situation where she attempted but was unsuccessful in starting an IV on a patient.
A second IV nurse was called, and was successful on her second attempt.

Afterwards, the doctor complained that Deb should have tried again and the Hospital claimed the policy required her to attempt twice.
She was terminated for misconduct.

Deb felt, with her professional judgement based on 38 years of RN experience (23 at Backus in the IV therapy department), that further attempts by her would only harm the patient, and that perhaps a second nurse, with a fresh set of eyes, might have better luck.

It's similar to baseball.
Every team has an Ace pitcher, but some days, it's better to pull that pitcher and bring in a reliever to finish the game.
Often, a nurse will attempt only once, or not at all, if they see little chance of success.
It's really the right thing to do and the practice in real life.

We filed a grievance but could not come to an agreement, so an independent arbitrator (or judge) heard both sides and will make a decision.
We should have a decision by mid March.
That decision could be to uphold the hospital's action, to reinstate Deb with back pay and benefits, or some compromise in the middle.
How it turns out is important, but in some ways, what happened yesterday was just as important.

For the first time in the 120 year history of the hospital, an employee disagreed with management, we couldn't come to an agreement, but management didn't have the last word.

At the same time, the corporation to the south of Backus, L+M, has done it again!

You may recall they were placed on trial by the U S Government for violations of Labor Law in connection with the illegal lockout of there own employees last winter.
They were subsequently found guilty and the employees received back pay and benefits, but only after the hospital spend hundreds of thousands on lawyers and loss of public goodwill.

This time, another subsidiary, LMMG, violated the law by denying it's employees the right to free speech in the workplace as it pertained to speaking about a union, during an organizing campaign.
This repeated, blatant disregard for the law shocks me.
The trial will be in March.

They are a corporation chartered to do good for the community and they repeatedly break the law and deny their employees basic rights guaranteed under US and state law and contained in our constitution!

The only explanation is that they feel they are above the law.

They are not, and thank God the AFT locals of L+M are there to stand up to them and bring it to the attention of federal prosecutors.

These two situations are connected by this common thread.
They would not have occurred without the employees standing together, speaking with one voice, forming a union, and having a contract.

The individual voice speaking out is important, but when we speak out together, we have strength.