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Rescue Ninjas-Sisters and brothers of nagging, bossiness, and no mercy

I could say that without the intervention of all the doctors that have worked with me in the past year I would not be here. Starting with Dr. Bill who was awesome with making sure it wasn’t just pneumonia and Doc Reddy helping me out through the initial steps and transition to philly and who can forget Dr. Teddy bear himself, Neil Flamenburg. There are other doctors out there that could take the credit or the blame (I’m looking at you interns and Jefferson ER docs) for my medical care and one day I will get more specific on them. Sure, Space and my mother were instrumental in my care and keeping up with my many ailments, mood swings and progeny. But today is dedicated to the ones that did the bulk of the work. The nurses or as I have started calling them recently, Rescue Ninjas (RN). I do not want to exclude the Nurse Practitioners that were there for me in my darkest times and my best times. So don’t let me forget them.
Before this ordeal I had not had a lot of experience with nurses. Most of my experience came from the Psycho. There were the amazing nurses that gave me a bad look when they realized I was giving Space different colored popscicles so she would throw up rainbows during the birthing process. Those same nurses were nice enough to put a chair behind me for when the time came for the Psycho to make her debut. From that point, it was pediatric nurses. Only on rare occasion did I speak to a nurse for my behalf. I just didn’t go to doctors much. That has changed. So really I did not know what to expect. Actually, I had no expectations at all. That is the best way to take these types of things because TV lies to you.
TV lies to you. That should be the 11th commandment. Let me sum this up. There are only two medical shows that I have watched in the past few years M*A*S*H and Grey’s Anatomy. M*A*S*H is a very different category but Grey’s Anatomy just has it all wrong. Lets get the first point out of the way. I have it on good authority that there is no way interns have that much energy for all of that sex. It is just not happening. Second, I will start with advice. Don’t ever let a doctor take blood, perform the x-ray, hook up an infusion, place a central line, or start an IV. They have no idea how to do it and if they did it has been years since they would have had to do it on a cadaver that doesn’t feel pain and can’t re-die when they botch it. That is what the Rescue Ninjas do. There are some exceptions with specialties like anesthesia and I drew a blank on another example but you get the idea.
The Rescue Ninjas do the real work so lets start from the beginning. Or at least the Chemo. My first few rounds of Chemo were done at Vanderbilt and it was before I got my wonderful PICC line. They made sure I was sitting in comfort before they took care to stick me for the IV. The chemo I was on at the time gave me red urine afterward. They were nice enough to warn me and tried to keep track of me so I did not show any reactions. Unfortunately, at Vanderbilt they switched up who was taking care of me at the infusions so I never was able to retain their names. I had also spent some time as an inpatient there and again they were awesome. At one point, my veins were collapsing from IV needles. I had one in each arm. After the first two went, the later sticks would either collapse in short order or it would be a total miss. My Rescue Ninjas knew they were outmatched by my vein situation and made sure to have the Phlebotomist specialist come up when blood needed to be drawn. It didn’t take much time before the decision to have my PICC line put in. Then they showed me how to wrap it up when I needed to shower because the PICC is not supposed to get wet.
As awesome as the nurses were at Vanderbilt the Rescue Ninjas at Jefferson were even more awesomemer. Well, it all depends on how you look at it. I had gone into the hospital for my second cycle of R-ICE and everything went south real quick. It was my Rescue Ninjas that were on top of it all to get me the help I needed right then and there. They were also the ones that insisted on me calling for them when I needed to get up, which was usually only to use the toilet. There were many a time when I was really to weak and disoriented to really take care of some of the most basic of tasks. Of course I was bullheaded as usual and insisted on trying to do this stuff by myself. That is why they set the bed alarm but I learned how to turn it off. One Rescue Ninja named Thuy figured this out and would somehow always find a way to be there when I was trying to sneak out of the bed after turning off the alarm. At one point I think there was a conspiracy to put me in one of the rooms closest to the nurses station for this very purpose.
There were the drugs that I was getting prescribed to me and they insisted that I actually take them. Some insisted that I take the pills on their schedule. At times they stood over me till I swallowed them all. I was having a real bad gag reflex and they were ready to hand me the basin for tossing my cookies into. Eventually, they tended to realize that I was on my own schedule and an agreement had been reached where if I got to them before the end of the shift it was okay.
The eating was another story, all together. I had stopped eating during the Long stay and they were getting fed up with it. The NP (Tina) that pre-rounded on me finally got fed up with me and did not let me get away with the lame excuse that I was not hungry. It was a fight she took on because she knew she would win. On a later visit she got on me because I was eating fruit when I needed protein instead. I did eat but it was her efforts and collaboration with Space that started getting me stuff that I would eat and was good for me.
I am still trying to figure out a way apologize to the Rescue Ninja that broke my fall when my blood pressure dropped and I passed out. I did hit the floor but it would have been much worse if she was not in my way. There was this big push to get me to get up and walk the halls and sit in the chair that was in the room. I was never really up to it in those early stays plus I hate walking with that damnable IV pole. So when I started paying attention I had put together a Duff Bill of Rights which was a compromise where I wasn’t going to sit in the chair because it sucked and the best chances to get me to walk was when I was not hooked up to the IV pole. Other “requests” included trying to bunch the infusions together to spend less time on the IV pole and to reduce the amount of times I was woken up in the middle of the night. My Ninjas looked at my wish list and did everything they could to help me out. They were enthusiastic about my walking the halls and only harped on me when I was supposed to wear a mask and I had “forgot.”
I realize that this all goes with the job description of Rescue Ninja but I know at times I can be real difficult. That might be an understatement. On top of that it was at times hard for them to understand what I was saying. I would have to rethink what I had said and put it back into english and I know that was frustrating for them.
I want to get back to the fabulous Nurse Practitioners that have been a big part of my care these past few months. I have already mentioned Tina. Her and Patty were the NPs that took care of me when I was an inpatient. They loved to come in at 7:30 AM or earlier to wake me up and ask me questions. In the early stays I was at least an hour from waking up and I was not pleased. I had viewed them as some sort of torture device set upon me. The worst part was that a doctor, Ninja and an intern (there is a difference) would come in separately just as I would get back to sleep from each visit and ask me the same questions each time. I had suggested that the should get together and do it all at the same time. Tina informed me that was what rounds were for. In any case, the patience they exhibited with me was awesome. As Yoda had said, “There is another.” Rose is Dr. Weis’s NP and she has been a huge help with getting all of my questions answered and keeping up with my meds and how I have progressed. With Rose there is no mentioning anything to her that is supposed to be held in confidence. Part of her job is to communicate with Dr. Weis before he sees me. I had mentioned at one point that my potasium levels were holding pretty steady and I had not taken the prescribed supplement for about a week. Dr. Weis came in and said that I might as well stop taking the potasium since it already looked like I was off of them anyways. She also narc’d me out when I signed up for the marathons in the fall and winter.
Since Patty and Rose see me in different capacities they really have varied experiences with me. But one thing stands out. They have both seen me at my most vulnerable. The bone marrow biopsy. It is this procedure where Rose discovered that there is not enough lydocaine in the world that can numb me up. The thing is that the process is poking a whole in my hind parts, drilling a small whole in my hip bone, sucking out some marrow and taking a piece of bone. Well, I am bent over the table with my britches pulled down and I am feeling it all so there are sailors outside the hospital that are blushing. I have a death grip on the bed and at times I am screaming and pounding on the wall. Part of me hopes they never have to have it done to them but another part of me thinks they should get it done themselves.
Now onto the infusions at Jefferson. They try to make the experience as pleasant and normal as possible. This is where the outpatient chemo is administered and the other drugs. One of the ways they achieve this is by assigning you to a Ninja’s care. In my case, my Ninja’s name is Andrea. So over the past 8 months when I go in to get antibiotics, a blood transfusion or what ever the Doc sees fit to inject into me it was Andrea overseeing my care. The only hiccup in this plan was the weekends but that was okay. I cannot thank Andrea enough for being my Ninja and one day I know I will stop getting infusions; I will miss her and all the other staff at the Infusion center.
To put some more on that point. It has been two months since my last stay and I was missing my inpatient ninjas so a couple of weeks ago Space and I walked around the hall ways of the 3rd floor and saw a few of them and talked for a minute or two. When this is all done, I will miss but never forget (names not included) my Rescue Ninjas. They are the real gears that make this whole machine work.


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