In praise of a good nurse

At first I was only dimly aware of a discomfort in my side as I chatted with our Sunday guests. I tried to keep up my end of the conversation as the discomfort made itself felt more keenly. Half an hour later I could no longer ignore the pain; I told our guests I was not feeling well and had to go and lie down.

Lying on the bed didn’t make the pain go away. Instead, it continued to increase. Our guests soon left and I began to walk around the house in a not fully erect position. To complicate matters, my mother had been visiting from Saskatchewan and needed to soon get to the airport to return home.

I knew that I couldn’t drive; what I really needed was for someone to drive me to the hospital. Our daughter was at home and offered to take Grandma to the airport in her car. That solved one problem. We left Grandmother and Granddaughter to look after the airport run and my wife drove me to the hospital closest to our home in Montreal.

The trip to the hospital was agony. By this time there was no position that really eased the pain; I couldn’t sit, lie down or stand upright. I found the pain bothered me a little less if I would stand in a somewhat crouched position and slowly shuffle around.

By this time I knew the pain was being caused by a kidney stone looking for an exit from my body. The nurse at admitting told me that the old people used to drink a bottle of beer at times like this. That made some sense to me, having had prior experience of the urinary system flushing properties of beer. But this was a hospital and she had no beer to offer.

I was taken to a bed and a young nurse tried to insert an IV needle into my right hand in order to hook me up to a pain killer drip. She made several unsuccessful attempts, then gave up and asked another nurse to take over. He tried several times, without success, then  he also gave up and went to talk to the head nurse.

The head nurse was a tall, broad-shouldered black lady with an air of authority. She probably could have been intimidating if she had tried. Instead, she kindly told me: “You have to hold still. If you pull your hand away every time the needle touches you, the nurses can’t get the IV in.” I hadn’t even been aware that I had been doing that, probably too keenly aware of the pain in my side. She then took my left hand, I held it still, and she inserted the needle almost painlessly. The pain killer began to flow and soon the pain in my side was gone.

The kidney stone must have left at some point also and I was able to return home later that evening. The next day, there was the tiniest pin point bruise where the needle had been inserted on my left hand. On the other hand, the right, there were shades of  black, blue, purple, yellow and green that lasted for days. A reminder that I should be thankful for a nurse who understood the problem and how to deal with this uncooperative patient.

I never did try the beer cure. I had quit drinking it some years earlier because of thee stupid stuff I did after a few beers. I realized, though, that the suggestion had some merit. Ever since I have tried to drink enough liquids every day to flush out any traces of kidney stones before they became large enough to cause such distress.

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