Friday, January 21, 2011

Jelco Junkie

The interns are flat out today. One of our patients on another ward requires a new cannula, and having been judged as almost competent, I am sent off to do it.

As I enter the patient's room, two nurses look me up and down and say, "this must be the Jelco lady. Heh. Heh." When I ask if he is difficult to cannulate, one just says "look at his skin". I glance at the man's arms - crusted skin and bleeding sores. Beautiful.

I busily started preparing the equipment - open the packets, loosen the bung, draw up the saline flush. The 80-something patient proceeds to tell me about himself: "I'm ready to die. If I fell over in the parking lot, I wouldn't mind. Well I WOULDN'T mind, coz I'd be dead, but you know, I'm ready. My wife and I don't worry about dying, because we know the other one would soon follow. Our house is paid for, even our funerals are paid for - we're ready." He doesn't look like he's about to die, and he's in for an elective procedure, but I appreciate the information. "I'll try not to knock you off with this cannula" I inform him, "But at least now I won't feel so bad if I accidentally do". He considers this for a while, and then laughs.

Tightening the tourniquet, I begin searching his arms for a usable vein beneath the crusted sores. He decides that he recognises me from ward round, remembering the buckles on my shoes, before declaring that black suits me ("credit where credit's due" he says). He also admires my tan and tells me that I'll make someone a good wife one day. Oh, good.

There are no visible veins on the backs of his hands, nothing on the wrists, nothing on the backs of the forearms. I search and search, twisting his arm into awkward positions until I spot the "Duchess vein" (I'll tell you about this sometime. An intern taught me about it this morning). Perfectly straight, it runs from his wrist to his elbow. He obligingly holds his arm in an awkward twisted position as I insert the cannula. Success!

Eager to escape back to the Vascular ward, I gather the equipment back into its plastic tray, inform the nurse that the cannula is in (she looks pleasantly surprised), and hurry towards the door. Swerving a large yellow object, I find myself flying through the air as my feet go one way and my head goes the other way. I let go of the plastic tray and crash to the ground in a loud clatter of spare cannulae, sharps container and human body.

Nobody sees me fall, but I have made such a noise that by the time I stand up there are at least 6 nurses hovering in an anxious circle around me, "Are you ok, did you hurt yourself, are you sure you're ok, (she went down on her knees you know), you have to make sure you're not hurt". I am so embarrassed that I can only excuse myself and run away.

It is not until I glance balefully back at the 'yellow object' that I realise it is a Wet Floor sign, and not until I get back to the ward that I notice my scraped hand and bruised knee. But at least I got that cannula in.

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