February 8, 2017
Los Angeles, California
One of the perks of being an oncology nurse where I work is that you get to give chemo ‘off-ward’, that is, patients not accomodated on our floor needing treatments will have said treatments administered them, wherever they may be, courtesy of a qualified RN. The task is pretty much straightforward: give the doggone chemo, then sit, — this would encompass active monitoring of the patient and timely charting of findings, by the way — wait, and hope nothing happens during the treatment. Standing is only necessary when taking vital signs. However, if the patient happens to be hooked up to a continuous monitoring apparatus, as the case would be in an ICU setting, being on your two feet becomes optional. Well, maybe not entirely as you still need to leave your chair to take temperatures. That only happens twice however within a graveyard shift. And who is to say you cannot just roll yourself closer to the patient, and with her consent place the probe in her mouth, all while sitting down? Splendid idea, but ah too late. Too late.
So there I was inside a dimly lit and mildly algid room, mainly sitting, mainly doing nothing, occasionally attending to the monitor above that, over time, strangely became a form of entertainment:
‘Look at those waves … no, no, those are shark fins … ohhh, that was the biggest shark yet! Check out those mesas! — Dang it, when will I get to see the Grand Canyon? Zion? Bryce?’
The nurses outside engaged in a little bit of causerie here and there, and though objectionable was the hubbub effected, it turned out to be a necessary evil. Don’t take me wrong; I duly observe the charge Quiet please. Healing taking place printed on signs and posted on the different wards. My only patient, however, was peaceably asleep notwithstanding all. In fact, she was snoring ever so gently and with a cadence redolent to a lullaby it was tugging at me closer to her current state of consciouness. It was I, hence, that needed the distraction to fulfill my noble obligations of sitting, of mainly doing nothing, of waiting, of hoping.
When all the gabbing and the cackling outside faded to a halt, the battle to remain awake deepened. All of a sudden, the subtle whooshing of air from the vent, the monotonous whirring of electricity from nearby devices, and even the sound created by the inflating and deflating pressure cuff, which was set to go at mid-hour intervals, formed a languorous ensemble, with my patient’s snoring assuming the part of lead vocalist. The whole thing was a crime in the making. Law enforcement against such trespasses doesn’t exist. I had no other recourse but to go vigilante.
So I read a novel. I free wrote. But when all these proved ineffective, I took my sketchbook out from my backpack, sat cattywampus from her bed and sketched the singer-culprit with what little light available.
In the end, I survived the crime. The criminal I took captive within a cell of my sketchbook — yes, asleep — but nevertheless, safe, secure and held without bail.