“Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.” ~ Robert Morgan.
I have nothing but fond memories of my days as a student nurse. In the traditional way, student nurses spent most of their time on the wards, having a work schedule just like any other employee. In fact, before I had been on the wards for six months I was already working the night shift. The hospital had been founded in the 18th century, although the building I trained in was more recent. Still, many of the wards were the old fashioned long halls, with twenty or more beds which could be curtained off for privacy. Hard to imagine now.
But my favorite rotation was on the Neurosurgical unit, a more recent and modern addition. Here there were no more than six beds per room, some with even less. The nursing care was excellent, and despite the fact that some of the patients would be comatose, no patient ever developed a pressure ulcer. Not only was every patient turned and repositioned every two hours, but even the unconscious patients would be given a ‘Swedish bath’. Patients could be transported to this tub on a specially designed stretcher, the bed of which could be pushed over and into the bath, so that the patient was submerged but safely attached to the stretcher bed. Even to the unconscious that must have felt far more natural than the usual bed bath.
But there were other pieces of equipment far less modern. In the days before single-use disposable plastic liners, many containers were made of glass. Blood transfusions arrived in glass bottles. The suction canisters used for chest tubes and wall suction were made of glass. I never forget the night a confused older patient decided that the young man sleeping across the room was a threat to him and pulled a glass bottle off the wall, throwing it with a strong arm and good aim, and clocked the sleeping patient on his head. For some reason the injured patient could not see the humor in the situation!
At one point in my life when work and kids consumed most of my waking hours, I was a book addict. I would go to the library and collect six or seven books at a time and escape to the world of fiction. One of my favorite authors wrote murder mysteries set in the Southwest. Not only were the stories captivating, but the writing painted a clear picture of the exotic scenery of the area with buttes and arroyos, and the characters were mostly Native American, so there were many cultural, spiritual and educational elements as well. Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn was one of the leading men. When trying to solve a crime he would place push pins (thumb tacks, drawing pins) onto a map on the wall indicating the location of any of the events, homes, clues, associated with the crime. His theory was that there is always a pattern. Even if you cannot see it, if you pull back far enough, a pattern will emerge.
This week marked the anniversary of a tragedy I had never heard of before. In Boston, in 1919, a storage tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst, sending a flood of molasses through the streets. The sticky tsunami travelled at a rate of 35 mph, so as you can imagine, people in the area were not able to escape it. 21 people were killed and 150 were injured. What was most interesting to me was the fact that the lawsuit which followed was the first case where expert witnesses were called to critique the design of the storage tank, the deficiencies of the structure, the architecture and the engineering. Apparently, it was one of the first class-action suits to be brought against a corporation and it became the basis for regulations and standards to make for a safer world. I am sure that those who lost family members, or who suffered as a result of this tragedy, could not appreciate that the loss of life and limb became the catalyst for change. A hundred years later it is far easier to be grateful for what developed because of their death.
When we are immersed in our own lives, in the daily struggles and challenges, it is often hard to gain perspective. Whether it is the trying to juggle an overcommitted life, or more serious matters of life and death, we may be totally unable to see beyond the steps in front of our faces. It may be that ‘one day at a time’ becomes our mantra. But it is good to reflect that if we can pull back a bit we may be able to see a bigger picture, put it in perspective, and see the pattern that lets us know that we will get through this.
Sometimes it is a sense of humor that helps to change your point of view. Nurses survive long shifts and harrowing emotional events by retelling stories with a twisted sense of humor. When we can laugh at ourselves and not take things too seriously, we are able to recognize that we have the strength to overcome and in someone’s famous words, this too shall pass.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family! May you be able to laugh at life’s problems, and gain the perspective necessary to see all of life’s challenges as temporary.