Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Seek and You Shall Find: Birthday Treasures on the Night Shift

I've seen some pretty filthy O.R.'s, the kind that can gross you out every time you walk into one of them. I've seen O.R.'s where it wouldn't have been unheard-of to find a decades-old blood stain on a piece of equipment that had never been washed properly, or crusted mucus from some prior case...I mean, eeeeww.

So when I interviewed for the job I have now, and saw the spacious, orderly, immaculate O.R.s here, I felt like saying, sign me up. They are clean and beautiful and there's plenty of room for everyone, and I realized you just can't underestimate the importance of work environment, both physically and psychologically in terms of group dynamics, and its impact on work stress.

The reason our O.R.'s are so beautiful is Barb. Barb cleans them expertly ever night. Whenever I am on-call and the main O.R. is a ghost-town, lonely and occasionally even a little spooky, Barb and the night anesthesia tech, Wayne, make the place a little brighter. They joke around with each other and with me and are always pleasant to talk to.

After a quick C-section tonight for which the spinal went in within 60 seconds, thank heavens, I was feeling a little less blue about call. We had just helped bring a beautiful baby girl safely into the world. Her family were abuzz with happiness and excitement in the waiting area, eager to welcome her at the nursery window. The silver lining to my cloud was in great shape.

When I went back down to the main O.R., Wayne told me that it was Barb's birthday. I felt the immediate need to celebrate. I annouced we would be having a party in O.R. 2 and I set about to see what we could do. Barb said she liked chocolate, and luckily I had a brand new, unopened tin of Hershey milk chocolate truffles in my bag (of course). We found a donut in the pantry and put an upside-down syringe on it for a candle with orange-red succinylcholine stickers for flames. We put a little anthropomorphized hand-exerciser from a pharm rep in a denture cup and used surgical tape to affix a hand-made card to an instrument table. Finally we were able to use some anesthesia drug labels, which consist of color-coded tape, for a garland, though we ended up not using the 4-0 vicryl sutures to string it up. We were ready.

We brought Barb into O.R. 2, now spotless thanks to her hard work, and had, for a moment, the most cheerful time on a call night that I can remember.

It was so nice to just talk about life and family with Barb and Wayne. Barb has two teenage kids and a 4-year-old son who jumped on her bed this morning to sing "Happy Birthday" to her. She's only 4 years my senior.

We started talking about another member of the housekeeping staff who wasn't here, a shy, polite guy who always has a kind word for me when I come in for work. I've been saying hi to him for a year without realizing all that time that he was hard of hearing and needed to read my lips. Wayne told me he walks six miles to and from the hospital every day, even in the winter, because he can't afford to do otherwise.

There's always an untold story, isn't there, behind every face, and hearing it can sometimes be a humbling experience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was so sweet! I especially liked the candle(with fake flame of course)