Saturday, 23 March 2013

Breath by Breath in an Empty Nest

I dropped off my beloved at Pearson for his return to Barbados as the project draws very close to something Derek refers to as "kick off". This means for us, as a couple, more distance and more time apart. This is not new to us. The difference now is that the nest, without the 3 sticky kids and without a spouse, is really quite empty.

I zipped back up to The Big Smoke (Orangeville) and actually got to work early. The hospital is a whole different place at 0715. Pie-eyed nurses are changing shifts, praying their car is not covered in snow. The emergency dept is unusually quiet. The parking lot is being cleared for another day of wobbly patients. The best thing though was the fact that I had time for breakfast. Headwaters is an amazing community hospital with it's true claim to fame, beyond state of the art medical care is the cafeteria. The food is well known. The ladies are gems. People come here just to eat. So I had breakfast. It was egg McShirley and could not be beat.  


The next 3 days were what I would consider challenging days. I saw many very sick patients. The routine I put my patients through to assess their lung function, is rigorous when someone is already exhausted. I ask them to blow hard and fast and long, much like a labour coach. I make them hold their breath. I make them breathe "normally" with a snorkel mouthpiece and nose clips on. It is a compromise between getting the best test results while still respecting this persons limitations. This week has been one of patience and understanding for an unusually large number of very sick people. Basically the rule of thumb is "how would I like my parents to be treated" and I try to go with this.  

My role in lung health is to attempt to identify lung disease and intervene and educate where I can to help slow or control the process. My role is not one of a Respiratory Therapist. These are the young keen kids I work with and for whom I have the greatest respect. RTs can do what I do. I cannot do what they do. These are the people you want there in an emergency. You don't want someone people refer to as "pokey". My fear is to be mistaken for an RT so when there is a "code blue" I hide in the closet. 

 I spent a morning this week with a team of people who work to make us aware of the campaigns and resources available to guide our patients in the process of quitting smoking. This is a role I take very seriously. There are so many factors in the decision to smoke and the decision to quit. I do not stand in judgement as a nonsmoker when I speak with my patients. Vices are vices. I have taken a 3 day course on smoking cessation counselling. I wish there was a 3 day course to help people break me of my addiction to Ben and Jerry's. Who am I to judge. As one of the team very wisely commented "if health were easy we would all be healthy" 

Another thing I encountered this week was a profound sadness in 2 of my patients. They recounted the loss of their husbands like it was yesterday. This attachment in later years is something of which I am becoming more aware. I will remind myself of this the next time I have the opportunity to spend another 6 weeks in Barbados. 

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