Christian Single, College of Nursing, General Nursing

Trapped on the Stretcher

From my Journal

College Sophomore – Autumn 1974

“Class, after you finish making an occupied bed, raise the side-rails, and put the bed in the low position. Make sure the patient is comfortable and all desired items are within reach including the call bell. Answer call lights quickly so that patients learn to trust you and do not feel the need to get out of bed without help. Tell your patient when you will next check him and be prompt,” instructed Professor Z. during our Nursing Fundamentals Skills Lab.

February, 2008 – Emergency Room Patient – 2 a.m.

I lay on the stretcher with my head throbbing from the gash where I fainted at home alone an hour ago. I had walked to the kitchen to get some ice for my high fever when I lost consciousness. I woke up on my dining room floor in total darkness confused as to how I got there. God brought to my remembrance my cell phone in my pocket and I called 911, too weak to even sit up. About five minutes later, the wonderful paramedics arrived in the snowstorm at my locked deck door. I managed to scoot over and reach up and undo the lock. They gently applied a dressing to my bleeding head, loaded me on the stretcher, and carried me out into the bitter cold to the ambulance. I begged them not to turn on the siren because of my throbbing head. They complied since there was no traffic at 2 a.m.

They placed me on a stretcher in a private room in the emergency room.

When we arrived at the local hospital, they wheeled me into a private room in the emergency room (ER). The ER nurse started an IV in my arm and poured the fluids into me because of my low blood pressure. They did a nasal swab for flu which came back positive. The masked doctor walked in, introduced himself, and said he would close my scalp wound with staples. I felt the prick of the lidocaine needle followed by stinging and numbness a few minutes later. I heard the “clunk, clunk, clunk…” about ten times from the staple gun.  He ordered a brain CT scan to see if I had any internal bleeding. The doctor and nurse walked out of the room and closed the door to maintain my isolation for the flu virus.

After nearly a liter of IV fluids, I needed the bedpan. I fumbled for my call light among the blankets. Where was it? I slowly turned my head and saw it lying on the shelf out of reach. I called as loudly as possible, “Nurse, Nurse!” I knew no one could hear me through the thick door. I prayed, “Dear Lord, Please send me someone soon to help me so I won’t wet the bed. You know how miserable I feel.” The minutes ticked by as my bladder became more uncomfortable. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes…..I couldn’t hold my urine any longer and wet the stretcher as my tears wet my pillow.

The door opened about 10 minutes later and I told the nurse what had happened. She gasped and apologized for not giving me the call bell. She said they had a patient who had a cardiac arrest and I told her I understood. The tech came in and together they cleaned me up as I painfully and slowly rolled side to side on the narrow stretcher. They sent me for the CT scan which showed I did not have any internal bleeding.

They admitted me and monitored me for the next four days. They started me on Tamiflu medicine which shortened the course of the flu from two weeks to a few days. They diagnosed me with a concussion and discharged me home to recover.

I have never forgotten how helpless, isolated, and deserted I felt during those long minutes on the stretcher when I didn’t have my call light.

While I waited for my brain to heal from the concussion, I wondered if my headache, dizziness, weakness would ever go away. My nurse practitioner said no one could tell me if or when my brain would heal. Would I ever be able to read or drive again? I asked God to heal me or show me how to live alone in my weakened condition. I thanked Him when He brought to mind all the verses I had memorized and that I could listen to Bible messages and comforting music.

I called a friend who was a pain specialist physician and asked him if he had any recommendations? He suggested my nurse practitioner order gabapentin which is used successfully for headaches from concussions. She agreed and started me at a very small dose of 100 mg. at night since it makes one even dizzier initially. On the fourth night, she increased it to 200 mg. and on the seventh night to 300 mg. My headaches and dizziness finally went away, and I slowly began to feel like my old self. After about a month, I was able to taper off the medication.

Three months later, I thanked God for letting me return to my job as a Nurse Practitioner in the nursing home. I  triple checked to ensure all my patients had their call light before I left their room.

I also thank God that even though people may forget me, He never forgets or leaves me or any of His dear children.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have engraved thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” Isaiah 49:15-16 (KJV)

  “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5 (KJV)

I was richly blessed in reading a selection from Miles J. Stanford’s None But the Hungry Heart.

“We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper much first be a sufferer. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” II Corinthians 1:4   The school of suffering graduates rare scholars. It is but a little while and He will appear to answer all inquiries and to wipe away all tears. I would not wish, then, to be of those who had none to wipe away. Would you?”

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17

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