From my journal
Home Care Nurse Practitioner, New England, February
This winter has had record snowstorms one after another. I have not seen the bare ground since the snow started in November. But today is a crisp clear day with brilliant blue skies. With no storms predicted and the roads cleared from the last storm, this is the perfect day to drive 30 minutes north and see Fred, one of my favorite World War 2 veterans who lives alone on a country road. His sons check on him frequently, but he still desperately misses his wife who died a few years ago. I love to talk with Fred who vacillates between laughing and crying. He’s in amazing shape for his age. Our team nurse prepours his medications in an alarmed box once a month, so we alternate our visits so one of us sees him every two weeks.
I pulled in Fred’s driveway and noticed several young men shoveling the deep snow off his roof. Numerous roofs have collapsed from the weight of 4 to 5 feet of snow because it doesn’t melt between storms. I also must try and shovel the snow off my roof when I get home tonight after work. One of the joys of being a homeowner – ugh!
I rang the doorbell and his dog began barking. He yelled, “Pam, I’ll be right there after I put my dog in the crate.” He knows our rules well that all animals must be secured before I can enter. He greeted me with a big smile and held the glass storm door open and said, “Come in! I’m so glad to see you.”
We sat at his kitchen table and I asked him the routine questions about his health, diet, sleep, and checked his medication box to make sure he had taken all his pills. We kept hearing the men pound on his roof as they shoveled the snow off. I checked his blood pressure and listened to his heart and lungs. After completing my exam and chatting a few more minutes, I put on my coat and grabbed my bag. Always the perfect gentleman, Fred thanked me for visiting him.
I opened the front door and stared at about 5 feet of snow the guys on the roof had dumped there. We both exclaimed at the same time, “Oh, no.” Fred said, “Don’t worry, I’ll let you out the garage door. We walked into his garage and he pressed the power button to automatically open the door. A wall of snow blocked my way.
“Do you have a shovel, Fred? Maybe I can dig a path out. Do you happen to have the phone number of the guys on the roof so we can call them?”
“No, my son hired them. I don’t know who they are. Here’s a shovel.”
I looked at the old coal shovel. I put down my bag and stabbed the snow with the shovel. It bounced off the frozen snow. It wasn’t the soft fluffy stuff that you see in all the movies. Nope. A solid block of almost ice. I handed Fred his shovel. He tried to call his son but there was no answer.
Fred said, “Don’t worry, Pam. I have a nice guest room where you can stay tonight.”
“That’s very kind of you, but I’m not permitted to do that. I’m going to try and climb through the snow out the front door and hope I don’t sink down too much and get stuck.”
I slung my big bag crisscross over my shoulder and climbed up the top of the pile of snow out the front door. Thankfully I didn’t get stuck and finally made it to my car. I shouted up at the guys on the roof. “Please don’t block the garage or the front door. You trapped the elderly man in there! You have to remove all this snow from the porch, sidewalk, and driveway.” They gasped and apologized, realizing their error.
I silently thanked the Lord for getting me out of that predicament and drove back to the office. I called his son and left a message on his voicemail about what had happened. He called me the next day and thanked me profusely for helping his dad.
These are the humorous sides of home care that you never hear about in nursing school. Home care is the most autonomous area of nursing because you are all alone with the patient and need to make independent decisions with creative solutions. Many times I asked God to give me wisdom and show me what to do.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5