Monday, February 06, 2006

Putting Out Fires

Putting out fires---that's really what I do all day. Out of eighty-two chronically ill people, there's always someone in need of succor or assistance. This one's out of the country and her antiretrovirals seem to have been confiscated by customs when her son tried to mail them to her from the U.S.. This other one is so depressed she couldn't muster the energy to call me to tell me she's out of antidepressants and feels like dying. That one over there seems to have recurrent cancer and the surgeon is slow to respond to my calls. Then the one in the corner just can't seem to pay attention long enough to move forward, consistently taking a few steps back just when I think there's some evolution in the air.

The beeper, the cell phone, the voicemail, the emails---it all cascades through the day and I ride the waves of stress, my equanimity occasionally the victim during the melee. Multiple Post-It notes litter my desk (and pockets); the Palm Pilot is crammed with reminders, appointments, alarms, and notes to jog my taxed memory. It's like juggling dozens of balls covered with discarded gum, some balls sticking to my hands, others bouncing beneath the desk. I stuff a few in the file cabinet but they seem to reproduce while I'm in the bathroom catching my breath and relieving my screaming bladder.

Moments of respite do occur: I stop amidst the torrent to stare at Mary's photo on my desk, a flutter in my stomach as I think of her. I visit a former patient who recently returned from a trip to her country of origin. She gifts me with a lovely pair of leather sandals, the perfect size for me. She tells me that God put me in her life's path. Perhaps we'll go out for pizza next month. I visit another patient on the way home. We have a very congenial relationship; he records movies onto DVDs for me. Today's gift was a pirated copy of Ground Hog Day with Bill Murray. Then I help him set up his new police scanner. (Did they talk about squelch knobs and MHz in nursing school?)

Coming home is the balm my soul has cried out for all day. Mary and I massage each other's backs, take a hot bath, fix dinner, feed the dogs, and chat about our days. Nothing could be finer....

Tomorrow the circus resumes, followed by an evening of teaching at the community college. How long 'til Friday?

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