Monday, September 18, 2006

Navigating the Seas

They all seem to be navigating the seas of illness and the healthcare system. Doors close, doors open, opportunities are squandered, some forever lost. We serve as lighthouses, buoys, but sometimes even we can't save them.

There are surprises: a patient will take it upon themselves to advocate, to go after what they want, self-refer if need be, and make enough noise to be heard above the din. Of my eighty-three souls for whom I have been given some modicum of responsibility, the squeaky wheels do indeed get the grease. The ones who call constantly, ask for help, push for results, they receive the lion's share of my attention, by default. The others, the silent ones, they get drummed up when I have time to pursue them, as I poke in the corners of my case-load for hangers-on who just don't seem to connect the dots, or perhaps care not to do so. Even so, I seek them out and attempt to shine the light of compassion upon them. Some refuse, and they stay in the corners, still on my radar, faint bleeps of presence on the periphery.

Meanwhile, as some hover in the wings, others enter stage left with a flourish, demanding attention, flaunting their needs, shouting their ills to the seats in the balcony. Me, I'm in the orchestra, and I heed their call and strike up the band to accompany their soliloquy, make sense of their chaos, and elucidate what costumes and props we'll need for the next scene. Some scenes necessitate elaborate choreography, others are like a play by Sartre---stark, without affect, moving yet in no need of ostentatious staging. Still others are like a scene from Fellini, too difficult to describe----you just have to be there.

Our office would make a great prime-time drama: "Nurses on the Edge". There's drama, sex, violence, gangs, passion, drugs, crime, wisdom, tears, uproarious laughter. I think I'd want to be played by Ben Stiller (he played a Jewish male nurse in Meet the Parents, after all).

These seas are rough, and today I longed for a life-boat, or at least to exit gracefully stage left. But before I mix any more metaphors tonight, I'll simply admit that it's a wild ride, and I guess I'll hang on for dear life for a while longer. The life-jacket's at the ready, the life-boat a resume away.......
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