Wednesday, September 28, 2005

She Wore a Raspberry....Guillotine?

Why are adolescents so crazy-making to their parents?

Gavin and I just came off a week and half of the silent treatment...all because Evil Overlord Mom insisted that the lawn had to be mowed, and when it wasn't, draconian measures were instituted (gasp! no computer games for a week! oh, the horror of it all!).

Anyway, on the drive to school this morning, glaciers thawed, and Gavin informed me that one of his friends feels compelled to write the complete history of Candyland.

Candyland (for those of you who have successfully avoided or blocked out any memory or connection to toddlers) is a very simple board game which has been around for at least 40 years. Players roll dice and draw cards and move a gingerbread-man-shaped token through various kingdoms of candy, ruled over by monarchs such as Mr. Mint, King Kandy, and Queen Frostine.

Both my kids were fascinated by Candyland until they were about four. I finally got smart and started stacking the deck so that a) the child could win the game quickly (but not too quickly, otherwise we'd have to play again) and b) so that I wouldn't draw either Queen Frostine or Princess Lolly too early in the game, because either of those is pretty much a guaranteed win...and an early win is OK if it's the KID winning; if it's the parent's early win, then you may have to play it 2 or 3 MORE times.

OK, I thought; so he's interested in the history of board games and that one's been around awhile.

But no. No, this is a history of CANDYLAND, in which civil war erupts between Princess Lolly and Queen Frostine, Lord Licorice attempts to infiltrate King Kandy's domain by employing Mr. Mint as a spy, Grandma Nutt is consumed by Gloppy, the Chocolate Swamp Monster, and then the peasants revolt, kill all the heads of state with the Raspberry Guillotine...and eventually Candyland is subsumed into the Hapsburg Empire, sometime around 1600.

Maybe "The Candyman" was their national anthem?

I have to admit, it makes those seemingly endless games of Candyland much better in retrospect...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tuesday Self Portrait -- Gemini

Robyn and I have been friends since the 5th grade. Although she's lived in California for a very long time (while I'm here in Oklahoma), whenever we get to see each other, it's as though no time has passed inbetween. We considered each other's parents our own, never bothered to knock when entering the other's house, and traded clothes, notes, books, letters, and artwork. She's the most creative and artistic person I think I've ever met; especially when it comes to fabric arts (Rog comes close, though, and has the upper hand when it comes to pencil portraits).

We are twins of the heart.

I got to spend a few days with her when I went to Dana Point for the research meeting; I took her a suitcase loaded with fabric, and she took me to the beach.

Back in junior high, in the 70s, we were tan fanatics. This time, while sitting in the sand side by side, I was thinking about all the times we'd lie in the sun in our bikinis...that wonderful sensation as the sunshine lies heavy on your body and you just exist and soak up the rays...and she looked at my legs and said, "Jodie! Your legs are so white!" I think, OK, I know I look like a zombie, but do you have to rub it in? And then Robyn continues, "They are SOOOO BEAUTIFUL! I wish my legs were that white!"

You can know someone for all your life, and they can STILL surprise you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Nurse: Superhero, Villain...or Vampire?

Yesterday evening, after putting in a full day at my research job, I had to go to CAPE class for my second (psych) job.

Like many caregiver classes offered through the hospital, it was mandatory so we all get paid to take it, which is a good thing since it ate up six hours of my limited free time.

CAPE, or "Creating a Positive Environment", is more or less a method for deflating aggression, and if that doesn't work, using some skills to A) escape from a violent patient or B) help someone else escape from a violent patient. Unfortunately, it doesn't involve anything cool like kung fu moves or 007 style equipment.

First we got to practice using all the restraints in our arsenal, from the 5 point leathers (wrists, ankles, and waist) to the fabric restraints which are really more to help very old, ill, or confused patients from falling out of bed or a chair, to the restraints which are considered to be "medical immobilization" (such as restraining an arm for a minute or so while you put in an IV). The big difference between "restraints" and "medical immobilization" is that the nurse has to have an MD's order for a restraint, it has to be charted on frequently (depending on the type), and the patient has to be checked continuously for some and frequently for the others...while for a "medical immobilization", none of that has to occur.

We had to practice tying each other up in this stuff and then undoing it. Since you have to assume your patient doesn't want to have restraints, you have to realize you'll be trying to put these unwieldy things onto someone who's flailing and angry, so practice is good. It was a little spooky when my partner put leathers on me and I realized that even though the wrist restraint was on the smallest hole, I could STILL pull my hand out...which means a patient could, too. And we got to hear all the horror stories about patients who were put into the fabric restraints the wrong way and managed to suffocate themselves, which was NOT a cheery experience.

Then we got to practice our moves...what to do if someone grabs your arm, your clothes, your hair, bites you, grabs you in a bearhug, tries to choke you, puts you in a full nelson, tries to hit you with something, how to block a punch or a kick, how to hold a patient so they can't hurt you, how to trade off with another caregiver when you get tired, and how to hold someone really large with multiple staff members...and how to do all those things with the least harm to yourself or the patient.

We have to learn all this, but in the 15 years I've worked in mental health, I've never had to use it; and really, I've only had two patients who had difficult moments when I thought there might be trouble, but there wasn't. So I suppose I'm either lucky or doing something right.

Anyway when I got home, I was pretty tired. Gavin asked me how CAPE training went...and then asked "What level did you make, Mom?"

"Level?" I asked.

"Yeah, you know, like Superhero!" And he expansively waved his arms to indicate a graceful billowing cape as he leaped across the room while singing "Here I come to save the day!"...

...only to turn, his nose in the crook of his elbow, imaginary cape swirling around his feet, and his eyes narrowed, staring piercingly..."Or Vampire!" and immediately switching to a heavy Transylvanian accent, "I don't drink....vine..."

...then, in a half crouch, still with his nose in the crook of his arm, imaginary cape hiding half his face, twirling an imaginary handlebar mustache, with shifty gaze and deep commanding voice, "Or Villain! I'll tie you to the railroad tracks if you don't pay your rent, BWAA HAA HAA!!"

I'd MUCH rather have done that kind of "CAPE" training...and who knows, some of the patients might prefer that, too.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Flying Zlorbian

After being shanghaied by pirate ninjas (or was it ninja pirates?) for two weeks (one of which the villains stood over me and MADE ME GET ALL MY WORK DONE, made me wrap and ship 30-some-odd Ebay packages, and clean my house because my Mom was coming to stay with Gavin...and even pirate/ninjas respect the fact that the house MUST be clean for Mom. Especially since I have yet to live down the incident years ago of the moldy bread that somehow got pushed to the back of the cabinet...which Mom found, of course...I don't think penicillin factories have any more mold. At least it was still in the wrapper. Green fuzzy bread, anyone?). I left for California on Sunday after working 11-7 Saturday, arrived home on Friday and worked ANOTHER 11-7. I'm "too pooped to pop" as Dad always said. I still don't know what that means, but I love to say it.

I have a lot to say about my time in California (Hi Dave & Dorian, Alex, and Robyn!!!) but right now I want to talk about last night.

I worked Adult Psych, which is a whole different world than child psych. And adult psych at night can be even stranger...and a night with a full moon...well...

Now, I know that there have been studies (or so I have been told; I haven't read 'em) that purport to debunk the full moon weirdness factor. However, in this instance, Nurse Lore trumps PhD studies (especially as it is backed up by Police Lore, EMT Lore, ER Lore, and Night Convenience Store Clerk Lore), and besides, we all know that PhD really means "Pizza Hut Delivery". (Remember, this is NOT a slam at PhDs. I expect my brother to be one any time now, and I have to keep up, don't I?)

Anyway, Nurse Lore states that people and situations get stranger during the full moon, and it's not just psych.

Evening shift report indicated that everyone had had a good day, which is a tremendously wonderful thing on a psych unit, so the Charge Nurse (I've never had this term explained to me; while I assume it means "In Charge" maybe it really involves credit cards and Nordstrom's sales after one gets off, did she have nice clothes) and I hoped for the best and started our paperwork.

We had a steady procession all night of agreeable, pleasant, and polite, but extraordinarily psychotic patients who "just couldn't sleep" -- more than half of them were awake at one time or another. Of course, this had nothing to do with the loud buzzing noise the air conditioner made every time it went on, and nothing to do with the extremely loud and deep voice of our Mental Health Tech who has a BA in psychology and wanted to "do therapy" with the patients and kept cornering them; Charge and I kept redirecting him AND the patients in an effort to get everyone (well, everyone except us) some sleep. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing sometimes.

When I got back in this morning, Gavin asked me about my night. He's been fascinated by psychoses ever since I had a patient who'd found out my number and would call me EVERY NIGHT at 10 pm and tell me (or whoever answered, sometimes one of the kids) what the "angels" had said to her that day (almost always something bright and happy). I told him one patient told me he was possessed by aliens (I have to be careful about what I say because I cannot give out any identifying information...and trust me, this is a very, very small part of this patient's delusionary system).

Gavin immediately assumed this meant "alien ghosts" since possession must be a supernatural phenomenon...and aliens probably would be natural, not supernatural...except that Gavin was not allowing for the lack of reasoning ability in someone who is acutely psychotic. Since it wasn't alien ghosts, he decided that the patient must be possessed by some alien thing which skirts the realm of the natural and the the Flying Dutchman...Yes! It must be the Flying Zlorbian, forced to wander the universe and possess the minds of unwitting humans...

Oh dear. I don't know whether to worry about him or tell him to write a book.

Monday, September 05, 2005

For anyone who wants to send a care package to an evacuee, the address here in Oklahoma is:

Any Evacuee c/o Camp Gruber
100 Highway 10
Braggs, OK 74423

I'm thinking about things to help stay busy, cards, games, craft kits, stamps, envelopes, paper, notebooks, writing utensils, small toys, well as things people have to be asking for all the time...toiletries, treats, makeup, hair bands...I know there are some other things, I just can't think of them offhand. If you can think of anything I left off, please post in the comments!

I've sent them to soldiers and now I'll send them to evacuees, too. I'm sending at least one on Tuesday.

I just can't IMAGINE having everything swept away and having to rely totally on strangers.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Disaster Planning

Last night I worked phone banks for 5 hours as a part of my state's medical reserve corps, which started after the Murrah Building bombing. I and my telefellows took calls from medical professionals who were interested in working with disaster victims.

The calls were interesting; we had a sprinkling of medical personnel, every type from embalmers and medical examiners to urologists and respiratory therapists, with the majority being nurses. These folks mostly stated they were ready to go with an hour's notice, and go where ever needed, in state or out of state, and at their own expense if necessary.

We also had a number of calls of people who had loaded vans ready to go to Mississippi or Louisiana and were calling us for what? The blessing of the state, I suppose, but bureaucracies don't tend to condone that sort of thing.

I enjoyed being a part of the process and seeing plans made and discarded and remade; frantic searches for safe places for large numbers of people to stay; calls from various city and state officials; calls to hospital administrators to find open hospital beds; and even the beginnings of long term planning.

With all the action, though, there were stretches where we waited, and then we talked.

It was surprising, the amount of "blame the victim" that went on. "I don't understand why everyone didn't leave." "I'd never let my kids go hungry." "Looters should all be shot. And we'll have to have people guarded while they're here because a lot of them will be looters."

I understand WHY people blame the victims -- it's fear. They cannot acknowledge the fear that bad things can happen to anyone. So "those people" must be different; not too bright, not able to solve problems, criminals, junkies...when the truth is that we could easily be in their shoes if something tremendous and horrible had happened here.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The news from New Orleans is just awful. I've donated everything I can right now and it doesn't feel like it's nearly enough.

This evening I am working phone banks for the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps -- we are trying to set up teams of nurses and physicians to help in the area.

For those still trapped in the area, it is a nightmare, and I hope they will all be rescued soon. But even for those who evacuated early, or who escaped later, it is still awful -- everything just gone.

How do you put your life back together after something like that? I can't imagine.