Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Bouquet of a Dozen Red...

Today was Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's house; I was delegated to bring mashed potatoes, so last night when I picked up my son, Gavin, from university, we stopped at the store to pick up a bag.

On the way back to the house, my son was looking at the lumpy bag and said, "Roses are overrated. Sure, they're beautiful, but they die in a couple of days. They're all show and no substance."

He was silent for a moment and then continued, "Potatoes, now...potatoes are romantic. They're everything you want love to be. They may not look like much, but they're sustaining and nourishing. They stay good a long time. And they're useful! Why, you can even use one to make a potato clock! Much better than roses!"

Now, Gavin has never dated, and says he's not ready yet. But those are some pretty deep thoughts about love (well, maybe not the potato clock part).

I hope someday he meets his soul mate; someone who can appreciate sustaining, nourishing, useful love, wrapped up messily in a very eccentric package.

And I don't think I'll ever look at potatoes in quite the same way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Double Yuck!

DON'T read this if you get queasy easily. Really. You've been warned.

I've said it before, but it's worth saying again: I was never, ever going to be a nurse. It's my family profession, pretty much, and I was NOT going to do it. I used to become lightheaded from looking at hypodermic needles, once fainted at the sight of blood, and could not tolerate the least of bad smells.

Then I had pets. And kids. And every bodily fluid that could be spilled on me, eventually was. Silly me, I thought I was inured to disgusting stuff, so when I realized how much a nursing degree would benefit me, I dived right in.

I was SO wrong. During nursing school, I'd occasionally encounter something that would make me vomit (this did NOT thrill my patients) and once passed out during a surgical procedure that involved cauterization (between the sizzling sound and the smell, I just couldn't take it).

So I learned that there were certain things I couldn't look at, and certain things that I should avoid smelling if at all possible (a little Vick's VapoRub right under the nose works wonders).

This week, I encountered one of those smells, and I don't think Vick's would have helped, even if I'd had any.

I'm doing a study which requires fecal samples. Now, in general, I can send a kit home with my patient, and the patient will collect the sample and send it in. And I figured I'd never have to collect one, because really: who poops on command?

Evidently, at least one person in the world CAN and DID.

The disorder I am studying often makes for fatty, oily stools which have (to say the least) an intense stench. And this particular person was far more intense than most, so that the entire clinic seemed to choke on the fog of fumes issuing from the bathroom. With my eyes tearing from the noisome smell, gagging and retching furiously, I dashed in and collected what I needed and then flushed the rest.

Of course, EVERYONE in the clinic could hear me gag (and some of them were ALSO gagging). When I emerge, triumphant, my sample sealed in its container, the patient's family all look at me and start to laugh.

Patient's dad: "Hey, it could be worse! You should have been on the plane the year we went to Disneyland!"

Patient's mom: "Yes, the smell followed him out of the plane bathroom -- it was so thick you almost thought you could SEE it."

Patient: "Yeah, you could sure tell as soon as it got to the each row of seats! People started gagging!"

Patient's dad: "You should have seen the stewardess run back there!"

All three then laugh and high five each other...I am so glad it's a source of humor, and not a source of shame...and I'm also very glad I was NOT on that plane!

And also this week, my daughter, Alex, called with her own story of supreme yuckiness.

She's taking microbiology this semester, and for one of her labs she had to grow some bacteria at home. So she swabbed one of her dog's ears and put it in the culture medium, and it was growing quite nicely, with lumpy and smelly, yellow, black, green and red fuzzy crud covering a dinner plate.

Yesterday, one of her dogs jumped up on the table and licked the plate clean.

Not only is she avoiding dog kisses until she gets over the ick factor, but she gets to tell her instructor that "The dog ate my homework!"

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Phlebotomy Bites

Kids are supposed to be the easiest group to hypnotize, and that's been my experience until today.

Picture this: a short and slight, gap-toothed, touseled hair, cherubic preteen with more than a hint of mischief in his eyes -- completely adorable.

He was here to participate in a study, but he was unsure about the blood draws, due to past bad experiences, so I offered hypnosis, and he was agreeable.

First, he wanted to know about my skills. "Do you have a license?" I was a bit taken aback at this unexpected interrogation by a half-pint, and explained that I had a year of school specifically for hypnotherapy and that this state doesn't require a license. So that was OK.

Then we got down to the actual hypnosis session. Sitting on mom's lap, his funnybone was tickled pretty early on, and he couldn't stop laughing (although he really did try). I was sweating it (literally! drops of sweat beading on my forehead) as I crooned my best hypnotic voice and racked my brain for my next stratagem as he failed to slip into hypnosis with my best inductions: "eyes heavy", "relaxation breathing" and "magic story".

It wasn't until I made him do the "relaxation count" that I finally put him under, and even then he counted to 25 (most people don't make it past 5).

And success! He finally collapsed into a little heap and took all my suggestions readily. And when it came time to test it out -- no pain, no pressure, no problem...and he even watched when I put the needle in.

Afterwards, he said, "I'm going to hypnotize all my friends now!"

Oh dear. What have I done?

Friday, November 02, 2007


Every once in a while, I get a nice perk with the job. This time? Five days in Puerto Rico, with only one day spent in meetings!

Not only that, but it's in January, so I get a brief escape from winter!