Chronicle of a Stem Cell Transplant (and on through to the other side)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

One Flew Over the Chemo Nest

OK - I guess we were due.

With all the incredible care I've been receiving lately, we knew that sooner or later we'd find ourselves confronted with a situation of some sort, you know, an angry administrator, a hopeless doctor...

Today's incident involved a nutter nurse who proved to be mildly disturbing, but oddly entertaining.

When we arrived at the Agency for my second infusion of SGN 35, we were met by one who seemed a bit flustered. Once I was settled and she began combing my arm for a good vein to place the IV, she said she hadn't decided which one she wanted to use but that whichever one it was, "it needed to work for her."

This should have been my first clue because, actually, lady, it needs to work for me.

However, feeling especially cheerful due to my new found energy, I decided to let it ride with a mere raised eyebrow cast toward my mom whose eyebrow was also on the rise.

When the nurse did finally find a vein that pleased her, it was an unusually painful poke (lots of digging around) to get the IV in. My mom, unsure at this point how I was feeling about the way things were going, asked me if it was OK.

I just don't like IV's in my hand, I said.

At that point, the nurse abruptly looked up from my arm and in a hysterical voice (and in true blame-the-patient-style) said, You should have said something. Why didn't you say anything? I can put it here or here or here. WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY SOMETHING?? YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING!!

I am using all caps here because she was that emphatic.

Just when I think I finally have all my strategies in place for managing difficult or surly practitioners, I was completely bewildered by this one so I just stared at her with a blank expression. This seemed to unnerve her because she then said, You're allowed to speak up you know.

Uh, lady, do you have any idea who you're talking to?

So, I smiled and said, Yes - I know.

You may be reading this and thinking, What's the big deal? However, many of you also know that once the ol' Spidey senses start tingling about a nurse or doctor's inappropriate attitude, you're usually right. So, we shouldn't have been surprised by what followed.

To make a long story short(er), we (there was another woman sitting beside me listening to this all go down) were soon joined by a third patient who was also there for chemo. She had just been transported from St. Paul's after an emergency stay and was on oxygen.

When it became clear to Nurse Ratched that this woman had not come with her pre-meds (she had irresponsibly not bought them with her, what, emergency and all) and, shamefully, had not had blood work done (due, likely, to being in a frigging ambulance), the reprimanding began. Not once. Not twice. Not even three times.

The fourth time the nurse launched into her admonishment, the woman next to me (with whom I'd been exchanging glances of total disbelief) suddenly pointed toward the door and blurted out, "Spot? Spot! There goes my dog!"

Assuming she was having some sort of drug-induced hallucination, I casually looked out the door before I realized that this patient was actually providing a diversion so ol' Wackadoo would lay off the woman on oxygen. It seemed to work because the nurse also looked out the door then gave a confused look before admitting she'd lost her train of thought.


Most impressed by the this heroic display of chemo camaraderie, I started giggling with my mom and the other women. When the nurse finally left the room a few minutes later, we again shook our heads in disbelief and exchanged guffaws.

Now, had I continued to be the recipient of this nurse's continued disrespectful behaviour, I hope I would have had the presence of mind to tell her it is not OK to talk to me that way. That it is not OK to blame or bully a patient in any circumstance, and that her communication style is extremely inappropriate and therefore not going to be tolerated.

Mind you, how it actually unfolded made for far better theatre and gave me a brief glimpse into what it would be like to reside in a mental institution.