Archives for: June 2008, 15
My life has been unusually busy in the last few weeks. Between work and managing my home I have not had a free moment. So today, Father's Day, while my Cerebral Gatherer O husand watches golf (boring), I have a chance to write a blog.
I work both days and nights as a nurse in a small local hospital. As an institution known for its excellent cardiac interventionalists we tend to see the more complicated patient.
Because I float from unit to unit, my job as a nurse varies. Like a subsitute teacher I fill in where I'm needed. One of the units I work in is called Operative and Invasive; it is where all the post Cardiac Catherization patients recover.
A cardiac catherization examines the internal heart pressures, valves, and blood vessels that feed the actual heart muscle. A Cardiac Interventionalist passes a catether into the femoral artery and up into the heart. A dye is then injected to permit the doctor to visualize the blood vessels of the heart. A clog in one of these tiny blood vessels can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Like high class plumbers the Cardiac Interventionalists can insert a Stent, a straw like device, into the tiny vessels to improve blood flow.
Sometimes the vessels can not be stented and the patient requires surgery, or is treated with drugs. This past week I had a few tragic cases; middle aged men with disease not easily cured with stents.
One 50 year old man with cardiomypathy, basically a dying heart muscle, was my patient post procedure. Except for medication or a heart transplant the doctors can do nothing to fix his heart. He was unhappy and hungry.
No one eats on the day of the procedure so once they return from the test they are quite hungry. I am always intriqued by what they ask for to eat.
I took out the hospital menu and began to read it to him. The first items on the menu are salads.
"No" he said "I don't eat any salad, or vegetables for that matter."
"How about soup?" I said.
"Chicken, fish, meatloaf?" I continued to read from the menu, "Pizza?"
"That's what I'll have," he exclaimed. "I'll have two cheese pizzas, and a diet Coke."
I don't feel surprised by his choice. I feel sad. Sad that people don't understand food and how it nourishes our bodies and sad that this man is eating so poorly.
Sarah, a nurse I have known for over 18 years, is 300lbs, blood type B, early 30's, with diabetes. I saw her in the Endoscopy unit as a patient. She revealed to me that she was going for Lap Band surgery sometime in the next month, an Upper Endoscopy was required prior to her surgery.
She has done all the diets - Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and self control, nothing has worked. Unwilling to try one more diet, Lap Band surgery offers an easy alternative to changing her weight without much fuss. I guess starving yourself appeals to some people.
Once again I feel sad when she tells me this. I wish I could convince her that lectins matter. That her longterm health depends on her food choices and it is not only about the excess weight. I feel helpless to convince her, and I let it go.
John was admitted to the emergency room due to chest pain, he was 300+ lbs and 80 years old, he could barely walk and had breathing problems from his weight. His legs were mottled from poor circulation and his abdomen had grown so large it made it diffucult to use the urinal.
The nurses aide wheeled him up on the stretcher that was too small for his bulky frame to a regular size bed. When he arrived as my patient at 2am he was very cranky. He had been waiting on the stretcher for over 5 hours with the promise of being moved to a regular full sized bed. He was made to lie on the stretcher flat on his back because he had had a Cardiac Catheterization and the potential for arterial bleeding remains high for 4- 6 hours after the procedure.
I like to ask people unexpected questions. One of my teachers in college used to say that people will never answer a question unless they want to. We all know those people, the ones you ask a direct question of but never get a direct answer, they always seem to wiggle out of giving an answer. I have no shame in asking questions of my patients.
I was curious about John and how he had gotten to this size. So I asked him, "John, how did you get so heavy?" He described to me how he got his meals. "You see I can drive but I can't walk so well, so I go through the drive thru and pick up all my meals from fastfood places." I then told him that his weight would kill him if he didn't change his life. "I know," he replied, "but I can't walk enough to go through the supermarket."
I work in an industry that does not believe that food can cause disease, much less, cure it. Like a foreigner I speak a language that many people don't understand. I talk about foods, leg lengths, fingerprints, lectins, blood types and their effects on our bodies health. I see the faces of people glaze over. They in turn tell me about nutrisystems, herbalife or some fad diet they are doing and I glaze over.