At the hospital, there are 3 different shifts and 3 different nurses taking care of Alan each day. On Wednesday he will have been in the hospital for a total of 7 weeks, which means he will have gone through 147 shift changes. There are repeat nurses from time to time, so he won’t have had 147 distinct nurses, of course, but the count comes close. The nurses are as wild and varied as the scrubs they wear. (And in case you are lucky enough to have never been inside a hospital, let me tell you, they come in every print, color, trim and size ever imaginable!)
Once, right after surgery, a nursing assistant saved his life. He got up out of bed too fast and too soon and nearly fell, but she caught him, this nurse. Her scrub top had a Strawberry Shortcake print on it and the next day when he saw her, he smiled and said, “Strawberry Shortcake!” She was wearing a different top that day, one with bowls of fruit on it, bowls spilling over with strawberries and bananas and grapes — so much spillage it almost seemed indecent. But she understood what he meant and she grabbed his hand and squeezed it.
Since then, he’s associated scrubs with Strawberry Shortcake-like prints on them with people who are good nurses, the ones that check in on him, that ask how he is doing, the ones that know how to properly pack a wound. Last week, a nurse came in wearing a Little Twin Stars top and he poked her stomach, pointing at one of the Twins. “Strawberry Shortcake!” he said. She smiled down at him with eyes that said Poor, crazy fool. I grew up semi-obsessed over Sanrio and I knew those were no Twin Stars. I didn’t correct him though, because honestly, his guess was as good as mine. Would this nurse be a good one? One that would help him if he needed it? I didn’t know, so I didn’t say anything when he decided she would be his new Strawberry Shortcake.
Each shift we have to make the assessment on who the Strawberry Shortcakes are and who aren’t. When I come in the room, I check his whiteboard to see who the current nurse is. Please let it be Tina. Please let it be Tina. But it often won’t be Tina, it will be someone completely new, someone we’ve never seen before, and I just can’t help but wonder how many nurses does this hospital have?
Tina is one of our new favorite nurses. Tina says Alan should stay away from soda, but when he explains how much he loves it so and how he’s missed it, she says she knows. She loves soda too, it is her favorite drink! Sadly, she had to give it up because it (the caffeine) gave her stomach problems. But recently she was at a restaurant and noticed they had caffeine-free soda, which made her really happy and gave her the good idea of getting some of that for herself. She worries about Alan keeping hydrated. She tells him to drink more water, and then, a second later, makes a face and says she knows it’s hard, what with water not tasting like soda and all.
Later, she might come in to check in on him (after he’s already been checked on by someone else), and she will see us all canoodled up on his bed watching a movie on his tiny Netbook. She’ll come right over, take a peek at the screen and ask what we’re watching. It is almost like we are at home (except Alan is wearing that same gown he’s been wearing for weeks now, and there is all that beeping going on around us) and Tina is a family friend who stops by now and again to drop off a bag of lemons from her backyard tree.
Tina is just the best. She wears diamond cluster earrings with the diamonds clustered into the shape of an ice cream cone. And then she explains the purpose of his wet-to-dry wound packing, which makes so much sense! She is so wise and full of knowledge. I hope Alan gets Tina for the next 9 shifts.
But today, he did not have Tina. He had someone new, someone who took forever to come check on him. Someone who did not talk about her soda consumption or about the reasons behind the things they do while taking care of Alan. Instead, after I had settled into a nice spot on his bed, she came in and scolded me for it. It was just so incredibly un-Tina-like, and something none of the nurses have ever mentioned, that I decided that Tinkerbell scrubs, her choice print of the day, would forever be associated with bad nurses.