Camp nursing is scary business yo!

I lay in the upper bunk bed staring into the ceiling above me. Had I missed anything? Had I done the right things with all the ‘capture the flag’ wounded? I was worried.

Ugh! Camp nursing would be soooo much easier if I have access to an x-ray machine. Oh and a rapid strep throat swab. That would be handy. And WTH was I thinking bringing up Sponge Bob band aids to camp? But, then again, how was I to know that those band aids would be sought after? And who brings cough drops to camp? Cough drops are glorified candy. I sure hoped the word got out that I was all out of them. Having kids in the line who were ‘candy seekers’ was annoying. Not only did it take up my time but also it caused unnecessary worry. It was not fair to me, as the nurse, or to the kids who had legit issues. 

Maybe that is why some camps had a ‘tuck shop’. Camp Acorn didn’t have one — too much hassle to maintain and tuck shops also created enviousness between campers when some were unable to afford the purchases. I had asked about that as I had fondly remembered my visits to the tuck shop at my summer camp. I managed to buy a metric ton of candy and some arts ‘n craft supplies. Probably items I could have done without!

Despite the fact that I was totally exhausted, it took me about an hour to settle down and drift off to sleep. So many thoughts were churning in my head; X-ray machines, candies, kids stuck on the railroad tracks, scabby band aids, bleeding noses, decapitated ladies. It was no wonder I had a nightmare.

I was back at work. I had an obese ICU patient in bed 6. Mrs. Witherspoon (do I have to mention that this is, obvi, not her real name?) was on the ventilator with a massive open abdominal wound that had dehisced last week as a result of a rampant wound infection. I had to change the dressing.  Mrs. Witherspoon was in isolation. So that meant I had to gown up, put on gloves, and a mask. I gave her extra pain medicine and sedation before I began the dressing in order to keep her comfortable. I had about seven pounds of gauze and a couple liters of normal saline ready to go on the bedside table for my ‘wet-to-dry’ dressing. I was hot in the gown already just from opening all the gauze packages. 

I proceeded to remove the old dressing. I had to pull out the gauze that was packed all around the edges of the wound and toss it into the trash can. At first I used the forceps to remove the gauze but then eventually i needed to ditch the forceps cuz the gauze was waaaaaay down there. I kept feeling around and pulling out soiled and bloody gauze with my fingers. It seemed never ending. I was getting really sweaty by now, but I kept pulling and pulling. The smell was rather unpleasant too.

I felt a trickle of sweat going down my back. I stopped for a moment and took a deep breath through my mouth as wave of dizziness swept over me. I gave my neck a stretch, rolling my head around, and shrugging my shoulders before I proceeded. I was almost done with removing the old dressing. I reached down again, my hand disappearing in Mrs. Witherspoon’s abdomen, as I felt around for the last few pieces of gauze.

My fingers slid along her greater omentum when I felt a pull on my fingers. I froze. What the….? Then I felt a pull on my entire wrist as my body jerked forward. Something had grabbed hold of my wrist and was trying to pull me into Mrs. Witherspoon’s abdomen! With abject fear I slowly turned to look up at her face. She was still resting quietly, the ventilator breathing for her, oblivious to my struggle. I then quickly looked towards the hallway of the hospital for help and saw that it was in complete darkness. I grabbed at my wrist with my other hand. I braced my legs and pulled on my arm trying to free myself. I pulled back hard and managed to wrench my hand out of the abdomen and saw, with complete horror, what I had managed to pull out of poor Mrs. Witherspoon’s belly. It was the lady from the ghost story, with a ribbon around her neck. She had her hands wrapped tightly around my wrist. Her face was white and ghoulish. Her dark hair was plastered to her head.  She jerkily turned her head and looked at me. Her eyes were completely black.

“You? It’s you?” she screamed at me with disgust as I tried to loosen her strong grip on my wrist, tugging and twisting. “What are you doing here? Go back! You have no business being here!” she screeched at me. 

I looked up to Mrs. Witherspoon for help. Her head shot up, her face gruesome as she spit blood and wailed. “You are in too deep! Get out while you can!” And with that she walloped me my across the face with her hand. The impact made me fall towards towards to ground.

I woke up just before my head hit the hospital floor tiles.


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