Getting cocky and Swiss cheese.

David, one of the Deer Hut counselors, brought the cake pan over to the Directors’ table. He scooped out a piece of cake, reached over my shoulder and tossed it into my ice cream bowl.  It was a delightful surprise. I love it when people throw cake my way!

“Wow David! Thanks so much!” 

“Well, thanks for choosing us as the winner of the Clean Hands award,” he said over his shoulder as he marched around the periphery of the table and doled out a piece of cake to all of us. My son’s eyes shone bright with joy as he looked at the tempting chocolate cake in his bowl. He didn’t waste a second digging into it. 

“I wish we could get cake every night,” he said with his mouth full. 

“Me too buddy,” Himself responded as he took a small spoonful. He was relishing every bite. 

Too soon, it was time for me to get upstairs and give out the dinner medications. It was a small group of regulars and I got through them quickly. I had one Cord Hut camper who felt sick to his stomach. After much questioning, he felt it might be because he had three pieces of cake. He wanted to lay down in the infirmary for awhile, so I escorted him in there and made him comfortable on the bottom bunk. I went back to my office, sat down and finished my nursing notes. I put the pen down and considered the day. It had been long. It had started early after minimal sleep the night before. I was exhausted, but I felt good. I almost felt competent. I felt for a moment that maybe, just maybe, I was getting the hang of this.

I had to shake that thought from my head. I remembered the parting piece of advice I have gotten from my preceptor as I began my first nursing job in the intensive care unit. 

“Don’t ever let yourself get cocky. Life will always find a way to humble you,” she had told me on my last day of orientation. 

For realzies

As a novice nurse, it was hard to imagine that I could ever feel over-confident. But, sure enough, one day just over a year later, it happened to me. And that’s when I made a medication error. I learned a valuable lesson and had been humbled. Ouch.

My thoughts were interrupted by two counselors, David and Chubby, who were holding the Deer Hut camper, Stewart, up by the shoulders as he hopped into the office on his bare left foot. 

“Oh oh. What happened?”

“I stepped on something. It really hurts!” Stewart grimaced.

“Can you guys get him up onto the examination table please?”

David and Chubby gently placed him down. I took a quick peek at the sole of his right foot. It was so filthy I could not see a thing. There was no blood, and no obvious lacerations or abrasions.

“I can’t see a thing, Stewart. I think we are going to have to soak your foot for a little bit and get some of the dirt off so I can really see what is going on. OK?”

“OK,” Stewart responded.

I grabbed the foot soak tub and added a couple of squirts of liquid hand soap in there. I filled the tub with warm water and agitated it so that bubbles formed. The guys helped Stewart into the chair and I placed the tub by his feet. He gently lowered his right foot into the water. 

“Does it hurt?” David asked.

“Only when I step down on it.” 

“What’s in your foot, do you think?” I asked.

“I think it’s glass,” Chubby responded. “This little guy was running around without shoes on.” Chubby gave Stewart a gentle cuff to the head. “We know that there was some busted glass in that area from a window that broke last summer. We tried to clean up as much as possible, but I think Stewart managed to find some glass that we didn’t!”

“Sorry,” Stewart mumbled. “I really messed up.”

I grabbed a paper towel and knelt down in front of Stewart. I gingerly washed his foot in the water. His little fingers anxiously gripped the arms of the chair as I wiped. When I applied the slightest bit of pressure by the ball of his foot, Stewart nearly ejected out of the chair.

“Well, I think I have located the glass,” I said. “Let’s have a look now that it is clean.”

David and Chubby picked Stewart up and replaced him on the examination table. David grabbed some dry paper towel and lightly dabbed his foot dry. I grabbed the desk lamp and motioned for Chubby to plug it in by the exam table. Then I located my best pair of tweezers and some gauze.

Looking at his foot I could see three tiny pieces of glass that sparkled and glimmered in the light. With David and Chubby assisting in immobilizing (read: holding down) Stewart’s right leg, I attempted to extricate the glass. As soon as my tweezers scraped up against it (which was much like fingernails on a chalkboard, and caused shivers to go down my back) Stewart pulled his foot back. David and Chubby strengthened their grip. On the second attempt, Stewart kicked at me with his left foot. David and Chubby deftly caught that leg and immobilized it too. On my third attempt Stewart wiggled his ankle. David gripped the ankle to pin it down. All the while, Stewart kept apologizing.

“Oops. Sorry! I can’t help it.”

“It’s OK. We understand,” David responded when he apologized for the fifth time. I took a break to wipe the perspiration that was breaking out across my forehead.

We tried flipping Stewart on to his belly. That way, with his foot dangling off the edge of the exam table, we could hold him down more easily. I was almost successful in taking out the first sliver when I heard a knock at the door.

“Hey guys, hope I am not interrupting.” Alisa said as she leaned up against the door of the office and crossed her arms. I nodded at her and turned back to the job at hand.

“What’s up?” I asked as I bent over and squinted. My back was starting to protest.

“A group of the Bear Hut campers were acting stupid and one of them managed to get some mosquito repellent in his eye.”

“Ouch!” I responded as I honed in on the glass shard. 

“Yah. We have him in the arts and crafts doing the eye wash station right now.”

“Oh. Good idea, good idea.” I said as I pulled this skin taut on Stewart’s foot. The shard bulged out of his foot. “Is it helping?”

“I don’t know at this point. Tim is…” Alisa stepped over and whispered in my ear, “…a bit of a attention seeker, if you know what I mean?” Alisa stood back up and leaned against the sink. “So it is hard to tell if it is just Tim being Tim, or if it is legit.”

“OK. Keep the eye washing up then. Let me know if it doesn’t get better. Cool?”

“Cool,” said Alisa said as she strode out of the office.

As I bent over Stewart’s foot, I was thinking about bug repellent in the eye. Geez! That had to sting. The eye wash station was probably the best thing for it, I thought as I pushed in on either side of the glass and firmly gripped it. With one quick movement I pulled the first shard out.

“Success!” I cried.

David, Chubby, Stewart and I had a quick celebration before we started working on the next two slivers. Meanwhile, little did I realize that the first two slices of Swiss cheese had been laid down, and wouldn’t you know it, the holes had started to line up.

An accident opportunity.


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