I rolled over onto my hands and knees and the fingertip fell onto the floor. I dry-heaved making a horrible retching sound. I took some deep breaths to stave off the vomiting. I was not sure why I was so grossed out by it. After-all I was an experienced ICU nurse with a background that included trauma so I had seen my fair share of gore. Perhaps it was the surprise of having an amputated fingertip land unexpectedly on my bare inner thigh? I didn’t know. I looked at the fingertip lying on the office floor and the thought of it touching my thigh made me shudder. I dry-heaved again.
“Are you OK?” Marie asked.
The voice startled me and I gaped up at Marie, one of the LIT counselors who was standing in the doorway, her eyebrows knitted together with a look of concern.
“Sorry!” I shook my head and then waved my hand dismissively. “Just a wave of nausea.” I sat back on my knees and waved my hands in front of my face, fanning myself. “Whew!”
Marie gazed at me intently. “Something you ate?” Marie asked.
“Umm. No.” I responded as I glanced at the offending agent. Marie followed my gaze.
“What the frick?!” Marie gasped when she caught sight of the fingertip.
“Yes. For some reason, someone thought that it would be a good idea to store Al’s degloved fingertip in the freezer. As if I could maybe reattach it at some point.” I explained to Marie as I shook my head thinking back to the old Six Million Dollar Man TV show (“We can rebuild him!”).
“I was cleaning out the freezer and it dropped into my lap. Gave me a bit of a shock.” I gave her a tight smile as I carefully picked up the the fingertip with a zip lock bag and zipped it closed. “Hence the wave of nausea.” Goosebumps rippled up my arms and I shuddered again.
Marie visibly paled and covered her mouth with her hands in an attempt to stifle a gag. She turned her back and then leaned over bracing her hands on her thighs.
“Deep breaths!” I instructed Marie. “Slow, deep breaths!” I picked up the scattered zip lock bags and tossed them all the garbage. I washed my hands and then walked over to Marie who was still bent over and I patted her shoulder. “Are you OK?” I asked.
“Better. Yes. Thank you.” She answered between breaths. “That was disgusting!” Marie stood up.
“A lil bit. Yes.” I laughed. “So, Marie, what can I do for you?” I asked.
“I came to pick up the first aid kit for survivor night. We will be leaving soon.”
“Oh yes! That’s tonight!” I grabbed the fully stocked kit from the top of the file cabinet and took it over to her. “I filled it today. It’s ready to go. I think they should have some good weather for it tonight?”
“Yup!” Marie stood up and took the kit from me. “I sure appreciate that since I will be monitoring the LITs from the next island. I dread that job when it’s raining.”
“That would totally suck.”
“It really sucks for the LITs cuz they don’t get a tent.” Marie told me. “The counselors, at least, get a tent so its a bit more comfortable.”
“Yikes! I guess that’s why they call it survivor night. Can’t build character if it’s easy. Right?”
“That’s part of their leadership training. We tell them that if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”
“Agreed. Even for me. Being at camp has challenged me and changed me. And not just in my job as a camp nurse but even trying rock climbing and a wet exit in the kayak. Even the basic philosophy of camp of ‘looking out for the little guy’ is inspiring. As corny as it sounds I will definitely take a little bit of camp home with me.” I said as I patted my heart.
Marie smiled broadly. “That’s awesome Nurse Anne! I’m so glad that we have touched you. But we shouldn’t have maybe taken that so literally!” Marie pointed to the fingertip in the garbage can.
“Seriously!” I responded and we both had a laugh. “Good luck tonight!”
“Thanks Anne.” Marie said and left the office with an energetic wave.