it was my second nursing job, and i had moved from the small farming community near where i grew up halfway across the country to the big city. i was awed by my good fortune at landing a job in a world renowned hospital system, excited about working in a brand new building and thrilled to be meeting world famous physicians. but there were some things that weren't at all as i had envisioned them.
the cockroaches moved with us from the decrepit original hospital to the brand new building. i'd never seen a cockroach before moving to the big city, and my mother raised me to believe that the presence of a roach was an admission of bad housekeeping practices, laziness, or both. so the roaches shocked me. never having seen one before, i had no idea how to prevent or eliminate them, and when my co-workers warned me not to leave food at the patient bedsides because "the roaches can carry off whole sandwiches" i took them seriously. there was no allowances for the patient population, however. many of them were homeless, all were poor and hoarding food was a habit. anything that couldn't immediately be consumed was tucked away for later. which meant that in addition to the roaches, we had mice in the hospital. what the roaches couldn't or wouldn't carry away, the mice did. the mice were better at hiding, though, than the roaches and it was a full year before i believed the patients who'd sworn up and down that they'd seen them.
i'll never forget the night i was hanging the tpn (back when it came in glass bottles) on a dting gi bleed patient. it was "0 dark thirty", and i was hanging the bottle without turning on a light. all day, the patient had been seeing little green men, little green mice and big green spiders hanging off his ceiling, so when he told me that he saw a "big green mouse with beady little eyes," i wasn't really convinced.
"i don't see it, mr. smith," i assured him as i continued comparing the labels on the two tpn bottles.
"you're not even looking, ruby" he protested. "look over there! it's right there, and it's staring right at you with it's beady little eyes!!", and he pointed to a spot right next to the bedside table, about a foot from my foot. i looked, i saw, i shrieked! and about the time the little bugger ran right over my foot in it's haste to escape to the darkness of the patient bathroom (where it had a nest among the plumbing pipes) i let out a blood curdling yell and, in trying to climb the iv pole, dropped both bottles of tpn where they promptly smashed all over the floor. (do you have any idea how difficult it is to get tpn off the floor of a patient room? that floor was sticky for weeks!
about that time, management decided to keep "humane traps" for the mice underneath each of the patient beds. the mice would enter, get trapped and supposedly be carried outside to be released by the maintence or housekeeping staff. (honestly, i think they just let them lose in the bowels of the hospital, freeing them to run back to the nests in the plumbing access holes.)
one night we'd had a particularly horrendous code. we defibrillated the patient about 30 times, started two different central lines and finally, when we were just about to give up, achieved success. (this was also the time of every 5 minute bicarb during codes. one of the residents had gotten overly enthusiastic about pushing bicarb. during the adrenalin of the moment, i wasn't feeling much pain, but suddenly someone cried out "my god! look at her hand!" i looked down to see a hand impaled by 14 gauge bicarb needle. the needle went all the way through the hand. as i followed the arm up to the shoulder, i realized it was my hand. and then it started to hurt!)
when the code was over, my hand had been bandaged and the incident reports filled out, i went back into the patient room to start cleaning up the mess. there, underneath the empty bed, was a puddle of iv fluid and blood. and when we moved the bed aside to mop up the mess, we spied a mouse, lying on it's back in the middle of the puddle. it's little toes were curled up and it's hair was frizzed out -- it our zest to revive the patient, we had electrocuted a mouse!