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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Was That Sound?

I can't believe I dropped the pill.

I am furious.

There is nothing else in this moment besides my fury, because a patient needs that pill and I knocked the medicine cup over and I can't find  that pill and it was the last pill in the bottle and the pharmacy is down
and the elevator is soooooo slllllooooooow and I have had to pee for over an hour but I have not been given the chance to pee because I have been movingnonstop since the shift started.  I am starting to sweat. The hallway is one million degrees. Where the hell is that pill?

I am on the ground, and hidden behind a row of cabinets but above me I can hear the chaos in the hallway. A patient near the elevator bank is demanding to see a case manager. A call bell rings, coinciding with a phone. The bells are discordant. The coffee pot is broken and sounds like a vacuum cleaner choking on a piece of carpet.  Mentally I am ticking off at least four other things I need to prioritize before I can leave the unit to visit the rest room. And the highest priority is THIS PILL which I can't find. So do I go to pharmacy now and skip the other three tasks until this one is completed? Or do I move the other three tasks up the queue before leaving the floor to get a replacement for THIS STUPID LITTLE TINY PILL that is so important. So very important  and I am a dumb, dumb idiot for spilling the cup.

"Excuse me." There is a patient peering over the cabinet at me.  I know him very well.

"Can you open this can?"

He gently lowers the soft drink can onto the counter top using his wrists. I stand and smile before popping the tab and helping him put the can back between his wrists.

"I had good luck today," he says smiling, "I put my money in the machine and instead of just one ginger ale, I got two!"

"I love when that happens!" I say, genuinely. Because, who doesn't love that?

"Well, something was meant to go right!"  

He walks away, can between his wrists, earnestly pleased at his good fortune. Because he may not have use of his hands but he has two sodas. In fact, he may never be able to use his fingers again, but he is practically whistling down the hallway because he found something positive to latch onto this morning.
 And amongst all the other sounds in the hallway I thought I could hear a new one. It was the sound of my own heart breaking.

 I found the pill. And the patients all got their medications. And everything got quiet. And I went to the restroom. And in his bed by the window, a thin man in mismatched pajamas sipped ginger ale through a very long straw and smiled serenely at his fortune.

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