Thursday, March 11, 2010

"H" is for A Hospital Tale - Alphabe Thursday, 3-11-10

I am participating in Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday!

Check it out at Jenny on a tangent, Alphabe-Thursday  and join in the fun!
H is for A Hospital Tale
Six thirty in the morning and the operating room was a flurry of activity. I had long since finished my second cup of coffee and was busy opening packages of instruments for the surgical technician and conferring with the anesthesiologist who would be "passing gas" for the scheduled procedure. The patient, an elderly man, was waiting on a gurney outside, while we completed our tasks, efficiently, counting sponges and needles, setting up equipment, almost like robots.

An above-the-knee amputation, left leg, on a 70-year-old. As the circulating nurse, I would be responsible for the care of the patient, along with the anesthesiologist. This type of nursing offered little opportunity for actual nurse-patient interaction. In twenty years, I had seen hundreds of patients, for brief minutes, before they were put to sleep, and might have a few minutes with them as I wheeled them to PAR ( post anesthesia recovery ) after their procedures. I always tried to stand next to them and hold their hands as they were put to sleep, hoping that the touch of another human being might help to allay their fears, give them some comfort as they entered the world of unconsciousness and oblivion.

Rarely, did we encounter any humor in the course of our days in the operating room. Much of our work involved life and death and, though it might have helped to laugh occasionally, we seldom did. Sometimes, though, our patients reminded us of how precious a quality a sense of humor can be. This particular day was special for that reason.

As I rolled the gurney into the room, my patient smiled brightly at me. We went through the identification procedure and he told me clearly that he would be having his left leg amputated. Carefully, keeping him modestly covered with a blanket, I moved him from the gurney to the operating room table. The anesthesiologist and surgeons spoke to him briefly, then the surgeons went outside to scrub. I held his hand as he was put to sleep and he gave me a smile and a squeeze. After a "go ahead" nod from the anesthesiologist, I began to remove the blanket in order to do the preoperative "prep" and scrub of the old gentleman's leg. We were completely amazed at what we saw. Our patient had made his left leg a complete work of art. In resplendent colors of every hue, from his toes to his groin, front and back, with washable markers, he had been painted with curlicues, stars, symbols,and lovely scenes. In between my laughter, tears streamed down my face.


  1. Ah ah! He made sure you identified the right leg. Good story, Carmine.

  2. A very moving story Carmen! You're such a kind and warm person.

    Hope you're rested at home..

  3. Oh my gosh! A wonderful story with such a surprisingly hopeful ending.

    So much of our health and recovery happens between our ears, doesn't it?

  4. some people always see a bright side even in the worst of conditions......always imagine where do they all this positive energy from.....

    holding hand of a that situation must be wonderful feeling......atleast when you know that person will see you again and recongize as the last person before he went through the operation .....

  5. I LOVE it. What a great story that is. It should be published somewhere. Just wonderful. My father is similar to this patient, he has had loads of operations and always goes into the theatre joking and making everyone laugh.

  6. What a heartening post. That patient instinctively knew what you all needed that day! (PS...I "pass gas, too, only as a Respiratory Therapist)

  7. I did NOT want to cry this morning...Oh Lord...Bless your heart...

  8. You are such a remarkable lady!

    Happy Thursday!





  9. How amazing! Guess he wanted to make sure you all knew which leg!

  10. What an amazing sight that must have been! :)

  11. What a lovely story. So moving. I'd also on behalf of all patients thank you for holding peoples hands like that. Going in for surgery is always scary, I know the patients appreciate your tender touch. I know I would.

  12. What a wonderful hospital tale. That older gentleman had a wonderful sense of humor.

  13. totally funny TFS :D

  14. Wow, what a tale of gallows humour! You are an amazing story-teller!
    I'd like to comment more about this text and an earlier one where make-up played a roll. But I have fever and a sore throat and don't feel very witty right now! I'm not as strong as your older gentleman.

    My H-word is "hearts":

    as well as:

    Best wishes,

  15. I usually relate hospital stories to sad ones... but this has Made me smile, and moved me at the same time... if i ever need a nurse i want them to be like you!!!
    great one, dear Carmen!

  16. it is a great story.......What a character this man was.....and courageous....

  17. beautiful, just as you are. but you made me so weepy!!!!!!!

  18. What a sweet story! He must have been a peace with the thought of living without his leg.

  19. Hi Carmen! Touching! Great reading to start the day!!

    Blogtrotter 2 is still in Jamaica. Enjoy and have a great weekend!!

  20. A patient who was making absolutely sure the correct leg was operated on, and with a great sense of humour.

    Relieved that your sense of hunour in intact too, dear Carmen. What a chellenging time you've had to face up to.

    Sending very much sincere care, concern and love for you, Michelle over in NZ with that cat snoring once more (bless him), xxxxx and purrsfrom within those snores from Zebbycat.

  21. Carmen..I have been such a wreck I must have missed the info on the Tuesday lunch...

    Where were you going to meet?

    I would love to meet you, but to be perfectly honest with you, I have not gone out in public because I can not stop crying. I'll see how it goes..

    email me at:

    sending love,

  22. Dear Carmen: Maybe in some neanderthal-like manner the man was trying to remember his leg in his mind's eye, like a personalized snapshot of what the leg had meant to him. This souvenir, like a tattoo recalled when he needed to remember his loss. The man's post op recovery may be easier too. Also, he could recall his old leg, thereby getting over the longing for his old leg. In this way, the man could lessen or stop the dreaded phantom pain later, the psychologically induced pain associated with amputations; he had already grieved and buried his leg. Love to see the pic. I think I'll do this if the need ever arises, hopefully no time soon! Thank-you for your many years of helping people. Your service invaluable and so underated. Nurses are truly Angels!

  23. lakeviewer -
    After all the stories about hospital mistakes, I am sure he wanted to make sure no errors were made!!

    Icy BC -
    It is good to be home though I am very slow at catch up in the blogsphere! Thanks, as always, for your kind comments.

    My name is P.J.-
    You are so correct...much of our health care is
    directly related to our minds and how we feel and think!

    hitesh rawat -
    I always admire people who can stay positive, regardless of the stresses they face. I don't think I am particularly good at that. I do, however, since I chose caring for patients as my life's profession, try my best to be there for them, and maintain a positive, supportive spirit. Some are so brave, in spite of the worst odds..and many survive them, with their faith and the love of those around them.

    Lilly -
    In my 45 years as an RN, I have gotten so much more from patients, than I have ever given. It has meant so much to me to be in this profession.

    5thsister -
    As another healer, you know, as I do, how much patients endure. This man was a special person and, though I am sure he was suffering, his effort made it all a little easier for us.

    Donna -
    This was, indeed, a sad story but with a touch of humor, nonetheless.

    Sh@KiR@ CK -
    Thank you for your sweet comments. This man was the special one, though.

  24. Maggie B -
    No doubt, he was reinforcing the right leg which needed surgery. I'd seen another case where the man painted a bullseye on his knee but this one was way more elaborate!

    Viki -
    I appreciate your thanks. As an OR nurse, and, having been a surgical patient myself, I understand all too well the anxiety people feel in that atmosphere, with the staff busy preparing for the operation. Sometimes, they seem to forget there is a living, breathing anxious soul waiting for the surgery to begin. It was at that time I began using eyeshadow as well...since all that was exposed above my mask were my eyes!

    Betty (picture circa 1951) -
    I think I would have been bawling but this man was so sweet!

    laterg84 -
    He sure had a better sense of humor than I do!!!

    Anna -
    I could not be so cheerful if I were facing such a surgery as the loss of a limb! Some people are amazing. Your hearts are lovely...I especially liked that dark blue heart necklace you had in your shop!

    Dulce -
    I have had some wonderful nurses care for me and they made all the difference in the world. I hope you never need one but, if you do, I hope you are cherished. Let them read some of your poetry.

    Melinda Cornish -
    I have seen some amazing patients in my 45 years of nursing, especially in the last 21 years as a forensic nurse dealing with adult and child victims of sexual abuse.

    Tongue Trip -
    I'll tell you, there was not a dry eye in the operating room that day, including the surgeon!

    Sarah -
    I guess this man had reconciled the necessity of the loss of his leg to maintaining his health. I would have been so distressed, I couldn't have been pleasant to anyone, I don't think.

    Trotter -
    Greetings, you world traveler. I am so jealous since my job loss has me basically grounded! Glad you are reading some of my posts!

    Mickle in NZ -
    I can feel the warm fuzzies from you and Zebby in far away New Zealand. I wish I could transport myself over your way for a good lamb dinner and some fine wine! It is good to be home in San Francisco!

    chicoreal -
    You are such a dear, saying such nice things about nurses. Having just gone through three weeks of my mother's hospitalization after a stroke and heart attack and her subsequent admission to a nursing home, I can offer nothing but praise for the wonderful nurses and assistants who have helped her throughout this journey.

    You had some brilliant comments about this man's adjustments to the loss of his leg...what a time he will face and his way of dealing with it might just have made the adjustment easier.

    My Farmhouse Kitchen -
    Kary, I cannot even imagine the sadness you are feeling...I can certainly cry with you, though. I feel horrible about Buddy...pets are so precious in our lives.

  25. what a wonderful & moving story!

  26. Oh my. What a touching H story. I love this!

    Thank you for sharing!


  27. Loved your story! What a memory for you.

  28. Really interesting and "surprising" post. Thank you for sharing this glimpse of hospital work and life.