A few experiences in nursing school determined for me that one of my professional nursing goals would be to only care women and children. Hence my working in a maternity floor and pediatric hospital.
A ward is full of men. Literally. Yesterday, Yenneke (the other nurse) and I provided the only doses of estrogen in a testosterone filled ward. It's funny because being a peds nurse I normally would have been longing to be on B ward, which has been filled with children. But had I been placed there I would have requested to be reassigned; the men of A ward have stolen my heart. Yesterday we really had a good time.
Three of my patients were named Emmanuel. Strong Biblical names are apparently quite popular in Liberia. Emmanuel in bed 6 has been my patient for the past 2 weeks. He came in with a huge leg infection that is being cleaned out in the OR every few days. In a weeks time I admitted back to the ward from surgery three times.
Emmanuel has a wide, rounded face and a large smile in which every tooth is separated by gentle gaps. He never went to school and had difficulty reading. He is alone; his parents live hours away and he had been staying with an uncle in Monrovia so he could receive his surgery.
He really misses his mom and can be quote dramatic/sensitive at time. He's like a big baby huey. A gentle four year old soul trapped in a fifteen year old's body.
When he has even a little pain he winces in moans in a way that if taken at face value would make you think his leg had just been ran over a truck. But I have realized that a little extra TLC and some firm anti-anxiety boundaries works better then morphine when controlling his pain. A few minutes of gentle coaxing and concern and his wincing face turns into a smile (which is how I know it's not true pain..you can't turn pain on and off...I am however a very big advocate for adequate pain relief and would never leave a patient in pain...).
On Saturday I stopped by the ward to say hello and asked him if he was going to have a day. I was a bit taken back when he firmly responded "no."
It was followed by, "I will be missing you Meggee," and a gap-filled widespread smile.
"When will you be my nurse?"
Winston is another sweetheart. He's fifteen and has given himself the title of "doctor". He gives me a hard time about my coffee habits and enjoys a stimulating game of Uno. Yesterday he was jokingly talking in high and low pitched voices.
Yesterday Winston helped me wish my mom a happy mothers day. We called her and he serenaded her with a song over the phone lines and then wished her a "Happy African Mother's Day." It was great. We were both laughing really hard.
Yesterday I took a guitar up to deck 7 to sing some songs with the patients. I don't really play but I know a few chords (I later overheard Milton telling on of the nurses "Meggee tried to sing songs with us but she does not play very well. We will have to have Vera come down so we can sing). When we were singing, Alfred, a 14 year old patient who is a bit of a star on the ward if for no other reason then longevity, busted out a few "American Idol" style gospel performances. It was awesome. He sang these five minute gospel songs about the trials of Job and other topics with the flair and pizazz of Kirk Franklin. His eyes were closing, his head was swaying, and his hands were feeling the rhythm as he treated Gaye, Winston, and I to an impressive musical performance. While he sang, Gaye and I provided rhythmic clapping and snapping, and Gaye encouraged Aflred saying,
"Oh, Alfred I like your singing. I like your voice. You sound good."
If only I had the concert on tape. Maybe the will start Liberian Idol and Alfred can audition.
Before we went back inside, the men decided they all wanted their picture taken while holding the guitar. It was hysterical. They each totally seriously pretended they were playing while I snapped their photo.
Taking care of men isn't so bad after all.