A memorable moment of my CNA experience- once unamusing but my humor has since improved
|Shortly after lunch, I went to find Albert. He was sleeping in his chair in front of the tv in his room. The light from the window gleamed on his bald head with the three hairs he had us comb carefully every morning.
“Mr. Albert!” I had to bend over next to his ear for him to hear me. Before I started working, I had a very quiet speaking voice. I got over that after a few weeks of shouting in nearly deaf ears but sometimes it seemed like they still couldn’t hear me. “I need to take you to the rest room. Wake up.”
He jumped after I’d repeated the statement twice, eyebrows flying so far up they almost hit the top of his head while his mouth fell the other direction. I hoped his dentures didn’t fall out like they did the last time. They fortunately didn’t. He did, however, hit the controls on his electric chair and roll backwards over my foot. I grabbed his hand to keep him from causing further damage as someone inside my head screamed and danced on one foot.
“Wha-? What? Who is that?” His quavering tenor never seemed to match his body. I suppose it might have before he gained two hundred pounds through fluid retention, but I don’t know. I didn’t know him before.
Gritting my teeth, I eased his hand forward so the chair rolled away from my foot. “It’s Sara, Albert. We need to go to the bathroom.”
He blinked at me once, and then again. This time his eyes stayed closed.
“Mr. Albert! Albert Johnston,” I shook his shoulder lightly, almost shouting in his ear. “I need you to wake up. You need to use the bathroom.”
His head lolled back and he forced his eyes open. “Oh, yeah.”
I stood far away and put on my gloves as he maneuvered the chair into the tiny bathroom behind the door and got the chair positioned right.
Finally he called back, “All right. I’m ready.”
By taking a deep breath and moving onto my tippy toes I could squeeze past the chair into the bathroom. You would imagine that a nursing home would arrange for bathrooms big enough for a wheelchair, resident and staff to all fit at the same time. Apparently though, in reality, that was overlooked. However, by putting one foot behind the toilet and the other one just behind the little front wheels of the chair, I could fit and help Albert stand up and pull down his pants. The grab bar was digging into the small of my back, but that was all right.
While he used the restroom, I removed the wet brief from his pants, bagged it and then stood just outside the door while he finished. Some cautious probing of my foot told me that it would probably bruise, but I didn’t think there was any serious damage.
I had been working on this floor for several months now. I was new at the job and so was more than a little slow occasionally, but I had reached the point where I could finish caring for all my residents and finish charting before it was time to clock out in the afternoon. For the most part, I enjoyed my job. Aromatic and distasteful as it could be at times, I enjoyed working with the residents and had formed a good, friendly relationship with most of the other aides who worked the floor. I had even begun to notice a few strange habits from work carrying over to my everyday habits. Nothing particularly troubling, although Mom laughed when I absently used the dishtowels to turn off the water after drying my hands, and people did look at me strangely when I knocked before going through the door at the public library. On the whole, work was going well, but then there were days.
“All right. I’m finished.”
I got a clean brief out of the closet, opened it and tucked it under my arm before crawling over the chair into the bathroom. Then he grabbed a chair arm and one of the grab bars and scooted forward so his feet would touch the floor.
I slid an arm under his and forced a smile into my voice. “All right, Albert. Go ahead and stand.”
He took a deep breath and heaved. His slippers slid on the floor and his face turned beet red as he strained to pull himself to his feet. Groaning, he made it two and a half inches into the air and then gasped, “I’m going down!” He slid back to the toilet seat, breathing hard.
“You all right?” I asked him.
He nodded, got a grip on the chair arm and the grab bar again and said, “Okay. On three. One. Two. Three.” On each count he rocked himself forward and on three, made a lunging attempt to stand up.
He made it a little farther this time, and I caught his weight before he went back down onto the toilet seat and pulled him upright. Then he leaned his forehead against the wall as I wiped and put the brief on him.
“Oh. Oh. It’s that knee. Oh hurry.”
The last piece of tape ended up stuck to itself as I grabbed frantically for his pants. I yanked them up and used the waistband to haul him around. All of us aides were well familiar with Albert’s bad knee and I had no wish to deal with it. Unfortunately…
“I’m going down!” The horror in his voice would have been comical under other circumstances. “It’s that knee again. Oh oh, oh help. I’m going back.”
Halfway turned around, his knee buckled, throwing him back against me. Training had me bracing one knee against the toilet seat and the other one against the side of the electric chair. He sat down against my right leg and hip and then kept coming back. When his weight slammed me back against the grab bar, I realized the flaw in the arrangement and it took the shape of a sharp corner digging directly into my spine just above my hip.
He caught his breath. “Oh. Oh, that was close. Thank you. Oh, that knee.” He was shaking hard.
Due to the corner of the grab bar digging into my spine, I couldn’t quite make a reply. It was a moment or two before I could even breathe again. By that time, I was wondering how I could reach the string to the call light on the other side of the bathroom that would let the other aides know I needed help.
He moved and I bit the inside of my lip to keep from cussing at him as the bar dug harder against my back, sliding against my backbone with an almost audible grinding sound.
“Woah! Don’t move. Can you reach the call light?”
“Would you turn it on, please?”
He leaned forward to grab the string that would turn on the call light in the hall. Up until this point, the small black switch that looked like a light switch with a string dangling off the end, had been something seen as a necessary evil. Now, I desperately hoped that the light in the hallway and the piercing beep that accompanied it would be noticed and someone would come to help me. I heard it click and then that annoying sound I detested so much rang though the hall. I sighed. Maybe someone would come. Maybe. It was just after lunch and that’s a busy time. Arching my back in an attempt to relieve the pressure on my backbone, my feet slid, causing Albert to squeal in alarm. I tensed, clenching my teeth as the grab bar dug again into my back.
“Can you stand up?” I studied our position and decided that if I gave him a hard enough shove, I could possibly have him land in his chair. Even if he didn’t, I was getting desperate. Tingles of pain ran down my nerves from my fingers to my toes each time Albert shifted, pressing me against the bar.
“Oh, I don’t know. I was so scared.”
“Albert, I’m going to help you. I need you to stand up.”
Someone knocked on the hall door. “Albert? Did you need something? Albert?” Alecia stuck her head through the door. She peered into the bathroom and her mouth fell open.
“Oh my God! Are you…? What happened?”
“I’m going to give him a boost, Alecia. You pull him around into his chair.”
I suppose I sounded as bad as I felt. She nodded. “Albert, you need to pull your feet under you.”
“But I’ll fall!”
It took a few minutes to persuade him that we knew what we were doing and would help him and he wouldn’t fall on the floor because both of us were there. Alecia reached out to get a grip on his waistband and we counted it out. Then I gave him a shove upward. Tears came to my eyes along with the movement and my back made a grinding sound on the metal of the bar. Alecia immediately pulled him over and down into the chair. He landed a little sideways and breathless but safe and unhurt.
If there hadn’t been my pride and dignity to worry about, I’d have slid straight down the wall to the floor, sobbing with relief. The ability to move away from the wall and breathe without pushing against a two hundred pound weight was, for the moment, complete freedom but it was difficult to straighten up. In attempting to take my first step away, my knees almost buckled and pain flinched along the muscles in my back. Groaning, I made myself stand up and hobble out of the bathroom.
Standing by the sink, Alecia was spending her effort to calm Albert’s tremors. She waved me out of the room, so I limped on down toward the nurses’ station. When she finished soothing Mr. Albert, Alecia followed me, laughing about the whole incident. Leaning against the filing cabinet in the nurses’ station, I allowed the floor nurse to look at my back, grunting as Alecia described with alacrity the scene she’d walked in on.
“Well,” Karen pushed her glasses farther up her nose and let me pull my scrub top back down. “It looks painful. Let me get you a couple of Asprin and a patch. What’s wrong with your foot?”
I sat down before I told them what had happened before the incident in the bathroom and Alecia’s laughter doubled. Wiping away tears of laughter she nudged me with an elbow. “Usually the girl sits on the guy’s lap, Sara. It works better that way.”
If moving hadn’t been so painful I’d have strangled her. “I’ll keep that in mind, Alecia, for the next time we try this.”
Karen handed me three Asprin and an IcyHot eight hour pain patch. I regarded them glumly, “You’ve got some of the good stuff in the cart and all you can give me is Asprin and an IcyHot patch?”
She shrugged. “Like it or lump it, girl, and enjoy the rest of your day.”
Oh, yes, I have a wonderful job. I work with knowledgeable, supportive staff, I’m gaining valuable experience in the medical field and making money at the same time. With just four weeks of training, you can do it too!
However that may be, I now know why there is such a shortage of nurses.