Like A Trip To The Ear-Bone Room

You try to forget the really unpleasant things that have happened to you in your life, but normally they tend to stick with you much longer, and more vividly, than the happy incidents.  That’s why, for almost 50 years, my standard for measuring the awfulness of an experience is to compare it to a visit to the Ear-Bone Room.

The Ear-Bone Room was the name my sister Cathy and I gave to the low point of our visits to the orthodontist when we were kids.  That’s truly the lowest of the low.  In those days, when the orthodontist spent the entire session with his hands in your mouth, either pounding metal braces onto your teeth with a hammer or tightening the wires that connected them so your teeth would move together, and then berating you because you weren’t wearing your night brace, the appointment inevitably produced a sore mouth, a deep sense of humiliation, and a mindless fury at the sadistic hammering berater.

Still, the Ear-Bone Room was the worst of the worst.  You went in to a white room that was totally vacant except for a large x-ray apparatus.  Nurse Hairy Arms — so-called because she had the bushy hand and forearm hair of a Turk — then placed your head in caliper-like pincers that she tightened until they were painfully locked directly against the bones of your inner ears.  (Hence, the name of the dreaded room.)

It was painful, with the metal tips of the pincers grinding against your skull bone, purportedly to hold your head steady for the x-rays, but that wasn’t even the worst of it.  No, the worst came when Nurse Hairy Arms told you you needed to turn your head to the right or left and then began to turn the calipers before you could even begin to move your head in response to her commands.  Imagine your head being locked in a vise-like grip and forcibly turned, and the tips of the calipers occasionally slipping into your ear canal — which caused Nurse H.A. to need to reposition the vise all over again.

In this day where dental x-rays cause the dental assistant to cover your body in a lead apron and then scamper out of the room so she isn’t exposed, it’s hard to imagine that any competent medical practitioner would repeatedly irradiate the heads of 10-year-olds, but that’s the way it was.  And I can assure you — I was glad when the radiation was finally directed at my skull, because that meant the trip to the Ear-Bone Room was one step closer to its blessed conclusion.

So now, when something bad happens to me, I think about whether it was worse than a visit to the Ear-Bone Room, and I conclude:  Not even close.

A Nurse In The Family

Grandma Webner always said that she wanted to have a doctor in the family.  Alas, none of her sons or grandsons were able to fulfill her wishes — and the lawyers in the family just didn’t have the same cachet as an honest-to-goodness M.D.

Today Grandma Webner would be happy camper because our family has added the next best thing to a doctor — a nurse.  Our niece Brittany Hartnett learned that she has passed all of her boards and is now officially a nurse.

It’s great news for Brittany and her family, and it’s also nice to see the good things that can happen when someone follows their dream and works very hard to see that dream realized.  Becoming a nurse takes a lot of effort and dedication and stamina, to say nothing of a strong stomach and an enormous reservoir of patience and goodwill toward humanity.  There’s a chronic shortage of nurses in the United States, and it’s reassuring to know that talented young people like Brittany are stepping up to answer the call and fill that important need.

Congratulations, Britt!

The Value Of A Good Nurse

Today’s outpatient procedure at the East Side Surgical Center demonstrated the value of a good nurse — and how essential they are in the modern world of healthcare.

From the outset, after I completed the registration materials, I was in the realm of nurses. Pre-operation, a friendly nurse adjusted my crutches to the right height, got me changed into surgical garb, took my vitals, created my ID bracelets, gave me my initial medication, and set up the blood vessel portal for the anesthetic to be administered, among other tasks that I wasn’t even aware of thanks to our relaxed conversation. She was a real pro.

After the surgery, I awoke to the company of another nurse who checked the dressing on my foot, explained that the operation had gone well, took my blood pressure, gently engaged me in a slow-talking conversation as the anesthetic fog gradually lifted, steadied me on my crutches, then wheeled me out to where Kish was waiting for me with the car. She was great, too.

In our penny-pinching health care system, doctors have to focus on doing the high-level procedures for which they are so well trained, and nurses carry the load of performing the other medical, and administrative, and human interaction duties that need to be completed. We can only keep costs under control — and also create an experience where the patients truly feel like they are receiving care — if we have a corps of kind, pleasant, professional nurses who make the system run.

I’m happy to report that I received excellent nursing care from some wonderful people at the East Side Surgical Center on my visit this morning. Of course, the best care of all is at home, where Kish is saddled with keeping an eye on me while I’m flat on my back for a few days.