Sunday, November 17, 2013

The eye of the storm

For the last 22 hours I have been in bed, nursing my ridiculously sore feet.  The last 12 days wrecked them completely.  I think I'll use some of that overtime money to buy new shoes.  Sometime before the next 12 days of pre-christmas overtime insanity begins.  I am sitting in the eye of the storm that is my own life, these precious two days off, contemplating the eye of the storm that is dementia.

I lied about not going back into nursing.  It's not as though I meant to.  We were getting pretty hungry waiting around for the economy to relent itself enough for me to obtain the job to end all other jobs.

There's good news, though.  I'm doing things differently now.  I'm working in a lock-down unit for the demented. It's a dramatic shift from your typical long-term care or home-health environment.  Dramatic, I say.  This is the kind of work that changes who you are as a person, and maybe not necessarily in a "good" way.  Three months have gone by since I started there, and the burn-out is significant, but I feel the ability to carry on radiating from my liver.  These people are different.  These people are unique.  And not just because they are often quite violent, but because they appear to me as remnants of humanity's core.

They are constant reminders of our most basic emotions.  Joy, Fear, Pain, Anger, and Sorrow.  They will laugh uncontrollably for hours.  They will scream out in psychological agony until dawn.  They will fight you when you least expect it. They will kiss your face without warning.  They switch between moods in a matter of nanoseconds, and they do so without any apparent trigger.  They are evidence that we are more than a mosaic of memories.  They are evidence that mood matters.  They are the very soil that nourishes growth, and at the same time, they are the storm that destroys life.  These people are the very definition of poetry in motion.

They are the most random people on the planet.  And I have fallen madly in love with every last one of them.  And not just them, my co-workers too.

My co-workers are intelligent, hard-working, caring, and crazy.  I've yet to be partnered with anyone I didn't fully enjoy working with.  We seem to grow fairly close, fairly quickly.  There's something about being in an environment surrounded by disease, death, and dementia that calls for the quick bonding of co-workers.  It's been a hot minute since I've worked with such a large number of incredible individuals.      

The facility is something just beyond antiquated.  There are bugs of all types invading my space.  Centipedes, spiders, stink, and water bugs to name the most predominant among them. The building is in desperate need of an internal face-lift. Short of that, there is nothing notably different about working there.  The politics are the same.  The call-off policy cripples all other attempts to control infection.  No vacation or PTO for a year.  No insurance for six months.  Short of staff more often than fully staffed.  Ample opportunity for overtime.  Wavering overall morale.  Finicky time-clock.  The occasional nit-picking nurse.  The gossip hounds.  The ever-present feeling of being looked down upon, by family members and admin.  Administration that is so far removed from the daily grind that they initiate policies that are, at best, unobtainable pipe dreams.  From what I can tell, lower level staff feedback does not exist within the walls of that place.  Above all else, the most shamefully typical attribute of this facility, are residents whose faces ring with the bitter taste of institutionalization.

But lo, I think I will stay for a while.  If for no other reason, to bear witness to the weighted efforts of every day people attempting to untangle the fibers of existence from the darkest corners, in the murkiest waters, of this thing we call life.