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Having already worked a double shift at the hospital; I was asked by the Director of Nursing if I would continue working the night shift until a registered nurse could be located to take over charge of the Medical Three Ward. Very tired, I agreed to continue until someone could come in to replace me. There were many duties an LPN was not allowed to perform, such as dispensing certain medications, and the rules required, in case of an emergency, that an RN or training physician be present on the ward at all times.
I was sitting behind the desk when I noticed the dome light come on outside room 320. Taking a fast sip of coffee, I headed down the hallway to see what Mrs. Calaveras might need.
As I entered the private room, her daughter came walking toward me with her finger pressed to her lips, letting me know to remain quiet.
"I have to go get something to eat. Will you stay with my mother until I return?"
Shaking my head, I nodded "yes."
Mrs. Calaveras was in her upper eighties and was not expected to live through the night. Her daughter had told me earlier that her mother (as a child) had been raised in an orphanage and was severely abused (just as I had been) and that she had an unbelievable fear of having to die without someone by her side. The little girl living deep down inside her mother still cried to be loved and hopefully would not be forgotten. That was a fear that I knew very well and had thought about many times when I had battled cancer.
I stood by her bedside and wiped her forehead as she was perspiring profusely.
"ELOISE, ROZZIE; are you there?" she would bellow out in a faint and shaking voice.
"They right here Ms. Calaveras," I would tell her.
Eloise and Rozzie were her two sisters; both now deceased but had them selves been raised in the orphanage.
"Mr. Kiser," a voice shouted from out in the hallway.
I reached over and turned on the light to room 320.
Several seconds later the Director of Nursing entered the room.
"Why are you not at the station?" she replied.
"Her daughter went for something to eat and she asked me to stay with Mrs. Calaveras."
"Your responsibility is to charge the desk, not sit and pamper the patients."
"I have the door open and I can hear any dome lights that might come on," I replied.
Pointing at me, she snapped her finger quickly toward the doorway telling me to immediately make my way back to the nursing desk.
"I can't leave Mrs. Calaveras until her daughter returns."
Giving me a very stern look, she turned and walked out the door, closing it behind her.
"BING, BING, BING, BING," began to sound the various patient lights, as they began to light up.
I knew there was no emergency. That the Director was deliberately turning on the lights to force me out of the room.
"ELOISE, ROZZIE; are you there?" sounded Mrs. Calaveras again.
"Mr. Kiser, you have other patients to attend to," sounded the nurse.
"ELOISE, ROZZIE; are you there?"
"ELOISE, ROZZIE; are you there?"
Letting go of Mrs. Calavera's hand, I walked over and opened the door. I turned around and looked at the patient.
"ELOISE, ROZZIE; are you there?" she cried out.
"KISER, YOU GET YOUR BEHIND OUT HERE AND RIGHT THIS MINUTE."
Slowly, I closed the door and walked back over to the bedside. I picked up the rag and once again began to wipe her forehead.
Several minutes later, the Director of Nursing and the replacement RN came walking into the room. The director walked over, grabbed me by the arm, and began to give me a very stern lecture. I looked up as Mrs. Calaveras daughter entered the room and walked to her mother's bedside. It was at that very moment that the heart-monitor discontinued beeping and the tone became constant. All hell broke lose, as the Director declared a code red situation.
That was a very difficult situation for me to be in at such a young age. Having to make a choice between what was right, wrong, correct and/or moral. Was I supposed to make a choice for what was best for me, the hospital, Mrs. Calaveras or the other patients?
I will forever remember my mind racing, ninety miles per hour, in a never-ending circle of confusion. I really do not remember making a choice that day. I do remember thinking that I had given the hospital, that particular day, more than was required of me as an employee. Had another patient been in danger; I certainly would have left Mrs. Calaveras bedside. Never having had a mother or a father and not wanting anyone to die alone; the orphan factor became my overriding concern.
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