Wednesday, July 13, 2011


One day while working in theatre, I was allocated to the breast theatre which consists mostly of mastectomies. As a useless and mostly worthless trainee, my job was to take the breast from the surgeon and prepare it for histology by sitting it in Formalin.

That's all very well and good until I received a breast that can only be described as gargantuan. This thing must have weighed over 10kg. I carried it away with my arms buckling under its' weight. Luckily, a colleague, Henry, was there to help me. I put the breast into a plastic bag. Usually we use a syringe to fill the bag with Formalin but considering the size of the breast, that would have taken longer than the surgery itself. So, Henry and I did what any logically-thinking person would do. We lifted the huge bucket of Formalin and poured it in straight.

We underestimated the flow of the Formalin and ended up filling the bag to its' brim with it. Now, Formalin burns like a bitch, your eyes water, you can't breathe. As we were panicking, trying to close the bag, while crying tears of what I imagined to be blood, I (of course) got the giggles. And, in walked Sister Zee.

I don't know what she expected of us, but it's not like we could pour the now-used Formalin back into the bucket. I stood there laughing (and crying) while Formalin kept sloshing out of the bag onto the floor with every moment my body made. I noticed Sister Zee had watering eyes and she promptly left the room.

We eventually managed to tie off the bag, and returned it to the surgeon with it bursting at the seams with one random, huge boob floating within it. I walked out of theatre - with my head held high - before the surgeon got a chance to ask questions.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Something Smells Fishy

Working in a surgical ward in the first few days of January guarantees the fact that you will see many "New Year's Eve/Alcohol-Induced" injuries. Living in South Africa, these injuries are mostly the result of assault.

Night shift handed over to me, and because I was dreaming of my warm bed, I didn't hear exactly what they said, but gathered that a patient, Brian's, belongings were in the fridge.

I went to go put a name tag on what I assumed to be colddrink or something along those lines. However, upon opening the fridge, all I found was a brown paper bag, within which was a polystyrene cup. In the polystyrene cup was a nose. A human nose. Trying to (quite literally) put the pieces of this puzzle together, I went on a quest to find Brian. Indeed Brian had no nose. I don't know what else I was actually expecting. His nose had been bitten off in a fight.

The plastic surgeons soon got to work and realized it would be difficult (and kind of disgusting) to re-attach a nose that had been in a polystyrene cup in a fridge with temperatures that aren't really regulated. Plus, it was kind of old and shrivelled up.

Instead, the surgeons decided to perform a skin graft and basically just cover the open flesh and bone (rather than let Brian look like a person instead of Michael Jackson). This is the part I never quite understood. They took a skin graft from the back of his head - on his scalp. A scalp which was, I might add, covered in hair. I performed wound care for Brian and it really didn't look too bad until a couple days after the op, when his nose started sprouting little black hairs. A few more days passed and Brian eventually had a totally hairy nose.

Suddenly though, the hair had disappeared. I was so happy for Brian until I found him in the bathroom shaving his nose with a razor. That explained that, then.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Momma's Boy

As a nurse, it is not uncommon to have some mildly crazy people walk into your life once in a while. As a nurse named Andy, this tends to happen way too often.

One night, we received a male patient who had been close to ODing on all sorts of drugs. The type of guy that would smoke a teddy bear if it could get him high.

OD patients are renowned for being very difficult and they usually RHT (Refuse Hospital Treatment). This guy came to the ward, screaming and shouting at the nurse transferring him over. We managed to get him into bed and put up a drip. A couple hours later, after walking the hallway searching for ghosts, I saw a trail of blood. I followed the trail like I was a fat Gretel following a trail of Jelly Tots and it led me to the entrance of the ward and our lovely patient trying to escape. I might add that he was pulling on the door that said "PUSH".

The smart ass had ripped his drip out, not realizing that he would leave a trail of blood apparently. He continued to be extremely uncooperative and we couldn't find an awake and functioning doctor to prescribe sedation. So, we did the next best thing.. We called security.

Within 5 minutes, we had ten burly security guards in the ward. The short, skinny patient started shouting insults at the guards. Bad idea. After some manhandling, the patient started screaming that he wanted his "mommy".

I managed to track down "mommy" and she came into the ward. The patient embraced her for a long time and then started yelling insults at her too. He really doesn't learn.

The highlight of my night was when he started asking if his "mommy" could stay overnight with him. I had heard it all! At this stage, I had better things to do with my time, like making a Cup-a-Soup. Later, I realized I hadn't seen or heard from the patient or "mommy". This time, my investigation led me to find him and his mom squeezed into the tiny bed together, spooning. Talk about a close relationship. Now, I had seen everything too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Night Shift Naughtiness

Night shift in a government hospital is when things *really* go down. When fun can occur at any moment. Where there is no Matron checking up on you. Where you can discover ghosts and mysteries.. Or so I thought.

My first experience of night duty was in a medical admissions ward (busy one night and quite literally dead quiet the next night when you aren't on intake). Thankfully, I was allocated into this ward with one of my best friends, Christa.

Over my years of studying, I had heard many ghost stories from within the hospital walls. And what better time to explore than during night shift? The one surgical ward had the most incidences: doors slamming closed, patient buzzers ringing in empty rooms, lights flickering.. Some may say this is due to poor workmanship and cheap products - this is public sector afterall. But I was, and am, in denial.

In went Christa and I to explore. Immediately upon entering the ward, we heard soft moaning coming from the kitchen. A ghost that died from 3rd degree burns after an urn fell on her!? No. In we walked to find about 7 staff members fast asleep. One was even sleeping on top of the warming drawer. The moans were actually snores.

We quickly moved on to a medical ward renowned for deaths. Christa sat to prevent varicose veins while I explored. Walking past a room, I saw someone tall standing next to a bed, looking over a patient! I closed my eyes tight and when I opened them again, he was still there! Jackpot! My first ghost sighting! I ran to call Christa. When we got back, I hurriedly switched on the lights to catch him in the act of possibly murdering the innocent patient. It was a drip stand. A drip stand draped with the innocent patients' jacket.

Leaving 8 annoyed, angry and now awake patients with contagious conditions, we gave up the ghost hunt and finished with a boring, uneventful and murder-free night. We sat and watched a DVD, but every time we heard the 'click-clack' of a surprise-visiting Matrons' heels, we ran into a room to pretend we were very busy with patients. You would think that (after years of training), matrons would be smart enough to wear shoes that don't announce their entrance into the wards?

As 5AM rolled on, and feeling too guilty to sleep, I resorted to throwing objects into Christa's open mouth as she was passed out at the nurse's station. Prestik, pieces of paper, elastic bands.. Running out of throwing material, I resorted to a bunch of keys that had most probably been dropped in urine and faeces countless times and got a slam dunk! Don't know how I thought she would sleep through that though. I quickly pretended to be asleep with a slight smile on my face.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Locked-up Loonies Part 2

Ah, Maxwell. Such a smooth talker, who suffered from Schizophrenia.

The day I met Maxwell, he came up to me and without even introducing himself asked: "Are you married?" When you're a female working in male lock-up ward, you are always married. Otherwise, they'll steal you and take you back to their bedroom and stuff you under their mattress.

Maxwell told me many stories of his wives, his BMWs, his riches. None of them were true. What was true, however, was that Maxwell had an affinity for us female nurses. One day, Maxwell was elegantly lying across a table and when I walked past him, he called me a "beautiful, sexy angel". Whenever I walked past an open doorway and looked in, Maxwell was staring back at me. It started getting awkward when he would suddenly appear next to me when least expected (surprise!) or when he would attempt to hold my hand.

While working in our hours at this hospital, we had a room in which we could sit and type up our findings of our patients. The assignment load was huge, and we could use any spare moment to work on our projects. We had spent a big part of the morning working on these assignments, and then all went out to grab some lunch together. On returning to the room, we walked in, sprayed deodorant, had some girly talk and sat down at our computers. Suddenly, in my peripheral vision, I saw a dark silhouette in the corner of the room, glaring at us. Maxwell. Under my voice, I muttered: "Whatever you do, don't look at the corner of the room". My friends looked anyway. Caroline screamed. Some of us jumped a metre away from him. One friend ran out to call security. Maxwell simply asked "Why didn't you invite me for lunch?" Needless to say, security had to tackle him and pull him out of the room while his nails dug tracks in the carpet.

Later on that day, my super nifty bladder failed me and I needed a pee-break. I walked out the room and had the distinct feeling of being followed. I started walking faster and just before I got to the bathroom, I had a quick glance over my shoulder. Maxwell. He grabbed me and pinned me against the wall. I let out a meek: "Sister?... Doctor?" trying to find someone in charge who could possible take away the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Luckily the Sister-in-Charge found me, grabbed some Haloperidol and put Maxwell out of his misery. *side note: I wish I could have received the Haloperidol*

They started drugging Maxwell heavily. Apparently I was a bad influence on his psychosis. Maxwell took a bad reaction to the sedation one day and we needed to move him to a room closer to the nurse's station. Only problem is, we were 4 skinny nurses and one 90kg man. You do the math. This resulted in us putting a sheet under Maxwell and sliding him along the floor all the way through the ward to get him to the room, leaving a trail of drool behind us.

Maxwell slowly started getting better, but he still loved us nurses. One day, we were leaving work, and as we got to our cars, we looked behind us only to find Maxwell following us with a packed suitcase and a bottle of juice. He insisted that he would be coming home with us. Once again, security had to tackle him and take him down. You would think security could have just not opened the gate for him in the first place, no?

The last time I saw Maxwell, I was no longer working in the ward but at a Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic. I saw him running on one of the fields, non-stop. He had lost a lot of weight, and was looking good. I asked a Doctor why he was running so much. The Doctor replied that Maxwell believed he had been entered to run the Comrades marathon.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Locked-up Loonies Part 1

One of the hardest moments in training to be a kick-ass nurse is the specialization in Psychiatry. Not only because you remove all the masks you are wearing to disguise who you really are, but because you work with people who want you to die.

We were all nervous, yet excited, to find out where we would be placed within a certain Psychiatric hospital. I was particularly nervous because I am very scared of the unknown. I went (with Ariel) to our beautiful, very understanding lecturer and asked her not to put me in a specific ward. What happened? I was put there anyway..

Male lock-up Ward.

That's right. Big, scary men. Big, scary, *crazy* men who are so out of control, they are under constant guard and are locked inside. Now, maybe this was my lecturer's way of showing me what I can accomplish. Or maybe this was her way of enjoying some of my suffering. Sadist.

We walked towards the ward holding hands. The glass windows were shattered. There were men standing at the windows watching our every move. The big white gate was unlocked by security for us. I walked through that ward with my back to the walls at all times, and when I came to a corridor I would dive across (stealth style) to the other side, holding my pepper spray like a gun. The Sisters decided we should all meet our patients. We walked into the lounge where they were sitting. One by one, they introduced themselves. A lot of them seemed totally normal.. Except for the occasional one that would just walk out the room or randomly start screaming. My favourite patient was a man named Sam, who suffered from Schizophrenia. At his turn to introduce himself, he promptly stood up and shouted: "Secret Prime Minister, Third Division", waved, and sat back down. He came and greeted us all individually, and excused himself. He walked out the room and back in through another door and introduced himself all over again. Later on, he came up to me and said "If I knew you were coming, I would have shaved." He walked off like a man on a mission to go shave, until I found him in the courtyard picking at blades of grass.

While watching over the patients during lunch (making sure the anorexics ate and that the depressives didn't slit their wrists with the plastic cutlery), Sam came up to me with a couple sachets of black pepper and informed me that it's brilliant for preventing heart attacks. Ah, where would I be without my Sam? After I got to know Sam a little better, he informed me that his mother gave him a blowjob. And that he enjoyed it. Sam was so very sweet, he would try feed me his food, or steal me an apple from the kitchen because he was always convinced that I must be hungry. Exercise time with Sam was the highlight of my stay at the hospital. Exercise releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals) but in Sam's case, they made him perform very.. erm, effeminate moves. Halfway through exercise time, he would stop and sit on the floor. However, when it was his turn to demonstrate an exercise move, he would jump up excitedly and perform weird dance moves ala Michael Jackson on tiptoes, hands on waist, shaking his hips.

Another man I met was Harry. An old guy with Alzheimers. Harry loved to exercise, despite barely being able to walk. I can still hear Harry chanting in his ex-smokers, Portugese-accented, voice: "Wunnn, Toooo, Sreee.." Harry was extremely hyper-sexual and grabbed my bum every time I walked past him. I didn't know this at first and went up to speak to him on our first day there. He looked at me slowly, told me I was beautiful and put his arm around me. In the next instant, he had a crazy moment and tried to strangle me. Harry used to sit on his own swearing in Portugese. God forbid you ever got close to him, he would either try slap you or try to have sex with you. Good thing my pimp hand was strong. I think Harry knew how to piss me off as well: by sitting down. Once Harry sits, there's no chance he's going to get back up easily. He would shout "Nurse! Nurse!" until I would come pick him up. I would stand with my weak little arms under his sweaty pits, inhaling his dry urine smell, while he tried to nibble my earlobe. *shudder*

Sam and Harry were a breeze in comparison to another patient we encountered: Maxwell. Stay tuned for Locked-up Loonies Part 2. ;)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Suction Scourge

Picture this scenario: You're a student. You're a nurse. You are allocated to work your first day EVER in an operating theatre. Exciting times. We all thought we were big shots. We took some photos in our scrubs and were loving that we could for once wear amazingly comfortable shoes to work. We slipped on our hats and booties and watched while some incompetent morons put the booties on their heads..

It was this first day that I met Sister Zee as well, just by the way.. She didn't seem quite so insane on first impression. However, when she handed out meatballs with maggots in them to her colleagues for lunch, I started to catch on.

Anywho.. My story takes place in an operating theatre working on an old beggar whose diet was so poor that his intestines were necrotic and dying. Parts of his intestines were black. *shudder* When the surgeons realised what they were dealing with, myself and Ariel had to spring into action and set up the suction unit so that they could start suctioning all the crap inside the guy. Now, bear in mind, this is our first day, we don't even know what a suction unit looks like, let alone how it works.

Good thing Sister Zee was there to help, screaming at us and telling us we are all morons. Nonetheless, being the geniuses we are, Ariel and I figured out what the unit looked like (we found one pre-assembled). We gave the unit to the surgeons who started doing their thing. Standing at the back of the room, making "I'm going to vom vom" faces complete with finger in throat, we heard a commotion at the bed. The suction unit was full and dangerously close to overflowing. Shit. Sister Zee was shouting. We panicked and stood dead still not quite knowing if we should find another suction bag or run for our lives.

Zee threw a bag at us and we ran forward and tried to replace the bag. Except we weren't quite smart enough to know to turn the suction off BEFORE changing the bag. We ripped the suction tube out and the guy's rotten intestine juices spilled out all over the suction unit and the floor. Like I said, we are geniuses. We get the new bag in, and all is calm again.. Except 2 minutes later, another bag is full - but we didn't realize. By the time we turn around, we find that it is overflowing onto the floor and starting to spray out. Intestine juices were everywhere, including on the surgeons shoes - which he didn't find to be particularly amusing. This only made us laugh harder, so while trying to suppress our giggles, we stood at the suction unit changing bags regularly every 2 minutes, before they got even close to full. Although, admittedly, there was a little part of me that wanted the same thing to happen every time. It's always fun for the person that doesn't have rotten intestine juices all over them.