The Absurdity of it All

So, Saturday was a crappy day at work, as all days are starting to be. To say that we’re short-staffed doesn’t even describe it. We’re short-supplied, short-willed, short-empathetic, short everything. People who have worked here for 20+ years have been quitting left and right and going to better-paying hospitals. I work weekends in radiology (CAT scan) alongside one other person, whereas, during the week, the department is staffed with five people. Fine, right? Weekends aren’t as busy, right? Bullshit. Tell that to the patients that get sick on Saturdays and the doctors who do their rounds on Sunday as if it was a Monday. I have a saying that goes, “every day is a Monday at a hospital,” but try telling that to corporate.

Anywhoo…so, Saturday. Oh, my f*ing god, Saturday was a doozy. It started off slow enough, as Saturdays often deceptively do, until an in-patient emergency reared its ugly head. The IR department (interventional radiology) team got called in, which meant they had to pull one of us to help with a procedure. Running a busy CT department with two techs is hard enough, but it gets really difficult when the job has to be done by one person. Needless to say, shit hit the fan real quick, and it took no time at all for the phone to start ringing off the hook. By noon, I was saying, “if another person asks me, “when are you going to scan this patient? I was gonna reach through the phone and strangle the person at the other end.” Yet, all this describes a typical Saturday so far…

This Saturday was different because the cracks were starting to show. The other tech I work with is still technically new. She just learned how to CT scan a few months ago. She recently replaced the other tech that I used to work with for the past ten years, but that tech up and quit a couple of months ago. We used to run a pretty tight ship, but now I spend a good chunk of time metaphorically tossing water out with barrels. She’s not a bad tech, but she’s still learning how to not accidentally kill someone if she’s not careful.

So, this Saturday, all the doctors were ordering exams as if it was a Monday, like usual. Some of the exams they ordered were complicated requests, and the tech that I’m training needs to learn how to do some of the complicated crap, so I don’t always get stuck doing the hard stuff by myself. In other words, we weren’t up to speed. Couple that with the fact that I was already backed up with her being gone for a couple of hours, and you get the idea that our ship was sinking. This, unfortunately, is the new normal. The ship I’m on sinks every day.

It takes time to properly train brand new staff, and we have like eight positions open — mostly overnights. Who the hell wants to work overnights in a busy CT department all by their lonesome? Can you believe that they expect us to move incapacitated patients onto the CT table all by ourselves? It’s ridiculous. I don’t know why people think we have superhuman capabilities because my back and shoulders attest that we don’t. Alas, I digress. Allow me to get back to this Saturday…

So, to make a long story short, let me just say that every doctor that had hospital privileges ordered a CT scan that day. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a list of requests that long. There was no way we could scan everyone in a timely manner, so we gave up trying. “One at a time,” we kept saying out loud, “that’s all we can do. Just complete one order at a fucking time.”

So, fast forward to the end of the day. We still had an incredibly long list to tackle (and, unfortunately, leave for the next shift to inherit), and we put an elderly gentleman on the table. This guy was 80-something years old, stiff as a board, and suffering from severe dementia. It took all our energy to slide him onto the table, and we did so dressed head to toe in protective gear. He was wearing a mask, but he was coughing his guts out because he was afflicted with Covid. So, we did the brain scan, but the images weren’t exactly the best because he kept coughing all the while and moving his head. Whatever. “Best images possible,” we sometimes have to say. So, we go back in the room to get him off the table and notice that his face is covered in a layer of bright yellow vomit. He coughed so hard that he vomited onto his face. A big clump of vomit pooled into the corners of his eyes, and it was a sight that was all the more disgusting because we knew that vomit was laced with Covid. We were aghast with horror, disgust, sadness — the whole gamut of emotions, you name it, we were feeling it. It was a lot to take in, and we did our best to clean him up. Meanwhile, the phone was ringing continuously in the background.

So, we both had an existential moment when that happened. We both looked at that guy and decided that we didn’t want our lives to end up like his. He was so severely demented that he didn’t even react to having Covid vomit all over his face. He was so out of it that he didn’t even care. This man was actively dying, and he sounded miserable. That cough. That fucking Covid cough. It sounded painful. Not to be mean, but I wondered what the point of his life was. How many meds have been pumped into his body these last several years just to keep him alive, only to have him end up with Covid in his eyeballs? It just didn’t make sense to me. How much of his life was his versus how much of it was artificial? It’s a question I ask often to myself when I see patients with extremely low quality of life. I know that I don’t want to be kept alive just for the sake of being kept alive. I hate that it’s an acceptable option to do so in America. People don’t know how to let go of loved ones, I totally get that, but keeping people alive just because they can only benefits a hospital’s bottom line. I see it everyday, and I think it’s gross and absurd. It’s like throwing bright yellow Covid vomit all over the face.

Published by Krista Marson

Hi, my name is Krista, and I'm a traveling fiend. I am passionate about history, nature, art, gardening, writing, and watching movies. I created this blog to let people know I have some travel novels available to read. Enjoy!

5 thoughts on “The Absurdity of it All

  1. Woah that’s a powerful read. I think overall need outstrips supply in every area of human life at this point in history, whole flotillas of ships are sinking wherever you look .sending a big hug to you , i dont know how you do it .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting post Krista. My late wife Karen worked for 30 years in Radiology, with half of that time spent as a CT Lead, including 7 years on the graveyard shift. I have worked over 45 years in the Operating Room. I know all too well everything you wrote about in your post. The only thing keeping me going is my upcoming retirement in July of this year. The E.R. nurses and unit nurses all loved my wife. She kept a drawer full of candy for them and it was a short respite from their insanity to have a piece of candy and show her pictures of their kids, which she loved. Unfortunately for her 70th birthday, just at the onset of the pandemic, she got a brain tumor for her birthday. After 5 months of hell she passed away. The only bright side was that at a time when hundreds of thousands were dying alone we were able to be together. I was on a leave but I would show up at the hospital, put my scrubs on, and be with her wherever she was. No one ever complained, everyone knew us and I could actually help, something the over worked short staffed people appreciated. The 5 months of hell has left some deep scars…. I really enjoy your writing. I started writing articles for our O. R. blog because it was so boring. I have written over 100 articles and people seem to enjoy them. I have had the opportunity to write about anything which has been a lot of fun, they have never censored anything I have submitted. I try to not embellish too much; at least 80 percent truth. It’s amazing what you can get away with if you word it right! Anyhow, hang in there, nothing much I can say about the state of our hospital system other than it sucks, which you already know. If you would like me to send you a few of my articles I would be happy to, I think you might enjoy them. Take care of yourself, it could be worse, we could both be back in Wisconsin, where spring is just a myth…..Tom

    Sent from my iPad


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