Many of my memories of the early years of my children's life are faded into snapshots at this point. But I do have this very clear memory of taking Drew's tiny little fevered body into the pediatrician's office right around his second birthday. He was so pale his skin was translucent. I was about eight months pregnant with Will, it was late summer, August probably, twelve jillion degrees outside, and yet he shivered as the breeze touched his skin as I carried him, draped over my swollen belly, into the building. I was sweating, he was shivering.
The doctor felt like it was a virus of some kind, but as it had been going for a few days he decided a blood draw was in order. Now, I'm not a queasy girl for medical procedures, I sometimes think I should have gone to medical school, were it not for the chemistry+math component. But I have the stomach for it, anyway, and many people do not. I knew I was in for a rough ride as the nurse came in, so I dug down deep, stabilized the weak, floppy toddler on my lap into a bear hug with one arm gently pressed across his chest so he couldn't arch his back, and with the other hand I held out his wrist.
She couldn't find a vein. You could see them in his arm, through his practically clear skin, tiny blue lines threading toward his wrist, but they were so thin she couldn't get the needle into one. She must have stabbed him four or five times, as he bucked and screamed and I broke a sweat holding him down. Finally I said, "Okay, stop, just stop," and we all sat back for a breather. She said, "I'm going to go see if I can find someone who will have better luck."
A few minutes later she returned with another nurse in tow, Iris. Iris sat down in front us, gently fingered the veins in his arm, and stabbed. She hit a vein. Fifteen seconds later it was over. We went home and I put him in his crib for a while and then I sat down on the edge of my bed and cried.
My grandmother was a nurse. Nurses are a tough lot. They get yelled at more than they get appreciated, kind of like teachers, only with more bodily fluids. But they have good and bad days like the rest of us.
On Wednesday last week she fell and broke her shoulder. Actually, she was knocked over by another woman who lost her balance and fell and took grandma down with her, by herself she is not unstable. On Friday she had surgery, and has been recovering in the nearby hospital. She's tough though, and where many patients her age might roll over and give up, she is recovering nicely, considering all the factors. She will be able to move back to her assisted living apartment soon, after maybe a couple of months of rehabilitation therapy. She can learn to hold a fork with her left hand, and maybe even do buttons on a blouse.
I am incredibly proud of my grandmother. I want to be as strong as she is when I am 93. She can occasionally be difficult to deal with, as strong and strong-willed tend to go together. She can be demanding, she likes things a certain way, part of her hates to be the one being cared for and yet kind of likes being the center of attention. And while I know for my dad and my aunt and the nurses who try to care for her that can be really annoying, generally I think when you have lived the life she has, and are ninety three years old, you get to be a little demanding, and the rest of us need to shut up and get over it.
My grandmother knows what the nurses on the floor at the hospital deal with. She knows they get pulled all over the place, she knows that they often have too many patients to deal with, she knows that they don't want to change her diaper anymore than she wants to have use it. She knows that they have good and bad days, just like the rest of us. She knows that sometimes, luck is involved, and that sometimes, you have to go get someone else to help you hit a vein.
She knows that modesty is sometimes not possible, and that's okay. She knows that hospital food is not all that tasty but if you don't eat you don't get stronger, and least there is food so stop your whining. She knows that sometimes, it all gets a little overwhelming and the pain is a little to much and you have to pull the curtain and cry for a bit.