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My Life Before and After Quadriplegia

by Gilbert John

from Chapter 24: Life in the Navajo Nation
On Home Healthcare and Nursing

I did not like being on the home healthcare nurses' schedule. Most of the time I was sleeping from the pain pills. I did not like to be interrupted when I slept, or to have anyone messing with me. The nurses told me, "This is the only time we have to come in this direction, we have a couple of other patients down the road too." I told them that twice a week was too much to be bothered with, why not make it once a week? The head nurse looked at me and said, "Doctor's orders. When you go see your doctor for your next appointment, ask him if he can make it once a week. I'm sure they will make an x-ray first before he will decide. He can tell us what to do after that."

This nurse was right. When I went for my next appointment my doctor told me that my femur bone was healing well, he even showed me the x-ray. I told him that I was getting frustrated getting visited by two bothersome nurses who woke me up twice a week, and he said he would limit the visits to once a week. I was happy after my exam with the doctor, knowing my bone was healing right and soon I would not need the wrappings.

I liked teasing the nurses when they were wrapping my leg. One would be pulling my leg gently to keep the bone aligned, and the other one would be wrapping it quickly. I would joke and toy around with them in reference to a Thanksgiving turkey dinner, "Make your wish," or, "If you take my leg out, you had better make a good wish," which made them both laugh hysterically.

I'm glad to say that some of these nurses and aides are still part of my life. They have transformed from "health care professionals" to extended family. The new nurses were initially intimidated by me, so I tried to use humor to make them more comfortable. Most of my efforts were rather pathetic, but they still helped to ease frustration and manage anger. Sometimes I would pretend that I was sleeping, trying to escape from their visits. But, no, they would always wake me up, and I didn't have any choice but to cooperate. I don't know why I had to give all these dedicated nurses a hard time. These were gifted health professionals who visited patients from home to home, covering about 150 miles per day. Some used their own vehicles and others used company vehicles. They traveled throughout rural areas of the Navajo Nation. I would say these are angels brought down from heaven to work with some severely disabled patients like me, despite brutal dangerous weather and road conditions. I guess it was just my nature to be trying my best to be a tough character, but that didn't always work. If the nurses didn't come when they were scheduled, I missed them.

There was one nurse who got along with me very well. She was very nice and kind; she looked for every possible way to take care of my needs. She understood patients in my condition. When I was in a bad mood, she just did her job and asked me one question at a time. Sometimes she would get me out of my day's dark mood. I guess that's what every individual with a spinal cord injury goes through, from stubborn silence to barking at the nurse. I was trying my best not to get too close to the nurses. All I wanted was for them to do their job and be on their way to the next one, because I knew they had many more patients to see even through the nights and weekends. Someone would always be on call. And still, they would sometimes put their own good times aside to check on patients on the reservation.

Nurses are often scorned for things like being late with medicine or not coming the instant they're called. Yet they might be holding their bladders because they don't have time to use the restroom, or starving because they missed lunch. They're being peed on, puked on, pooped on, bled on, bit, hit and yelled at, and are missing their family while taking care of yours. They may even be crying for you. The minute you read this, nurses all over the world are saving lives, sacrificing the little family time they have to care for anybody that comes their way.

from UNBROKEN SPIRIT My Life Before and After Quadriplegia
© 2020, Gilbert John
read more: Prologue

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