If You’re Going To Faint, Do It In The ER

Oh Lord, have I got a ridiculously embarrassing story to share with you. See, I started volunteering at a hospital emergency room this week up in Seattle. As I’m applying to nursing fairly soon I wanted to get some actual experience in a medical setting and seeing the ER is packed with everyone from doctors to x-ray techs I figured that volunteering there would let me see how they all work together to take care of patients. Sounds like a good idea, right? Yeah, well, kind of.

My first shift was from eight to midnight this week, shadowing a guy who has been volunteering since forever ago. We were busy from the second I got there, making beds and making sure the rooms were stocked with supplies. An hour or so after I got there this lady came in with a monster cut on her hand that was going to need some stitches, and the doctor treating her invited me to observe the procedure. The patient was totally fine with me being there so I hovered behind the doc waiting for him to do his thing.

Let me pause here and fill you in on a little bit about moi. I really don’t have a problem when it comes to seeing blood. During college I was a bouncer at a super sketchy bar in Seattle and I saw way more than my fair share of bar-fight nastiness working there. One time, in the course of throwing an extremely unhappy drunk out of the bar I somehow managed to bend my finger back in such a way that the bone and ligament of my middle finger popped through the skin. It hurt like all get-out, but aside from that I was cool. I even stopped at Jack In the Box on the way to the hospital because, well, I was hungry, and we all know how long ER visits can last.

So anyways, back to the stitches. Everything is cool as I’m watching the doc clean the wound, taking mental notes on what he’s doing. But then, out comes the needle. Actually, it wasn’t really a needle. It looked more like a fish hook without the little barb on the end and some thread hanging off the back. He takes the needle, asks the lady if she’s ready, and then moves in for the first pass.

That’s when everything went black.

One second I’m watching this really cool procedure and the next I’m on my back staring into the eyes of a half dozen freaked-out nurses. Next thing I know I’m in a neck brace and I’ve gone from ER volunteer to ER patient. Take a guess at how awesome that feeling was.

From that point I half-expected the ER staff to take turns pointing and laughing at me, but things went quite a bit better than that. Over the next couple of hours just about every nurse, PA, and doctor stopped by my room to share their own when-I-passed-out stories. Hearing them share their experiences lessened the sting of my own shenanigans and made me feel like a little less of a baby-boy-biatch. They told me what to do when you feel a bit woozy, and suggested that next time I observed a procedure I might try to do it sitting down so as to make the fall considerably shorter if I did pass out.

So yeah, that’s the story of how a 6’6″, 250 pound man passed out when he saw a needle. Hopefully I won’t have another incident next week — because I am definitely going back next week — but if there is you’ll be the first to know.

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Peeping on Plastic: The Time I Got Caught Checking Out Barbie

Aside

You know when you’re a kid and you do all sorts of weird stuff that doesn’t seem weird at all. That is, it doesn’t seem weird until you’re older and you’re looking back on it with a real sense of “WTF?” When you’re at an age where you can see what a strange kid you were, then you think back to those moments with a little bit of a wince. Don’t play around. I know that you know what I mean.

I think one whole side of my brain is packed with those sorts of cringe-inducing memories. Seriously, man, I’m fairly certain I spent more time embarrassing myself than I did anything else. Perfect example: the day I got caught looking up the shirts of my next door neighbor’s Barbies.

First of all let me say that it wan’t my fault. If you’re going to go sticking a young boy like me in a room by himself with a scantily clad Barbie doll then you better not be shocked when he wants to see what she’s got going on under that bikini top. My mom, of course, disagreed with that assessment of the situation. She was all, “How could you do something like that?” when the neighbor girl’s mom called to have her come and get me. Really, mom? How could I? I think the better question is, “How could I not look up the bikini top?” As far as an eight-year old boy is concerned, Barbie–in all her various incarnations–is a stone-cold fox.

And now for something completely creepy: a 21-year old Ukrainian girl who let a plastic surgeon chop her up to look more like Barbie. Yeck.

We’ll All Laugh About This Later: Sleeping With the Fishes

Everybody has a few painfully awkward memories. You know what I’m talking about. They’re those times you think about and feel a little flush in your cheeks. The kind of stuff you hope no one saw, or at least that no one remembers.

Looking back on my childhood, I can’t help but feel like the universe heaped a few extra on me. I was always an awkward kid–the tallest one in every class from Kindergarten to high school. When other kids were shedding their baby fat I seemed to pick up a little more every year until I was the tallest and the widest kid in every class picture. But wait, it gets better. Mix that combo of fat and tall with a love of Star Wars novels and you get yourself a real winner. Sad sight, right? From there, all you need is a sprinkle of puberty pimples to build yourself a real-life nerd.

Yep. Welcome to the best years of my life.

There’s one gem in particular from those years that stands out in my memory like no other. Actually, I just lied. There are a lot of memories that are equally bad, but I can’t stand the shame of spilling more than one at a time.

It was the summer between freshman and sophomore years and I was working on the campus of my Jesuit prep school to help cover tuition. Dave the groundskeeper had just sent all of us po’ students off for lunch, and being a socially awkward teen I needed to find somewhere private where I could munch on the P B & J my mom had packed for me. With only half an hour to eat I knew I had to be fast else I suffer the stinging wrath of Dave. I hoofed it across campus looking everywhere for a place to be alone, until I spotted a shady nook under the awning of the science building. Perfect, I thought. Save for a few lonely orange cones, the place was totally deserted. I broke into a trot, aiming to claim this new hiding place before anybody else showed up.

As I got about ten paces from the spot a very strange thing happened. I sunk. No, I don’t mean that I fell or anything like that. I mean I literally sunk. You see, someone had recently been doing a bit of concrete work near the shadowy spot I had my eye on. Unfortunately for me, whoever had laid the concrete had neglected to put any sort of barrier around their work. Apparently they’d thought that a trio or orange traffic cones was enough to deter people from stepping into three feet of wet cement. No one must have warned them that I’d be on campus that day.

Here’s where you’d think it couldn’t get any worse, and here’s where you’d be wrong.

Just as I stepped in the cement–I mean the very moment that my foot hit that pool of grey muck–the foreman of the concrete crew came back from his lunch. It should be easy for you to imagine his irritation at finding a giant teen stomping around in his fresh work. Dave showed up soon after and immediately assumed that I had done it on purpose. Really, Dave? Who would do that on purpose? Nevertheless, the school shot out an angry call to my mom, who I’m sure explained the problem with her son.

“No,” I imagine her saying. “He actually does this sort of thing all the time.”

Man, what a bummer that was.

But alas, it’s not all bad. Even though the stepping-in-wet-cement story didn’t come up until I we were already married–whew! dodged that bullet!–my other adventures in embarrassment actually paid off in the long run. On one of our first dates, my wife was actually impressed by my extensive knowledge of all the goings on in a galaxy far far away (everything post-Return of the Jedi, of course). She actually thought it was cool that I knew so much about a made-up place full of made-up people. Plus, without all those shameful moments of adolescent shenanigans I wouldn’t be able to write my characters into painfully embarrassing scenes–something I enjoy doing quite a bit. And who knows? Maybe stepping in wet cement will pay off one day. We are planning to have kids, and if they’re anything like I was then I know there is going to be some cheek-flushing experiences in their futures as well.