Friday, April 8, 2011

P.S. to the last post

By the way,

Mark suprised me and drove a thousand miles on the shadiest Greyhound bus for over 22 hours to come see me a few weeks ago in Savannah... Needless to say, we are back together... Mark, sorry I forgot to put that in the update, don't be mad:) just kidding

How far we've come

Hey Ya'll,

I haven't sent an update in awhile, but things are going good down here in Savannah. I'm still loving my work as a Registered Nurse at St. Mary's clinic, the staff is wonderful, and the patients are great and interesting.

A lot is going on this week. I've been super busy with my "Move it to Lose It" program that I started in January.  This is a program aimed towards improving the overall health for our patients through exercise classes, nutrition education, and cooking classes.  Patients also have use of an exercise room at St. Mary's Community Center. 

Basically my job is to coordinate/organize and attend everything (from the delivery of donated exercise equipment, to organizing nutritionists and nursing students for education projects, giving up a few hours every other Saturday to walk in the park, and teaching weekly exercise classes).  It gets quite busy. The program also has a points system that I created.  Patients get points for every class/event they attend; exercising in our little fitness room; and for improvements in their health indicators (This means they get points for decreases in B/P, weight, A1c- diabetic average of blood sugars- and cholesterol)

Exercise class is always fun.  This is a weekly class, which I have to plan and lead. We usually get anywhere from 6-10 attendees. Most of the the classes are very basic. I taught them about stretching. We also do alot of simple cardio, basic step aerobics, and we have been graduating to using free weights for extra resistance.   In just 10 weeks, I can already see an improvement in a lot of the patients (with both physique and endurance). In the beginning, most of the class couldn't get past 5 sit ups or leg lifts at a time without taking a break.  Now, most everyone can get up to 40!!!! 

I've seen improvement in many of the patients self-esteem and confidence, which is probably my favorite part. Patients who used to never talk, now come in for their appointments and seem to engage everyone.  One patient (who used to barely be able to make it up the stairs, and never looked anyone in the eye) even came up to the front of class one time and taught everyone how to "correctly" do the Cupid Shuffle (she taught me how to add more soul to it).  It's been an absolutely amazing experience for me. 

Another great thing about the exercise class is that I have an "assistant" now. He's actually got a degree in exercise science and he volunteers at our clinic, so we can rotate teaching the classes and I don't have to be there every week.  It's also great, because he can carry out the classes after I leave Savannah, so it's good that it will still go on.

Yesterday was my monthly cooking class (which is always a lot of work).   I have to keep in contact with our chef and get everything at the grocery store that's needed for the recipe ahead of time.  Everyone who attends the class, not only learns about how to make the healthy recipe, but gets to take home all the ingredients needed to make it.  This month we made a "Spring green salad with grilled chicken, walnuts and cranberries with a homemade honey mustard vinaigrette dressing."  Our chef is awesome, and grew up in the community, so all the patients can relate to him. 

We get a lot of nursing students here at St. Mary's that are completing their Community health clinicals. They're in their final semester of nursing school at the local university, and it's hard to believe that I was in their shoes only a year ago.  I feel like I've grown leaps and bounds since then.  The students never cease to ask me millions of questions, and I am happy to help reassure them of whats to come.

Speaking of students, I also seem to be the go to person for all the nursing students community presentation projects.  I have 3 groups of 10+ students doing nutrition presentations within the next 3 weeks, so that's a lot of work and organizing. 

There was also a class of adult students in another program at the same university who are organizing an event for me.  They're planning a type of fitness field day for all my patients.  They'll basically have a lot of stations set up with different activities like Zumba, Wii Fit, Frisbee, etc.  They're providing a free healthy lunch as well as prizes and giveaways to my patients.  The program is completely free, and they even managed to organize a shuttle for some of the patients- which is amazing.  The event is tomorrow, so I hoping that enough of my patients show up.  I had a volunteer call over 150 people, so were hoping for at least 60 to show up.  It should be exciting.

I am having such a wonderful time in Savannah. I am constantly learning new things about the culture and lives of my patients.  Its hard to believe I have less than 100 days left.  Although I miss everyone back home, leaving here will be bittersweet.  Our community is still getting along great, which is always a plus after a long day at work, and I'm looking forward to some visitors in the next couple months.  My Mom and brother are coming for Easter, and my best friend Nicole is coming for Memorial Day weekend. 

Hope this update finds you well:) Have a glorious weekend- it'll getting up to 80 degrees today here

Friday, October 8, 2010

Reason for everyone

You never know the reason you met someone.  A friend, "that person,"a patient, a client, an acquaintance, whomever.

They're in your life for a reason. No matter if they play a small part in your life, or you balance your life around them.

Whether its to open your eyes to a new way of doing something, or they give you life changing advice- you don't really know.

Maybe you're in theirs to be that shoulder to cry on.  Maybe they're in yours to hold your time for those 20 extra seconds, so you wound up at the stoplight, instead of being smashed up in the middle of an intersection when that other car ran their red light. 

You're there to help them-They're there to help you.  It's a two way street, and the only way to survive is through interaction, reaction, contribution, and acceptance.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


As one of the nurses at St Mary's, its my job to do one-on-one education with clients who schedule an appointment with me.  Most of the time its about Diabetes, or Tobacco Cessation/ Chantix (which I'll talk about more when I really feel like writing), and the occasional specialized diet talk.

However, today, as I pulled up into work and the power was out a patient approached me as I was walking in and began to ask me questions about whether some drug he "or his friend" may have been exposed to any whether that drug would affect the results of a new employee physical blood test....He asked anything would still show up if he had snorted something (coke) of instead injecting it- because he heard that the only way it shoes up on a blood test is if you inject it directly into your bloodstream. He also asked if "his friend" had only "smoked half a bowl of reefer" would it still show up if he didn't smoke the whole thing.

Yes, these were real questions, yes people really believe things like this.  Its amusing, but its really sad in a way.  Many people are raised in an environment where education is not an option.  They believe in things others tell  them (even if things are incorrect)  and this is the only thing they learn.

Another thing to think about- Many of us were raised with the opportunity to see a doctor/medical professional.  We were brought in for well check ups as babies, sick appointments as we grew up, etc.  We grew up knowing what to do and how to act at a medical office.  Think if you never went to a doctor growing up, and now you have a chronic disease- how would you know what to do, what questions to ask, and basic "office etiquette" (like showing up to appointments)?

I often have to remind myself of this- so I can better understand my patient population, so I don't get frustrated, so I can let my judgments go, and so I can do my best to save as many as I can, with whatever means I have

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Linda Quotes

Linda is my young at heart roomate, and always has some awesome advice to share.  Other than working at the St. Mary's Health Center- she cleans, and drops awesome quotes.  Here is one...

(while watching children play in a church)
" What are those kids playing? ...Rock, paper, scissors, fish? .... I never understood that game"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Child it must be a full moon- Cuz someone be flocking to you"

I used to work on an Alzheimer's unit at a nursing home for 4 years, I did my nursing leadership rotation on the Psych ward at Northwestern Memorial in downtown Chicago, and yet it still ceases to amaze me how many new types of "characters" there are in the world...

So, my roommate has a co-worker/co-volunteer at St. Mary's Community Center whose a "little more than special." Its very hard to explain it with words.   She probably has moderate-severe learning and communication disorders, and has probably only had less than half of an elementary school education. 

A few weeks ago, this person- Ms. V (as we'll call her) had an infected hangnail.  She then proceeded to go to a less than reputable beauty salon and got some acrylic nails put on over them.  Needless to say, this made matters worse.  When she finally went to a doctor- he had to take her whole thumbnail off, and since she was all out and about over the community, she was also infected with MRSA.  Now, almost everybody carries MRSA not too big of a deal.  But, it is a big deal to children, elderly or other immunocompromised people. 

Keep in mind that this woman volunteers at a community center that offers services to the elderly, homeless, impoverished and houses a preschool- Not to mention a food pantry where Ms. V HANDLES and TOUCHES all the food. 

Although her thumb is wrapped up, it oozes and is very dirty since she doesn't understand that she is supposed to keep it dry... So it would not be so bueno for the CDC.  Hearing about the situation I volunteered/was asked to go re-wrap her thumb.  I am still getting used to this "laid back" community setting.  For starters, I was wrapping this on someone's office desk.  Even more exciting, she could not sit still after I took the old bandage off- she kept wanting to show everyone, and was getting up and touching everything.  Reminder: Her wound was colonized MRSA.  After putting her hand literally 2 inches from another co-workers eye, I finally got her to sit down.  Its moments like these where I'm glad I don't have panic attacks.   Technically overall,  It was no big deal, she had her Petroleum gauze, dry gauze, and Colban wrap from her doc, so it was easy to do, once she sat down.  As I was conversing with her she asked me if she could still do everything at her job.  Knowing this would be difficult, I told her that she had a dangerous bacteria on her hand, and we needed to be careful.  I explained to her that she shouldn't be touching any of the food pantry food, or the containers they were handled in. 

After I was done, she was a little upset, but her supervisor went over to talk to her and further explained that she needed to take some rest at home until her wound was healed.  the supervisor motioned me to leave, and I collected my kit and headed out. 

Later that day when I went to pick up mu roommate Linda- I learned some interesting background on Ms. V.  Apparently, Ms. V used to be married.  Her life was swell until one day, Ms. V came home to find her husband in bed with another woman.  She startled the two, and was eerily quiet when the husband "tried to explain." So, doing the most logical thing she could think of- She went to the kitchen, grabbed a steak knife and chased the two naked "adulterers" out of the house.   I also learned that Ms. V. worked at a local hospital and was reportedly fired from that job after she pulled a knife out on a co-worker. 

Ms. V can be quite argumentative with the clients who come into the community center as well.  Apparently, awhile back- Ms. V. got into a loud verbal argument with a client. Sr. Pat (the main head lady in charge of the clinic) stood inbetween the two and tried to calm them both down.  However, when Ms. V took a swing at the client she wound up hitting Sr. Pat instead and nearly knocked her out.  I'm glad that I learned this after I took care of her...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Best Week Ever?!!!!

So, Its been a long week and a half since those "wonderful" orientation days.  I'm starting to learn more and grow more comfortable with my surroundings and people at the clinic  I've mainly learned two things: 

1- Stuff happens, Shake it off, Rinse and repeat tomorrow

So, first of all, its Wed August 25th (the month is flying by), in a week since I wrote last- I've learned and experienced things I never really expected to encounter. 

Last Thursday was my birthday.  I wasn't expecting much- figured a few cards and well wishes and that was it.  I remember driving to the clinic in the morning feeling awkward, wondering if I should tell people it was my birthday or not.  See, not all of you know this, but I'm kinda shy/ I don't like making things awkward.  Well, I waked in like any normal day (even though it wasn't really normal yet, cuz it was only like my 5th day) and it started out fine-pretty quiet, and people did wish me "Happy Birthday" (it was on the calendar) and I felt happy.

So, a few hours went by, and I was overhearing one of the nurse practitioners (who is also new and awesome!!) saying that her one gentleman patient had a nasty, rather large, crusty, sore on his elbow.  It was obviously infected with something, so the solution was to do an I and D (or incision and drainage) in order to get all the bacteria filled pus out so it can heal.  So the nurse practitioner- whose done many I&D's before at another clinic she worked at, got the okay from the doctor to do a simple I&D in the clinic.  It was reasoned that This would be better than sending the pt to the ER, and more cost-effective-since we serve uninsured and impoverished patients.

As I was listening to this scenario- I asked the NP if I could sit in and watch the procedure along with the nursing student at the clinic that day, since I had never seen one before.  I also found out at this time that the Patient was deaf and mute (and no one spoke sign language), but the pt could read lips, The NP was explaining the procedure in writing and we were very creative in our hand gestures.  

So, we all walked into the room together where Mr. T (name has been changed) was.  All the equipment was ready and it began.  We sat the patient on a chair with his arm propped up on the examining table.  The NP gave a Novocaine(?) shot directly into the wound at three separate spots.  You could tell the pt was in pain by the expression on his face and the fact that he was squeezing my hand super tight.  We asked him and wrote "Are you okay?" on a sheet of paper, and he nodded yes.  We let the numbing medicine work itself for a few minutes, and the NP got the scalpel out and ready. The scalpel looked like a thin plastic box cutter with a small, metal retractable blade.  The NP made a few deep incisions in the patient's wound, which didn't seem to hurt the patient too bad (he didn't squeeze my hand as tightly as before).   

The next part of the procedure, is the worst part, because, not only do you have to make initial cuts into the wound, but you have to facilitate drainage.  This means the NP had to basically squeeze the patient's arm to help the pus come out.  Since the pain killer only anesthetizes the outermost nerves, this part of the procedure is very painful because deeper nerves are affected.

When the NP was squeezing, every muscle on the patients body contracted, his jaw was clenched, and he was crushing my hand till my fingers were blue. The nurse had to squeeze 3 times in order to get much of the pus out.  She paused and we checked the patient after each "round" and he motioned he was ok and agreed to carry on.  The procedure was finally over and the NP was getting ready to dress the wound.  The patient looked a little pale, and I stooped down to his eye level (he was still sitting in the chair) and motioned a thumbs up and a thumbs down sign (so he could tell us which he was feeling).
The patient just stared straight ahead, I looked at the NP and the student and the NP decided we should get the pt up on the exam table so he could lay down. 

As I went behind the patient to put the table step up, he slumped forward onto the NP.  This guy was just 6 feet of dead weight, and had an uncovered, possibly colonized wound.  I kicked the chair to the side, and we got the patient down to the floor. The nursing student ran to get help, and a vital machine.  The NP couldn't tell if he was breathing at first, and she was shouting his name to try and wake him up. As I looked for an ambu bag, I was like "He's deaf, he can't hear you." 

So, after shaking him and a sternal rub-the patient responded by opening his eyes and moving.  By this time, half the clinic ran into the room and we got his vitals and moved him up to a chair. EMS had also been called, and after getting there (after the patient was laying on an exam table), they assessed him and found him to be fine. We gave him a Diet Coke, and he was basically fine after sitting in our waiting room before going on his way.

I thought my birthday surprises were done for the day, but at lunch my boss whipped out an awesome little birthday cake surrounded by Princess cupcakes (topped with plastic Disney Princess rings). I got Cinderella:)  I loved it and it made me feel welcomed. 

2- Have fun and experience the spectrum of life-even if its awkward

Other than work all day and watch people hit the floor, its fun to get out and play and hit the floor in a different way.

I decided that I want to get the most out of my experience here in Savannah at work and outside of it.

This weekend was definitely headed in that direction-(Here's a quick rundown)

Thursday- went to Vinnie Van Go-Go's for dinner-which is a pizza place  in City Market (a section of downtown Savannah).  And although I've always been told to not eat pizza outside of Chicago or New York- this pizza was pretty darn good, and they had crushed red pepper, which made it all that better.

Friday night-exhausted, so we stayed in

     Day- Went to Tybee Island Beach, got freaked out on the way there with all the talk about the massive increase in jellyfish stings this year (up to over 12,000 stings this summer alone). Thought of Finding Nemo and where they nearly die. Went swimming anyway-it was bathwater warm, and fun.  Relaxed on the sand, read, napped. Nice.
       Night- got dressed up, went to Congress Street downtown.  First bar we went to had 5 dollar 40s, served out of a paper bag... classy.  Went to another bar, then another one in City Market where u walked down to the basement where there was beer pong, a nicer bar, and a dance floor.  Saw a special kid/special 30-something year old dance.  Went back to another bar, made new friends, danced, drank, saw random tourist male peeing outside, time to leave.

Relaxed, slept, read, explored downtown with Mike and Linda, found a nice cheap sandwich shop, went to church.  Linda (my older roommate) and I found a local Arts college (Savannah college of art and Design) that was sponsoring a cheap movie ("The Runaways" with Kristen Stewert and Dakota Fanning) in a warehouse just west of downtown.  Met an interesting crowd.   Lesbian couple celebrating their engagement, Saw a dude dressed in all black followed by a super tall and built, pale, blonde lady dressed in all black.  Later deduced that that lady was actually a transvestite. Informed Linda of this the next day in car on way to work. It was an interesting car ride on the way back. Good times:)

All in all, I got to spend time with my roomies, drink, and experienced a different crowd.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Don't be kissing those nasty boys"

Today was hospital orientation day!!!!!!  (those exclamation points were a little sarcastic).  Basically we had to sit through 8 hours of orientation of things that really didn't apply to us, since none of us are getting paid, nor are we in the hospital.

I got to watch a wonderful OSHA video on infection control... not much else to say- and the infection control lady advised us all to "Dont be kissing any nasty boys because we could get Hepatitis B.  I also got to see some awesome hand washing demonstrations and learn that when theres hurricanes you want to be on the "B" team.

And I get to go back tomorrow....

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My surroundings

     So, for those of you who don't know, Savannah is freaking gorgeous!!!!!!  I loved driving to the Farmer's Market this morning down streets canopied in intertwining oak trees adorned with massive amounts of hanging Spanish moss.

      The city has like fifty some "squares"- which are basically small parks with walking paths, fountains, etc.  Its beautiful to run through or just sit in.

As mentioned earlier, we went to the Farmers Market (yay for supporting local farmers).  It was held
in one of the biggest and most well known squares in Savannah- Forsyth Park.  Its like ten acres, has a band shell and a massive fountain with like a million "confederate army" statues/tributes.

Today was fun- Tomorrow the beach:)
Going back to work on Monday:)


Relient K - "Savannah" (with lyrics)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Intro: We are Here

So, We arrived. August 8, 2010.  The four of us- on a tiny plane three seats wide.  Savannah here we are.

We left our homes and loved ones, and pledged to live simply-which means a hundred and ten bucks a month for food and a smaller personal stipend.  We brought what we could carry or roll.  We are members of Mercy Volunteer Corps. We are here to serve as volunteers.