Hearing the rush of nurses heading toward the ICU, I followed the herd. My youthful intuition was kicking in as an eerie sense of suffocation and dread encircled me. I suddenly felt like a child waking from a nightmare.
I was already on edge since yesterday having been informed that three nurses were raped in the hospital parking lot after their varied shifts. Holding a knife to their throats, the perpetrator had threatened to kill them if even a whisper escaped their trembling lips. They were viciously raped and beaten. It took the hospital a month to share this horrifying news. The hospital’s splendid plan, already a month too late, was hiring a security officer to accompany all nurses to their cars at the end of their shifts. Truthfully, the administration simply didn’t want the damaging news publicized.
Opening the white ICU door, I was struck by the nauseating industrial-strength cleaner singeing the cilia in my nose. I saw three nurses, shoulder to shoulder, talking amongst themselves, hiding a gurney. All I could see were a pair of large black boots hanging off the end of the gurney. I acknowledged the ICU head nurse. Quietly I asked, “Why all the commotion?”
My brain was still striving to absorb her answer as my mouth started to fill with my partially digested lunch, a taco. I swallowed my vomit as this unqualified human admitted she was adopting the role of executioner.
Lying within my view, entirely clothed, was a beautiful young man. His Harley shirt slightly opened at the top revealing a jungle of black chest hair. No IV, no hospital gown, and not even a blanket was present. I stared into his sparkling cobalt eyes as his dazzling smile engulfed me. “You sure are pretty, Katy,” he said, clearly reading my name tag. The stench of alcohol was more pungent than the smell of that overpowering cleaner.
He was drunk and enjoying being the center of attention. Then I noticed a squirt of red blood smaller than the width of a drinking straw, life-sustaining fluid, rising and falling with each heartbeat. It reminded me of a low-pressure birdbath. His color was normal, he was cognizant, neuro-signs perfect, yet no pressure dressing was present. He continued flirting like a horny college student.
“Why aren’t you trying to put pressure on the bleed until the on-call team arrives?” I whispered to the head nurse while trying to find some sterile 4” x 4” s.
“I’m not about to piss off a doctor for a kid that obviously has an arterial bleed and can’t possibly make it,” the head nurse quipped. “Furthermore, you are not the charge nurse here, it is my call, and I want you out of my ICU. It is too late for this twenty-year-old.”
Walking out to report for my Med-Surgical shift, I knew I would not win this fight. My mind was wandering. I had witnessed one too many unnecessary deaths. Now working in complete silence, the ticking of the large white clock was like drops of screaming blood.
I knew the real issue—an indecisive nurse who was more concerned about upsetting a doctor than saving a man’s life.
Strolling to my car that evening, I knew I would spend the rest of the night looking for another job. “How does one sleep while dragging the weight of yet another unwarranted death?” I was uttering the words out loud.
Distracted while looking for my keys, I had forgotten to get the security officer to walk me to my car. The slice was swift, and I barely felt it upon my thin neck. The next thing I knew, I was falling, hitting the ground, looking up at the same ICU charge nurse. Her malicious grin and vicious words cut me even deeper.
“I’ll just pin this on the guy they’re looking for. How about…He missed the Carotid artery, but there is still no time to call the doctors. A shame really, she was a busy body, but a fairly competent nurse.”
Joni’s blog is Rum and Robots, where she has published poetry, photography, and short stories. Take a look at Joni’s work in Spillwords Press NYC, Vita Brevis Press, The Finest Example, The Tiny Seed Literary Journal, I Write Her – The Short of it, and MasticadoresUSA. Joni’s work was included in the following anthologies: The Sound of Brilliance (The Short of It Publishing, Volume 1 2020), Inner Eye (Poets Choice, 2021), and It’s Not Easy (Poets Choice 2021). Her blog is an effort to give back – she is a surviving Adult Child of Alcoholics. Joni is a retired nurse and paralegal.
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