“You have to be at the hospital at 7am tomorrow for a washout of a wound. Then after that, you’ll repair a hip fracture,” the nurse supervisor told me at 10pm Friday night.
“Ok.” No biggie, I thought to myself. I was familiar with the doctors I’d be working with and I knew I’d have a stellar scrub tech.
So I went to bed, consciously aware that I needed to be getting quality sleep. Do you ever do that – think to yourself in your sleep, “I need to be sleeping well right now”? I do that every morning at 3am when my body wakes up for no reason.
So, this past weekend I was on call for the surgery department at the hospital, which meant that from 7am to 3pm on Saturday and Sunday, I was to be available to work. I usually get called in and end up working a regular shift, except there are only two or three other people in the department and I usually don’t get to take a break. On the other hand, If I don’t get a call the night before telling me to be ready for surgery the next morning, I usually hang out in bed and watch Netflix, crossing my fingers that my phone doesn’t ring.
But this past Saturday I had to go into work to take care of a leg abscess and a hip fracture, and later we would also do a urologic procedure to take care of a guy’s bladder tumor that was causing bleeding. I arrived at the hospital having done my morning spiritual routine at home. Lately, as I drive my 7 minute commute to work, I’ve been having a conversation out loud with my Higher Power, simply asking for strength, guidance and inspiration to do the right thing for my patients, coworkers, and doctors.
I got to the Surgery Main Office to start the process of getting ready for these procedures. As I start to book the wound washout, I look down and do a double take. My first patient is my ex-boyfriend.
Now to back up, I have been single for four years since I broke up with this guy. We had been together for four years, during which we both did a lot of growing up. We met in recovery meetings and spent our early sobriety together, weaving idiosyncrasies in and out of each others’ personalities, families and lives. I was 18 years old when I met him, young, impressionable, and without a sense of self. So, I became him. Whatever he liked, I liked. Whatever he thought was stupid, I thought was stupid. I learned to love baseball and horror movies. I also learned that I had a terribly sarcastic and bigoted line of thinking, if I allowed myself to be that way. You could say we were enmeshed.
Since our painful parting of ways four years ago (more on the break-up another time), I haven’t had a relationship since, but I know he’s involved himself in a couple. We are both very active in our recovery community, so I see him from time to time. We usually hang out after our recovery meetings and chat for a bit. Sometimes, if I’m not in a rush to get somewhere, we can end up talking for over an hour.
I’ve struggled with our occasional encounters because we still get along so well. We have a dynamic where we could talk about everything or nothing for hours. Plus, it’s hard to unlearn all the details and familiarities of someone with whom I shared my life.
So, I’ve started to became aware of this little gut feeling I have when we talk. It feels like a little a kid is standing by my side, tugging at my sleeve, trying to get me to leave. I’ve felt like this lingering and chatting is no longer appropriate for us. He has a girlfriend (and I want a boyfriend which sounds desperate, but we won’t go there right now). I’ve been looking to my Higher Power for guidance – to show me a new way to be around my ex, to spiritually direct me in the way that leads to harmony, and to help me have an appropriate relationship with him.
Back to my first patient – the reason I had to wake up at 5:30am on rainy Saturday… I worked with my scrub tech and anesthesiologist to get ready for the procedure, then I walked out to the main hallway where we check in patients for surgery.
And there he was, sitting pathetically in a hospital bed, sticky with sweat (not because he was septic, but because he’s just always warm). He was accompanied by his girlfriend who was visibly upset. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was going to be his nurse or because the last time he was in the hospital for the same issue, he almost lost his leg.
I approached them like I would any other patient. I asked him to confirm his name and date of birth – even though I knew it by heart. I went through the whole pre-operative interview and reviewed his chart. I gave his girlfriend a hug and told her to go get some coffee. It didn’t feel strange – it almost felt normal.
As our team brought him to the operating room and started the procedure, I spoke to him informally, but then the realization hit me: this was how I ought to interact with him – like a patient. This was exactly what I had been praying for! It felt like my Higher Power said to me, “You want a new way to interact with your boyfriend, here’s a new way to treat him.” I chuckled. Sometimes Divine inspiration is gradual and subtle, but this was not one of those times. This felt a lot more prominent – much like the abscess that we washed out that morning.